Open Cary: Group armed with long guns stroll weekly through Carytown

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Three men armed with long guns, that they say are unloaded, have been turning heads as they walk through the busy urban retail district of Carytown.

People who live and work nearby said they've seen the group a handful of times, and few feel comfortable with the sight of the guns.

"It's not all negative out there, a lot of it is positive,” said Scott Royale, who has spent several weekends walking with a small group of friends down Cary Street and through downtown.

His friend Jason Spitzer started showing up with a flag and his long gun, and shortly thereafter others began joining him.

They said part of their plan is to simply "raise awareness of responsible gun ownership.”

Not everyone in Carytown is enthusiastic about the display, and shop owner Sherry Burgess said "I just think it's intimidating to people.”

One mother who has spotted the group, and who wishes to remain anonymous, is part of a group called “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.”

“My belief is that no one should be normalized to the site of these weapons in public,” she said. “There is no way to know if the person carrying one of these down Cary Street is a good guy or a bad guy.”

She added that many in their national organization aren't anti-gun, and many in other states have open carry permits.

"It was something about seeing, large guns, with three people carrying a flag that made it a little scary,” said Teresa Cerully, who works in Carytown.

Most understand the young men are trying to make a statement, they just aren't sure what it is,or why they picked Cary Street.

"A few weeks ago, they were standing in front of our store, talking to people about their cause and my customers were actually afraid to leave the store because they have small children and didn't know exactly what their cause was,” said Sheri Doyle, Carytown shop owner.

Olivia Walthall had mixed re-actions when she first saw the men and their guns.

"They let me express how I felt and then I head their side of the story and it was nice to get some insight,” Walthall said about the encounter.

She snapped this photo of the group in Carytown, in front of a children's book store, which is located beside a toy store.

Photo by Olivia Walthall

Photo by Olivia Walthall


Royale said that it hasn't been all negative reactions along their six mile walks.

"People ride by, honk their horn at you, wave at you, put their thumbs up, thank you for what you are doing,” he said.

A spate of open carry gatherings have popped around the nation, resulting in several stores banning guns on their premises.

Open Carry Texas has been very outspoken and hope to change legislation to be “less restrictive.” Rifles are allowed for open carry in Texas, not handguns.

Philip Van Cleave, President of gun rights organization Virginia Citizens Defense League, said they don't take a position on how people lawfully carry guns.

Though he did say here in Virginia that open carry of a long gun is odd since Virginia law allows handguns to be openly displayed.

Spitzer has invited over 300 people to another open carry event on July 4, in Carytown. He said that his long gun is not loaded, though his hand gun is loaded and chambered.

He seeks clarification from an attorney if Richmond allows loaded long guns, saying that Virginia law does, though it does not allow capacity to exceed a 20 round magazine. Spitzer says there is some confusion among the group whether the city is excluded from Virginia law.

“I can strongly advise, please don’t,” he said about others showing up with loaded long guns. He said if they find out they can carry loaded long guns, they will but the guns will not be chambered.

In the Facebook invitation Spitzer writes that it will be held rain or shine and anyone is welcome to join. The group will meet at 11:45 a.m. Byrd Theater Parking Garage on Friday.

“Getting up and doing something positive or negative is better than sitting around at your house with an opinion never actually getting up and standing for something. Nut up or shut up. I am a true patriot. Are you?” he writes.


  • danny

    idiots like this make it harder for gun owners in the end.These are the same fools that would walk in a target with a machine gun out in the open.we get the point,Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you always should.

  • Jay

    I always find it funny that these guys (the guys who are fanatic about open carry –specifically long guns/rifles) have a certain look about them. By that I mean they’re typically very beta looking men — weak chin, narrow/scrawny build [or very much overweight]), scraggly neckbeard. The type of guy you imagine living in their parents basements til they’re in their 40s and who yell racist/sexist/homophobic slurs while playing Call of Duty against you on Xbox Live.

    Never your typical, in shape or average guy. It’s like they’re compensating for something.

    If you want to carry, it’s certainly your right to do so and I won’t stop you. But you look silly.

    • BinaryAgent

      Jay, do you speak from experience? Do you yourself play Call of Duty? Is that the only time you have wielded a gun? Are you willing to stand for your “Call of Duty” as an American citizen and defend and promote your rights as a free born man?

    • Jay

      Shut up Purple Jay. You are giving us a bad name. Aren’t you just a 20-something Mass Comm major who interns at WTVR? Why does this forum allow two Jays? But, agree they look silly. However, I have never been able to say a certain physical type equates to specific behavior. Do you judge all people based on their physical appearance?

      • kamoze357

        I knew it wouldn’t be long until the real stereotypical rhetoric begins to spew. Thanks for self identifying.


