Gun-rights rallies celebrate Patriots Day
Capital’s laws keep armed event across Potomac
ARLINGTON, Va. — Carrying loaded pistols and unloaded rifles, dozens of gun-rights activists got as close as they could yesterday to the nation’s capital while still bearing arms, and delivered what they said was a simple message: Don’t tread on me.
Hundreds of like-minded but unarmed counterparts carried out a separate rally in the nation’s capital.
The gun-carrying protesters in Virginia rallied on national park land, which is legal thanks to a law signed by President Obama that allows guns in national parks. Organizers said it’s the first armed rally in a national park since the law passed.
The District of Columbia’s strict gun laws, however, generally make it illegal to carry a handgun, so rally participants there were unarmed.
Daniel Almond, who organized the “Restore the Constitution’’ rally in Virginia, said he wanted to convene in a place where “we can exercise our rights.’’ He pointed in the direction of Washington and said, “Over there, the Constitution is being violated in that we cannot bear arms.’’
The rally began in Fort Hunt Park and moved to Gravelly Point in Arlington, next to Reagan National Airport and just south of the nation’s capital, with the Washington Monument and US Capitol in the backdrop. Departing planes frequently drowned out speakers, and reporters nearly outnumbered rally participants.
Among the speakers in Virginia was former Alabama Minuteman leader Mike Vanderboegh, who has been denounced in recent weeks after calling for citizens to throw bricks through the windows of local Democratic Party headquarters across the country. Several such incidents occurred after Vanderboegh issued his call.
Vanderboegh said the broken windows are a wake-up call that many people feel threatened by an expanding federal government.
“We are done backing up. Not one more inch,’’ he said to cheers, after telling the crowd that for too long Americans have acquiesced at the loss of liberty.
In an interview, Vanderboegh said he considers armed resistance justified only “when they send people to our doors and kill us.’’
But Vanderboegh suggested that an arrest at the hands of the federal government is tantamount to a death sentence, and that he would fight back in such a case. Specifically, he outlined a scenario in which people who refuse to buy health insurance under the new overhaul law would be subject to arrest, and such confrontations could turn violent.
“If I know I’m not going to get a fair trial in federal court . . . I at least have the right to an unfair gunfight,’’ he said.
After Vanderboegh’s speech, gun-control advocate Martina Leinz confronted him, and called him a “small, little bully’’ and said the rally was designed to intimidate.
“If they wanted to have dialogue, they don’t need to bring a big weapon with them,’’ she said of the protesters.
US Representative Jim Moran, Democrat of Virginia, said in a statement that armed protests in national parks are a public safety concern. He also said that while the Second Amendment has become a rallying point for gun-rights activists, “virtually every action the federal government has taken in the past decade has weakened common-sense gun laws already on the books.’’