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Gun-rights group squelches plans for 'open carry' meetups

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Members of a group of Twin Cities-area gun owners are scrapping plans for people to bring their weapons to a series of neighborhood summer family events in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The group drew negative reaction after it announced Wednesday that it aimed to openly demonstrate safe, responsible, law-abiding gun ownership. The group urged gun owners to lawfully carry the weapons at the events in the open.

The gun owners “meet-up” events, in which the promoters suggested that so-called “concealed-carry” permit holders carry their guns openly, came as a surprise to some city officials and organizers of the Open Streets neighborhood gatherings, reports the Star Tribune.

Shelley Leeson, the gun group’s director, explains to the Strib that she called off the meet-ups because “people kind of freaked out and didn’t understand that we were just meeting up. It wasn’t trying to be some sort of demonstration. ... I understand the concerns, but I think they are truly unwarranted.”

City Pages originally reported a post on the Twin Cities gun Owner & Carry Forum's Facebook page:

"As part of our ongoing mission to showcase 'pro-active visibility' of law abiding gun owners, we're taking advantage of meeting up during this series of five public events planned by another organization ("Open Streets Minneapolis"), but we're adding our own twist by encouraging 'open carry' for pro-active, positive visibility of law abiding gun owners participating in normal social activity... Like normal people!"

City Pages also reports the change of heart from the Facebook page:

"The anti-gun zealots have proven their intolerance and their propensity to violent thought and wanting harm to come to us, and based on comments made by them on this page and elsewhere it's the only responsible thing to do."

It's not clear how unarmed citizens might harm those carrying guns, but Leeson, 51, of northeast Minneapolis, tells the Strib she was concerned about putting her fellow members “in a situation where they would be intimidated” by opponents who went online in recent days and threatened to “get in our face” at the gatherings. She pointed to one person’s threat to “bring a bullhorn and stand next to us.”

The first of five Open Streets events is scheduled for Sunday at Lake Street and Lyndale Avenue in south Minneapolis, according to the Strib. They started as a single Minneapolis neighborhood gathering in 2011 on Lyndale Avenue S. and have grown to four in Minneapolis.

Leeson, a longtime gun advocate, has a "Shelley Leeson for Mayor of Minneapolis" Facebook page, and has written as a "community reporter" for KSTP.com.

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