    Have these men not watched the news in the past 7 years? They are carrying around the exact same guns that suicidal mass shooters have used at Virginia Tech, Aurora, Sandy Hook… How can they POSSIBLY think that citizens will ever be “desensitized” to the sight of assault weapons in this day and age. We are just supposed to trust these guys with loaded assault weapons walking among us?? What a perfect cover for a REAL mass shooter to use! Carytown is a Richmond treasure, a tourist destination, a robust locally owned marketplace. I CANNOT imagine that this is good for business or for Richmond tourism. The owner of Franklin Goose (a BABY STORE) says her customers were too terrified to step out of the store when they saw these guys. WHY is the Carytown Merchant Association allowing this? It is time to put a STOP to this. NOW.

    • Jared Keller

      Virginia Tech and Aurora were both carried out using pistols bud, not rifles. In fact, the percentage of homicides using a rifle is in the single digits… Check your facts next time.

      • kamoze357

        And read the article first. 1. They said the rifles were unloaded.
        2. Do you know what an assault rifle is? There aren’t any shown in the photos in this article.

    • Chris

      Sandy hook was also carried out by handgun (.40cal something if i remember). The long guns were carried in the car. Amongst this group I see one AR variant (semi auto seance you don’t seam to know what that means it means you need to pull the trigger each time you want it to go pew), a Serbian pap variant (AKM variant also semi auto) and a M91 (WW2 surplus bolt action rifle… if you don’t know what that means it means you work the bolt each time to fire of it evil 5 rounds). I don’t see a single assault weapon amongst them and I a feel you must be making up words. Also it appears your caps lock is broken and i would humbly submit you may need a new keyboard. But to sum it up I see to semi auto rifles and bolt action rifle. I hope you are now better educated.

  • BO

    How was that gun free zone working out when the jewelry store got robbed and still no one has been caught?

  • Bobby R.

    A publicized ‘gun free zone’ advertises to a potential criminal that the pickins’ are easy and they are assured that they will not be challenged. Best regards.//blr//

      • Wellington

        They certainly aren’t helping their cause by looking like they just crawled out a meth lab trailer. And yes, we ALL judge books by their covers. They look uneducated, uncaring, and untrustworthy, so forgive me for not trusting them to walk around crowded venues with guns.

  • Kevin

    I myself own several firearms. I am a certified gunsmith, class 3 FFL firearms dealer, and a shooting sports competitor. I believe in and very strongly support our right as a nation to keep and bear arms. That being said, there is a time and a place. Firearms are designed to kill, period. That’s their purpose. It’s what they do. They are not your ego, the last word in an argument, a toy, or a political tool (unless of course you speak of open revolution. Which these individuals are not). In a time where the danger of an armed mad man is ever present I think it’s bad form to open carry in a family saturated environment. It desensitizes the children to what could be a potential threat. They should not be comfortable around random gun wielding strangers. In fact they should be vigilant and have excellent situational awareness. These people are doing more damage than good. If they really want to protect us they should leave the useless unloaded long gun at home and get a CCW. Quietly carry a concealed weapon and if the need arises use it correctly and with proper marksmanship. What they are doing is stupid, egotistical, and quite frankly insulting to those of us who own and properly operate firearms.

    • Paula Lee

      Round of applause for Kevin! You said it best! I like to keep my piece safe & secure. Not out in the open for some ignorant person to get a crazy idea up their sleeve.

    • Leon Layne

      While I do not agree with all of your post, I do commend you on making a well thought-out argument that carries its weight in the significance of your argument, rather than attacking the appearance solely as your point.

      I am a gun owner as well, and choose not to carry a rifle strapped around my neck or over my back. I think some of th issue here is the constant attacks on proper firearm use, and the negativity that is spewed out consistently from most news sources. People do not take the time to educate themselves regarding our nations history and what it took to secure the freedoms that we enjoy. I have spoken to some people who do exactly as the men pictured here, and their concern was to find a way draw attention to firearms in a situation where those weapons were NOT used in a crime.

      Your suggestion to obtain a concealed carry permit is valid, but does not address the idea of guns not being inherently evil. It is certainly cliche` at this point, but none of my firearms have ever loaded themselves or committed a crime. Thanks for your civil argument, that is not the norm typically on these posts. Have a good evening.

  • Nathan

    First of all ar- 15’s are not “machine guns” nor are they “assault rifles” get your facts straight. They function no different than hunting rifles. Full auto guns cost well above 20 thousand dollars and must be registered by the atf and there are few in existence available to the public. Get your facts straight. However I carry all day everyday concealed because you can’t defend against a gun without a gun…having said that…These guys are idiots and are going to ruin pro second amendment freedoms. I wouldn’t be surprised if these guys were part of mom’s demand action just to get things stirred up. To conceal you must have a crystal clean record we are not the bad guys. Crack is illegal and people still get think about it. A disarmed society equals an enslaved victim filled society.

    • David

      Thank you Nathan so many confuse bolt action and semiautomatic rifles as machine guns which are full auto select fire weapons that have restrictions setup under National Fire Arms Act and ATF while the ones that they are carrying are semi auto or bolt action. No they are not affiliated with NRA, Moms demand action ect as its all just a grass roots level. I know all three of them. Myself I don’t carry a long gun just a semi-auto pistol.

