On a brisk, windy Saturday afternoon, a couple hundred pro-gun activists gathered outside the Texas Capitol Building in Austin. The event organizers aimed to spread awareness and information about their Second Amendment Rights, as the gun control movement has gained substantial momentum following the mass shooting at Parkland High School in Florida.
“It really means a lot to see everyone here standing up for our rights. But the truth is we shouldn’t have to,” said Derek Wills, one of the event’s speakers representing the activist group Lone Star Gun Rights. Wills also hosts a podcast called Lone Star Gun Talk. “Our founding fathers would be rolling in our graves right now if they could see the State of our Union today. The freedom we so proudly boast is but a shadow of its former self.”
The Austin rally was just one of 50 such demonstrations organized in state capitals throughout the country by The National Constitutional Coalition of Patriotic Americans.
Less than one hundred gun activists gathered outside the Massachusetts State House for a tepid, loosely organized rally, in support of protecting Second Amendment Rights.
The majority of those gathered were men, and donned olive green fatigues in support of the Three Percenters, a group so named for who they say were the 3-percent of the American civilian population who fought in the American Revolution. The national branch of the group has pledged to take armed resistance against those who threaten to guns away. Several members also claimed to be affiliated with the far right Proud Boys, a few on the sidelines said they were unaffiliated with any group.
“We’re here to support the Second Amendment,” said one such Three Percenter, named Colin, 26, from the South Shore, who declined to provide his last name for fear that that publicly identifying himself and others in his group would put them in danger of gun control activists, and put “targets on our backs.”
In Austin, many local attendees proudly displayed holstered firearms, with some walking outside the Capitol grounds with rifles and automatic weapons strapped across their chest. Darren Michado, an Air Force veteran, wore full fatigues and was visibly strapped with three pistols spread across his body.
“The only limitation [to gun control] that could happen is remove all the stupid gun laws and allow American citizens to be armed,” Michado said. “An armed society is a polite society.”
These assemblies were a response to the March for Our Lives events staged last month in major American cities, including Austin. Tens of thousands of protesters gathered locally, including actor Matthew McConaughey and Austin mayor Steve Adler, to march up Congress Avenue and hold a rally on the steps of the Capitol Building.
Wills and the two hundred other attendees addressed gun control advocates directly Saturday.
“They refuse to even acknowledge the fact that you cannot legislate evil into extinction. I’m sorry to say to every one of those people who believes in the Never Again hashtag that you are incredibly naïve,” Wills said. “All that disarming us will do is make this country a much more dangerous place.”
A main contention of the pro-gun protesters was the youth leaders of the gun control movement. Parkland student David Hogg was mentioned by name multiple times, and one 26-year-old activist who would only go by his first name Jon, lamented that “we’ve become a nation of emotional spiraling.”
In Boston, the effect of the Parkland students could also be seen. Stephen Fasshauer, 63, the appointed PR person in the group in Boston, says the group was gathered in part to protest against student activism in wake of the Parkland shooting, “There have been attacks on the Second Amendment lately by the children. What they’re doing is trying to give up our rights to the government that has failed them.” He says the mass murder could have prevented if the government found ways to prosecute Nikolas Cruz earlier.
He said he was frustrated by the low turnout. “It’s an outreach failure,” he said.
The sentiment was reflected in Austin. Standing beside the 26-year-old activist Jon was Wendell Taylor, who carried a sign that read, “I’d use the advantage of an AR-15 with 30 rounds to defend my property, friends, family, & freedom. Wouldn’t you?”
“The youth can fill a crowd, but they shouldn’t be the main speaker,” the 23-year-old Taylor said. “Their wisdom is eh.”
Emily Grisham is a mother of three and echoed the concern. Grisham’s husband, CJ Grisham, is the President and Founder of Open Carry Texas, an advocacy group that educates Texans on the state’s right to carry laws and pressures elected officials to repeal prohibitive gun legislation.
“I don’t think it’s fair for us as adults to be forced to listening to the logics of teenagers, who are probably being controlled by other adults,” Emily said.
“I do believe there’s a massive effort to incrementally take away our rights as far as the Second Amendment goes. That’s true,” she added. “People say, ‘Oh we’re not trying to take your guns away.’ That’s false. They are trying to take our guns away in any form or measure that they can.”
Jerry Mares considered it his “lucky day” when he learned the pro-gun rally coincided with his College Republicans convention. The Abilene Christian University student actually snuck away from his convention to instead follow his passion—“spreading the truth about the Second Amendment,” which includes rectifying media narratives about gun control.
“The instrument used to commit the atrocity is being blamed and held accountable instead of the individual. I think it’s ridiculous to blame an inanimate object for what happens, just because it’s black and scary,” Mares said. “That sounds like you want to blame spoons for making people fat or you want to blame opioids for killing people, when it’s people who are using the product.
“If there was a law that could stop mass shooting, I would be for it,” Mares added. “But I can’t think of a law that would stop a mass shooting.”
Some in Massachusetts took it even further.
Dave Kopacz, a conservation agent from Palmer, MA, took to the statehouse steps, making for the most lively moment in the two-hour-get together.
“I hear an awful lot as it relates to the Second Amendment talking about deer hunting, target shooting, and it has nothing to do with those things, completely incidental,” he yelled, wearing jeans, a green Three Presenter T-Shirt, flannel, a black leather vest, long gray hair held back in a ponytail, a handlebar moustache, and a black baseball cap which read, “It Matters How You Stand.”
“The Second Amendment in my opinion and the opinion of many is for killing tyrants! It’s about defending this country and this people and this land against an overly aggressive government. It’s about time we start talking this way. When they say, ‘Do you need an AR-15 to kill deer?’ you say, ‘No!” he yelled.
“It’s for killing tyrants!”
When asked to name the tyrants, Kopacz said it was too long of a list. “I don’t think it would be fair to name a few, there are many of them,” he said, adding that the list included elected officials.
“There are some in office right now, there are some that have been in office. We are seeing a systemic lack of respect for the constitution as a whole.”