By Justin Anderson
Old Town Lansing Times Staff Writer
LANSING Mich. – Old Town business owners say the neighborhood is safe, but some people still believe it’s better to be safe than sorry.
The Old Town neighborhood has a tough reputation to overcome.
“It’s safe to say it has,” said Kathy Holcomb owner of Absolute Gallery in Old Town.
Despite Old Town’s renaissance, some people still feel the need to protect themselves with a concealed firearm, but business owners feel that carrying a gun is unnecessary.
“I’ve been down here for 10 years and I have never felt threatened,” Holcomb said. “This neighborhood has had a bad reputation that it has had to overcome, and we’ve done so.”
Old Town has progressed in the past 10 years, Holcomb said.
“If you look back 10 years, there were only a few galleries and not many people,” Holcomb said. “It was largely empty, but that didn’t mean it was an unsafe place to be.”
With the economic revival of Old Town in the past years, more businesses and people have been coming into the neighborhood, said Louise Gradwohl, Executive Director of the Old Town Commercial Association.
“There are about 150 businesses here in Old Town, and the neighborhood is doing very well,” Gradwohl said.
Old Town has overcome a poor reputation that it didn’t deserve to have in the first place, according to Holcomb. However, despite Old Town’s resurgence, many people still see it as a somewhat unsafe place to be, Holcomb said.
Although Old Town has been very successful in developing a good reputation, it’s the neighborhoods old reputation that remains with some visitors.
When people feel unsafe or feel that they may be threatened, they take measures to protect themselves, said Aiden McLearon, Department of Natural Resources employee.
In Michigan, laws are in place that allows a legal resident age 21 or older to protect themselves by carrying a firearm if they are properly trained and licensed, according to the State of Michigan’s website.
A resident can also carry a registered firearm unconcealed.
Is carrying a gun really necessary? Old Town business owner Karen Massoglia believes that no resident should be allowed to carry a gun.
Massoglia, who owns By the Riverside Gallery in Old Town, has never had a problem where she has felt threatened.
“I don’t like guns,” Massoglia said. “In my opinion, guns are used to kill, and hand guns are not weapons for hunting.”
Massoglia said she is completely against firearms of any kind.
“It doesn’t matter if it was legally obtained, I don’t want guns in my store,” Massoglia said.
Neither Massoglia at By the Riverside nor Holcomb at Absolute Gallery has had an issue with firearms in Old Town.
“We have done things nobody thought were possible here in Old Town,” Holcomb said. “We have changed so much and things are looking better and better for use here.”
It is not uncommon for a Concealed Pistol License, or CPL, holder to carry their firearm with them everywhere they go. There are approximately 349,000 CPL holders in Michigan according to the Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners, or MCRGO, website.
“With so many people in Michigan with a CPL, chances are you have come across someone with a firearm, but didn’t even notice,” said Dan Shuck, CPL holder and reserve police officer in Williamston.
When someone choses to arm themselves with a firearm, it’s not always because they think the area they are in is unsafe, Shuck said.
“People like to prepare for the worst,” Shuck said. “Crime can happen anywhere, so it’s best to be prepared.
“Just because Old Town is a fun and welcoming place to be, doesn’t mean something bad can’t happen.”
Some people may think that protecting yourself with a firearm is a drastic measure, Shuck said.
“Carrying a gun is a huge responsibility,” Shuck said. “If you follow the steps to obtain your CPL, you’re still not ready to carry a gun.”
Simply being in the vicinity of a firearm is a big responsibility, McLearon said. It is important to follow the steps to insure your own safety and the safety of those around you.
“These steps are very simple,” McLearon said. “When using a firearm at the rang, always keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction, always keep your figure off the trigger until ready to shoot and always keep the firearm unloaded until ready to use.”
Some people may not like it, but as long as the proper steps are taken to obtain a CPL, Michigan residents are legally allowed to carry a firearm. Many of the people who choose to carry a firearm do so for self-protection, and that is their choice, Shuck said.