Guns Across America: Gun owners push back with national rally
Seeking to demystify gun ownership and gun owners, a series of Guns Across America rallies in most state capitals aims to counter gun control attempts in the wake of the massacre in Newtown.
As Barack Obama last week amassed his political forces in favor of the first Congressional gun control package in nearly two decades, gun owners too raced into action, quickly organizing and setting into motion national "Guns Across America" rallies on Saturday.Skip to next paragraph
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Thousands of Americans indicated they planned to participate in rallies Saturday in nearly every US state capital to wave "Don't tread on me" flags and, they hoped, cement a grassroots gun rights coalition while providing a visual antidote to what they fear is a liberal perception of "gun crazies" in the flyover states.
To that end, some organizers, at least, urged protesters to leave their guns at home, even in states where open carry is allowed.
Former police officer Don Dobyns is organizing a Guns Across America event in Denver, and told the Associated Press that he's expecting at least 1,500 people, but likely more. "Now I don't have a clue [how many people will attend] because this has exploded," he told the wire service.
To be sure, the gun control debate sparked by the killing of 26 children and school staff in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14 has largely been framed by the battle between entrenched lobbying groups, such as the Brady Center and the National Rifle Association.
But key to those efforts, political experts say, is grassroots support on both sides. Obama's coalition is trying to tap into the fact that, according to polls, support for gun control jumped nearly 20 percent in the wake of the Newtown massacre, where a majority of Americans now support measures such as an assault wapons ban and expanded background checks.
Gun rights activists, however, say they have the momentum on their side, pointing to increased NRA memberships since the December massacre, and vowed to demonstrate that momentum on Saturday.
Gun control advocates in the media "have created this echo chamber where they're convinced they've succeeded in exploiting this tragedy and produced a national change in public opinion," says Michael Hammond, the legislative consultant for Gun Owners of America in Springfield, Va. "But we don't see it."
"I think the question of whether we have a reinvigorated gun control movement will depend on whether [gun control advocates, including Obama] can come out of this with a negotiated victory," adds Mr. Hammond. "That's why it's so incredibly important that Republicans stand firm. This is a seminal battle perhaps of our times."