As soon as they arrived at the public library in Covington, Kentucky, Michele Mueller and Tracey Goodlett realized they were walking into an armed ambush. The women are the leaders, respectively, of the Ohio and Kentucky chapters of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. From online comments and past experiences, they weren’t overly surprised that their new-member orientation was being targeted for an open-carry demonstration. Mueller sent me a photo she took in the parking lot; the bumper sticker on a red Toyota reads: “If you say guns kill people one more time, I will shoot you with a gun and you will (coincidentally) die.”
“That was a flag that we were walking into a situation, possibly,” Mueller says. “At first, we noticed there were some armed people standing outside of our door,” Goodlett adds. She recognized one man, who had previously protested a lemonade stand the moms had sponsored, displaying his gun and staring at the volunteers. He had also followed the women during a gun-violence-awareness march, carrying a semiautomatic rifle and a holstered pistol. This was the first time he had actually come for one of their meetings. “He’s getting braver,” Goodlett says.
The armed men signed in, took their seats, and listened quietly to the presentations. Two women, who had brought children with them, left immediately. The library staff and other patrons definitely noticed the armed presence, and a police officer walked past the meeting room and glanced in briefly. But nobody was arrested or asked to leave. Displaying a firearm in public, “open carry,” has been legal in nearly all public buildings in Kentucky, including libraries, since 2013.