Gun-rights advocate arrested at rally
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A Beaver County man who regularly wears a pistol on his hip says police violated his rights by arresting him before a rally featuring Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama.
"I am a threat to no one. Mr. Obama doesn't trump my constitutional rights. The president of the United States doesn't trump my constitutional rights," said John Noble, who was handcuffed, questioned for about two hours and then told by state police that he would receive two citations by mail for disorderly conduct.
Mr. Noble, 50, of Industry, said he wore his Glock 19 in a holster when he entered Irvine Park in Beaver more than an hour before Mr. Obama arrived for a campaign appearance Friday night.
"I had a Bible in one hand and an apple in the other. I was going to pass out my fliers [on the rights of law-abiding Americans to carry guns], but I never got the chance."
State police in Beaver County referred questions about Mr. Noble's arrest to Trooper Shawn Schexnaildre,of New Castle, who was on the security detail in the park. He did not respond to calls for comment.
Jim Gehr, agent in charge of the U.S. Secret Service field office in Pittsburgh, said the federal agency did not file any charges against Mr. Noble.
"Our people did talk to him. He never entered the event area," Agent Gehr said.
Mr. Noble said four or five state troopers and sheriff's deputies, plus a police dog, descended on him after someone noticed him wearing his pistol. Mr. Noble was hard to miss, as he stands 6 feet 3 and weighs 280 pounds.
He said he did not curse, act up or defy the officers, but they charged him with being disorderly. Mr. Noble said police had to come up with something after they realized he was a law-abiding man on a campaign for handgun owners.
He said they held him for 40 minutes in a Secret Service vehicle, then took him to the Beaver barracks of the state police for questioning.
"They cuffed me and it wasn't fun. My arms are as big as sewer pipes," he said.
Police eventually read him his rights. They also confiscated his pistol.
"Didn't even give me a receipt for it. There were lots of violations of my constitutional rights," he said.
After his arrest, his wife, Janet, handed out his fliers .
Mr. Noble said he is a member of the Pennsylvania Firearm Owners Association, which uses a line from the state Constitution as something of a motto: "The right of the people to bear arms in defense of themselves and the state shall not be questioned."
In a posting on the organization's Web site before the Obama rally, Mr. Noble announced to fellow members that he was taking his pistol to the event to test what would happen.
"I didn't think I'd get within a mile of the rally," he said later.
Still, he maintains that everything he did was legal. The Pennsylvania Firearm Owners Association says an adult pedestrian carrying a handgun in plain sight does not need a license, except in Philadelphia and in places where pistols are specifically prohibited by law.
After police arrested Mr. Noble, they could not confiscate his gun without his help. He had to activate a security device to withdraw the loaded Glock from its holster.
Mr. Noble said he and his lawyer were considering their options regarding what he considers police misconduct.
"I actually like Sen. Obama. But I haven't made up my mind on whether I'm going to vote for him or for Senator [John] McCain," the likely Republican nominee.
First Published August 31, 2008 12:00 am