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VT – GUN RIGHTS – Guns, a mask, and a lot of concerns

Most days, Josh O’Dell, 27, can be seen standing in front of the Putnam Block at the Four Corners. Wearing a full face mask and carrying a semiautomatic rifle, he positions himself beside a traffic light pole, where he hangs a handwritten sign that reads: “Wondering WHY? ASK!” Other times, he walks around Bennington in his distinctive array: a plastic Guy Fawkes face mask, depicting a mustachioed and goateed man’s grinning face, the eye holes covered by sunglasses, and a Smith & Wesson M&P15 semiautomatic rifle slung on his shoulder. Holstered at his waist is a 9 mm Glock 48 pistol. This has been O’Dell’s near-daily routine since July 24 to protest what he described as curtailments in his freedom of speech and of his right to bear arms. O’Dell said he originally was protesting the removal of his rifle after being charged last summer with state misdemeanor offenses, including criminal threatening. (His rifle was returned after he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge this June and was ordered to pay a $150 fine, according to court records. Afterwards, he bought a handgun.) His demonstration, however, quickly turned into a protest against local law enforcement’s reaction to his actions. On his first day out with his mask and guns, O’Dell said Bennington police officers stopped him on the street to ask questions. When O’Dell asked if he was being detained, police reportedly said yes. He also took offense that the following day, another police officer got in touch with his mom to do a wellness check on him, apparently under the directive of the Bennington State’s Attorney’s Office. “This is purely a case of discrimination,” O’Dell, a Bennington resident, told the Banner while standing at the Four Corners on Wednesday. “Because I protested in a different way that you don’t find normal to you does not give you the right to single me out.” When asked if his guns contained ammunition, O’Dell said yes, but that they weren’t in the firing chamber. “There’s no reason,” he said. “I’m not out here aiming it at people.”  [full article]

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