POST FALLS, Idaho — Two home-schooled teenagers in this northern Idaho town say they are carrying loaded guns to the library, grocery store and other public areas for self-defense, as a crime deterrent, and to educate others about their rights.
Zach Doty, 18, carries a loaded Glock handgun on his hip. His 15-year-old brother, Steven, carries a .22-caliber rifle in a sling on his back.
Police have been called on several occasions to question the teens but have not found the teens to be in violation of the law.
In Idaho, residents 18 and older can openly carry a firearm in public. And those ages 13 to 17 who have parental permission can carry a rifle in public.
"I certainly don't anticipate that I'll need to use it, but I'd rather have it and not need it than to not have it and need it," Zach told the Coeur d'Alene Press. "There's no reason for me to hide a weapon."
Zach was stopped April 17 on his way to Bible study. On Friday, police again responded when someone reported the brothers with guns in a park. But police left after confirming it was the Doty's.
Zach has also been approached by others.
"There have been good opportunities to speak to people," he said. "I make sure they know that open carrying is legal, why I carry and I encourage them to consider doing so themselves."
The brothers carry their weapons to parks, the library, grocery stores and other places. They can't have their guns with them on school property, courthouses or jails.
Not everyone is comfortable with armed teenagers in the neighborhood.
"I turned back so that my wife could verify what I saw," said James Rebal, who called police after seeing Zach with his gun. "He was very nicely dressed and I saw nothing to be concerned about other than the weapon. It's not something you see in Idaho. Virginia Tech was fresh in my mind, and I thought it was better to err on the side of concern."
A lone gunman killed 32 people and himself last month at Virginia Tech University.
John Dunlap, commander of the American Legion Post 143, said he asked Zach to leave the Legion at a recent lunch because Zach was carrying his gun.
"He left and came back the next day (without the gun) for soup," said Dunlap, who described the brothers as "well-mannered."
Ed Santos owns Center Target Sports in Post Falls and is a gun safety instructor. He said the Dotys came to his shop but he doesn't sell handgun ammunition to people under 21.
He said that just because the Dotys are carrying guns in public doesn't mean they're not responsible with them, but questioned the need to carry them in town even though it was legal.
"My advice for them is the same as it is with adults — yes it's your right and yes it's legal, but why draw unnecessary attention to yourself just because you can?" Santos said. "I believe the intent (of the law) was to allow it more for hunting and recreation."
Zach said he's not paranoid or a radical.
"If I was an extremist, our founding fathers would all be extremists," he said. "Without them, we wouldn't have our independence. We'd be a disarmed British system of feudal subjectivity."