  • Carey

    While their tactics are obnoxious, it’s silly for parents to say they want to protect their children from exposure to guns when growing up in a country where so many advocate armed guards in schools because shootings have become alarmingly commonplace.

  • Daniel Eugene Black

    It is idiots like these guys that will get the rights of RESPONSIBLE weapons owners taken away. Walking around a busy shopping area full of soccer moms, and yuppies, packing assault rifles is completely moronic, and anti-constructive. They look like Army rejects to me. You won’t ever see soldiers walking around town in Fayetteville, NC., with rifles slung, and that’s home to the 82nd Airborne, XVIII Airborne Corps, and a few Special Forces Groups. This is Richmond…some ghetto housing project kids will most likely bonk them on their heads and take their rifles from them.
    Parading around the shops in Carytown with assault rifles, and waving a flag “OHHhhhhh LOOK AT ME!” is not responsible firearms etiquette. That being said, if you’re not responsible to even think straight, you shouldn’t be allowed to own deadly weapons.

    • B Addy

      Don’t get out much do you Ryan. You think these guys look like “rednecks”?
      Evidently Richmond needs a lot more rednecks around. Fewer people would be killed every night.

  • Dom

    I’m trying to figure out how these chumps are being patriotic by patrolling Carytown. Have the Iraqi insurgents set up shop down there?

    Make this standard practice, and we’ll be considering whether to let our kids go packing to kindergarten. It’s not necessary. That’s why we give the police officers all of the guns. And the National Guard. And the military. It never ceases to amaze me how far American freedom will stretch – into the depths of stupidity apparently. Are these folks trained in firearm use? In dangerous situations? Can they recognize friend from foe? I’m betting they would hit the ground running if something actually “went down”. At best they would get in the way of first responders. At worst they would make a bad situation worse.

    • Carey

      The kids already go packing to kindergarten. That’s why this is a bigger deal than it would have been 10-15 years ago.

  • Katja

    I used to live in RVA and come down from NoVA with my husband from time to time for weekend visits. We love Richmond’s charm and unpretentiousness and love the ever growing creative community and find it to be a great recharge. However, when I saw these guys marching down Carytown on my last trip I was feeling both hostile and uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fine with open carry laws and most of my family is either from or lives in Texas where the 2nd Amendment is gospel. I usually think the type of people who just have their weapon, preferably a handgun, safely holstered display oodles of better judgement than the type of men that openly display their long rifles and military style weapons. I’m not going to stop dropping into Carytown but what about that family that wanted to take their kid into World of Mirth for a treat. Are they going to notice these bafoons, exercising their constitutional rights to display poor judgement, and just decide to head to another district instead?

    • manalishi

      ” We love Richmond’s charm and unpretentiousness and love the ever growing creative community and find it to be a great recharge.” BS. It’s utterly pretentious to state that Richmond is anything more than a corrupt, crime ridden, democrat operated cesspool. Agree with them or not, you are much safer around their “poor judgement” than you are anywhere else in the city. It’s to the point where unarmed victims of Richmond crime appear to be more like martyrs for the liberal agenda.

    • James

      If you’re from Texas you should be use to seeing this as it is illegal for you to open carry a handgun in Texas. So the only open carry you would see in Texas is Long gun open carry.

    • mbaker9105

      You need to read this, not many people know it, but every able bodied resident of the Commonwealth between the ages of 16 and 55 are members of the militias subject to the Governors call. This is REGULATED by Code of Virginia Title 44 – MILITARY AND EMERGENCY LAWS. Of particular note: 44-1. Composition of militia: 44-75.1. Militia state active duty; 44-80. Order in which classes of militia called into service; 44-89. Draft of unorganized militia

      • I'm not old enough to be a "true patriot"

        I’m not a lawyer but I don’t think “shall consist of” is the same thing as “are members of”.

    • Jared Keller

      ‘militia’ in the context of the constitution means every able-bodied citizen. ‘well regulated’ means trained and disciplined. It does not mean controlled by an authoritative body. How words are used and meant typically changes over a 200+ year time span.

  • Scott

    Compensating for something boys? It would imagine they have lots of spare time on their hands to walk around displaying their “big guns” to everyone.

  • Scott

    I heard there is also a march for the rights of 30 year old virgins who lives with there parents at about the same time in Carytown that day.

  • Gerry

    Don’t look like a well-regulated militia. On a side note, where can I get some authentic looking toy guns like we used to have in the old days? I feel like walking around with one of those yellow flags with the snake on it and some guns. See if the news interviews me.

    • Jared Keller

      You do know that well regulated militia does not mean now what it did then, right? Keep in mind those words were written hundreds of years ago… It did not in anyway mean regulated by some authoritative body.

  • OCTexas

    Your irrational emotional fear about an inanimate object doesn’t negate our fears. And seriously? “Carrying a flag is a little bit scary?” Good gracious.

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