A Michigan man was not acting erratically or threatening other people at an Ann Arbor high school music recital, but he was openly — and legally — carrying a firearm.
That was enough for a school choir director to call police and for a music professor to publicly shame him at the event.
The incident happened Thursday evening at Pioneer High School when Steven Lorenz, the director of choirs at the school, spotted the man, later identified as Joshua Wade, openly carrying a gun and called police.
[Update: The Daily Caller contacted the open carrier, Joshua Wade, after this article was published. Wade granted permission to use his name while restricting other personal information given that he has received death threats online.]
As Michigan Live reported, police arrived to investigate and determined that Wade had not broken the law. While it is illegal for citizens with a pistol licenses to carry concealed weapons on school grounds, license holders can open carry, Ann Arbor police Sgt. Shane Dennis told Michigan Live.
But that was not good enough for one event attendee, University of Michigan, Flint music professor Brian DiBlassio.
DiBlassio took unsolicited photos of Wade carrying the holstered gun and uploaded his picture to Facebook along with two breathless posts.
The professor wrote in his first missive:
There’s an idiot with a handgun with two magazines attending the Ann Arbor Pioneer Choral Cavalcade, sitting in the tenth row. Police came in droves, escorted him out to interview him in the hallway and could do nothing based on his permit. He’s now back listening to 8th grade girls singing Hey Jude. My first experience witnessing this ridiculous show of…I don’t know what. Who does this at an event with 100s of children ffs??? Who does this anywhere? ‘Merica!
DiBlassio’s second post included the man’s picture and other identifying information. DiBlassio said that Wade is the grandson of a former superintendent of Ann Arbor public schools.
I decided that the parents of 200+ junior high and high school students might want to know that they had someone with a military weapon, replete with rounds of ammo, watching their kids sing (he was in the front row). After the last song (about global unity and peace, from the olympics. .oy), I got up on my soapbox — literally, it was a theatre box — and announced as much to the entire audience. In the lobby, [redacted], the former Deputy Superintendent for. Business Affairs. for Ann Arbor Public Schools lectured me on how wrong it was for me to disrupt a public event (disrupting people exiting the auditorium?), etc. Soon after I learned who brought the weapon into the concert. [redacted] grandson (phone in the pocket).
TheDC contacted DiBlassio, who was unapologetic over his actions even though Wade had every legal right to carry the gun.
Asked whether he thought Wade behaved in any way that should set off any alarms, DiBlassio said that “judging his behavior is speculative.”
“Ask any “people” you’d like why they were concerned. I can tell you that I am concerned about firearms being brought into schools,” he added.
DiBlassio says he is “otherwise fine with people owning guns,” but objects to them being brought into schools.
“I would like the law to be changed so that people cannot bring firearms into schools,” he said.
He also told TheDC that he was not aware of the legality of openly carrying on school grounds before speaking to police.
But he added that even if he had known that open carry was legal beforehand, “I would not have responded any differently, and I will not respond any differently in the future.”
In an interview with TheDC, Wade, who was attending the recital with his wife, father, brother, and grandparents, said that what happened Thursday was the first dramatic incident he’s had while openly carrying a gun. He even carried to his sister’s choir recital at the school in the fall with no incident.
He said he open carries in most places, except work. That includes schools which Wade says are especially vulnerable because under normal circumstances “someone intent on doing harm can enter these areas and know that no law-abiding citizen will have a weapon there.”
Wade is moderately involved with Michigan Open Carry, a group he said aims to “educate, the general public about the legalities of open carry.”
He said that the group helped him overcome some of the anxieties which come with the territory of open carry.
“It can be a little bit intimidating starting out carrying a weapon, not really sure what reactions will be,” Wade told TheDC.
Wade said he generally seeks to inform others about the legalities of open carry should they have questions, but that nobody gave him that opportunity at Thursday’s recital.
He said that Lorenz approached him five minutes before the recital began to say that “some people were concerned” by the presence of the firearm.
Wade said he thanked Lorenz who then walked away without asking to see a pistol license or to ask any other clarifying questions.
“I would have been happy to explain all that stuff to him,” Wade said.
Minutes later, a police officer tapped Wade on the shoulder and asked him to step into the lobby. After Wade showed his pistol license and explained what was going on, the three police officers let him go back into the concert.
“If that had been where it ended that would have been fine,” Wade told TheDC.
He said DiBlassio escalated matters when he “just walked up, pulled out his phone and started taking pictures.”
Wade said that at the end of the concert, DiBlassio stood on a stool and told the audience that “a guy with a gun is here and your children are in danger.”
Wade and his father also had a physical encounter with a woman at a reception for the event. He said that the woman lunged at his father after he began recording her while she was yelling at his son for carrying the gun.
“I don’t know what the reaction was based on other than an irrational fear and invalid assumptions,” Wade said of the whole affair.
But he said the incident will not deter him from openly carrying in the future.
“I intend to do what I’ve always done,” Wade told TheDC, adding that hopefully people will “become educated and hopefully avoid any negative encounters in the future.”
As for death threats lobbed at him, Wade said those have mostly been contained to local news websites. He has not received any threats directly, but some of those made online have contained his address and phone number. One such threat called for Wade to be hanged, he said.