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Group protests Open Carry pizza dinner

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Brady Campaign supporters protes

Brady Campaign supporters protest open carry laws in front of Brooklyn Brick Oven Pizza, while South Bay Open Carry gather in and in front of the restaurant. Photo by Andrea Ruse

A group of 25 demonstrators protested open carry gun laws last Thursday in front of a pizza restaurant in which roughly 60 holstered patrons ate dinner.

Supporters of the Brady Campaign, an organization dedicated to reducing gun violence, showed up during the South Bay Open Carry’s monthly family dinner, held last week at Brooklyn Brick Oven Pizza, 500 S. Sepulveda Blvd., in an attempt to discourage the restaurant from allowing customers to bring guns into the restaurant.

“It is their right to do it, but also the restaurant has a right to say, ‘No guns in our restaurant,’” said Suzanne Verge, Santa Monica resident and president of the Brady Campaign’s Los Angeles chapter. “We wanted people to know they don’t have to support Brooklyn Pizza.”

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In recent months, South Bay Open Carry, an organization dedicated to protecting citizens’ right to bear arms, has drawn attention as members have showed up to various events in the South Bay with unloaded guns holstered to their hips. State law permits the carrying of unloaded firearms that are visible. Ammunition may be carried separately.

Many residents expressed outrage when the group insisted on carrying guns to last summer’s Hometown Fair, though SBOC founder Harley Green insisted that the fair was on public property and the group well within its rights to carry there.

SBOC holds regular monthly dinners at restaurants where owners have been informed of the group’s intention to carry, Green said. While the group frequents restaurants, such as Ruby’s Diner in Redondo Beach and Tony’s Deli in El Segundo, earlier this month, some members were kicked out of Red Robin restaurant in Redondo Beach for open carrying.

“This is good for our cause,” Green said, glancing outside at the protestors Thursday. “They’re exercising their First Amendment rights and we’re exercising our Second Amendment rights. The Constitution is well represented tonight.”

Verge, whose brother was the victim of a gun murder in 2000, was not so optimistic.

She said she is disturbed by the fact that many open carriers “brag” on websites about being able to load guns in two seconds. She also said that some of the open carriers taunted her in front of Brooklyn, saying they knew the names of her family members.

“I see a sign here advertising Budweiser on tap,” she said. “It’s dangerous to mix guns and alcohol if you don’t know what you’re doing. They have all the fire power of a SWAT team in there and no training.”

Billie Weiss of the Violence Prevention Coalition of Greater Los Angeles pointed to recent events, such as a Jan. 8 shooting in Tucson, Arizona (see cover story) and a Jan. 5 suicide of a Palos Verdes High School student as reasons for cracking down on gun laws.

“Why is it necessary?” she said. “This is not the Wild West. This is an urban area with kids.”

“To be perfectly honest, I read the local papers and there is an armed robbery almost every week out here,” Green said. “If I’m armed, I can better defend myself.”

Green, citing studies, said that in areas where open carrying is allowed, violent crimes are deterred.

Brooklyn Oven Pizza owner Bob Udovich was too busy baking pizzas to pay any attention to the commotion and news vans outside his restaurant.

“I’m just feeding people. That’s all,” he said. “They’re people eating. I’m not politically motivated. I don’t discriminate. That’s how the president got to be where he is today. By not discriminating.” ER


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