Cleveland Man Denied Concealed Carry Permit Because of Music Video

Portage County sheriff denies concealed carry permit renewal to Lamont Gist over music video. CREDIT: Screenshot

This one should make any 2nd Amendment supporter angry. An Ohio man was denied when he tried to renew his concealed carry permit.

Lamont Gist attempted to renew his permit just outside of Cleveland at a sheriff’s office. When the staff told him he was being rejected, he began recording the conversation because he felt the denial was unfair.

“I got my social; I got both my IDs right here, how can you not establish my identity? You’re not explaining to me why,” he said.

Gist told Cleveland 19 that he “originally got his CCW in 2016 after a man robbed and shot him near St. Clair and East 112th street.”

“I just know I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and luckily I made it out alive,” he said, noting that he still has one of the bullets in his body.

”I never carried a gun before I got shot,” Gist said. “The CCW is for my protection and nothing else. I’m not out here being a violent person.”

The deputies denied his renewal because he appeared in a rap video with his brother. One of the officials held up a picture from the video, which was uploaded to YouTube in 2018.

“What does that have to do with my CCW?” Gist asked. He told Cleveland 19 that he works full-time as an Amazon delivery driver and writes hip-hop music with his brother.

The deputy responded, “a picture says a thousand words.”

In the video, Gist and his brother are sitting at a table with what appears to be marijuana and tequila. “I told them I’m a Cleveland rapper. I told them it was props in the video,” Gist said.

He explained that he and his brother made the video after he was shot because many of the problems that face people in the city result from drugs and alcohol.

“Drugs and alcohol starts a lot of problems, period. And, that’s what the video was about. Cleveland is heartless,” Gist said.

When you watch the video, it is clear that Gist and his brother are rapping about the “needless killing and robbing” and other problems that black Americans face in their communities. The rappers were not glorifying these realities.

The sheriff’s office sent a written statement to Cleveland 19 in which they explained: “Based on this image and the presence of what appears to be an illicit substance as well as the presence of a wanted felon in the same image, Sherriff Zuchowski decided to deny the issuance of a CCW permit.”

Cleveland 19 noted: “According to the ACLU, provocative and controversial entertainment such as a music video, should be protected as free speech under the First Amendment.”

This seems to suggest that even if the props in Gist’s video were real, it would not justify denying him a permit. However, it appears that sheriffs have the authority to make this decision despite the constitutionality of their judgment.

Buckeye Firearms Association Board President Jim Irvine said, “Yes. the sheriff is entitled to use discretion to deny a license, but he must explain why he denied the license.”

He also stated that law enforcement officials can dig into one’s social media during a background check.  “But, there are only a few reasons law enforcement could deny someone a CCW. Drug and alcohol addiction is one of them, but addiction can be extremely hard to prove, especially through a video,” according to Cleveland 19.

“Is that really tequila in the bottle or is it water in the bottle? I don’t know. I can’t tell from a video,” Irvine said. “There would have to be an investigation and bottom line, you’re not going to be able to tell what was on a table in a video three years ago. So, if you can’t say this is a prohibited activity, why the denial? There’s got to be something else there for the sheriff to deny it.”

Irvine affirmed that Gist could force the issue by suing Portage County. But instead, Gist went to a different county to get his renewal. He said the process was much different. “It was a 10-minute process there. She scanned my ID, fingerprinted me, took my money and my application and said she was going to call me when my id was ready,” he said.

Irvine stated that the difference in Gist’s treatment could be because “you have 88 counties in Ohio and 88 sheriffs and they all do different things.”

Philip Smith, head of the National African American Gun Rights Association, said: “I think there’s some issues that may be internally wrong in their process.”

He also indicated that he believed this may not exactly be an isolated incident. “I think it’s not even debatable that [black men] are denied at a higher rate,” he said.

Still, he acknowledged there is no data on this trend because CCW information is not made public.

Gist pointed out: “I have no priors, no warrants, so it shouldn’t stop me from getting a CCW.”

“There’s all kinds of pieces here that don’t add up and don’t make sense,” Irvine said. “I would love to know what the whole story is.”

Despite being able to get his renewal at another county, Gist plans to take legal action against the Portage County Sheriff’s Department.

Here is the video on which the department made its decision to deny Gist his renewal.