Gun rights supporters: Bring unloaded rifle to rallies
Organizers are encouraging gun rights supporters to bring unloaded rifles to rallies at state capitols across the U.S. this weekend, pushing back against a wave of student-led gun violence protests that some see as a threat to the Second Amendment.
A group called the National Constitutional Coalition of Patriotic Americans spread word of the gatherings on social media. Organizers have permits for rallies Saturday outside 45 statehouses, said David Clayton, of West Virginia, one of the coalition’s founders.
The rallies come less than three weeks after hundreds of thousands marched in Washington, New York and other U.S. cities to demand tougher gun laws after the February school shooting that killed 17 in Parkland, Florida. It’s unclear how many will show up – turnout predictions of national organizers are vastly higher than those of local planners.
Clayton said a new gun law in Florida and similar measures being considered in other states threaten the rights of law-abiding gun owners. He said those attending rallies are encouraged to carry rifles – unloaded, with no magazines inserted – in states where it’s legal.
“This is a very peaceful approach to a show of force,” Clayton said. “What that means is we’re not going to go there looking for a fight. We’re saying, ‘Look at all the people gathered here. We have a voice too.’”
Most U.S. states allow long guns to be carried openly in public spaces, though other legal restrictions may apply. In Maine, for example, the statehouse grounds are a gun-free zone.
Clayton, who leads a group called the Three Percent Republic, said the organizers’ goal is for attendance to reach 1 million nationwide. That would require average turnout of 20,000 per state.