Gun rights advocates rallied at state capitols across the country on Saturday to make their voices heard amid recent efforts to impose stricter gun-control laws that they fear undermine their Second Amendment rights.
Peaceful protesters numbering in the hundreds gathered outside statehouses from Maine to Wyoming to hear speakers warn that any restrictions on gun ownership or use could eventually lead to bans for law-abiding gun owners.
“Gun owners have been portrayed in a negative way and it is our hope that this peaceable rally will show that we are safe, law-abiding individuals that happen to take our constitutional rights very seriously,” Dave Gulya, an organizer for the Maine event that attracted about 800 people, told the Bangor Daily News.
The National Constitutional Coalition of Patriotic Americans sponsored the 45 planned rallies across the U.S. in support of the right to bear arms, according to the paper.
“If you have a building and you take a brick out every so often, after a while you’re not going to have a building,” said Westley Williams, who joined about 100 people outside the state Supreme Court building in Cheyenne, Wyo.
An estimated 160 Second Amendment supporters rallied in Atlanta, with some carrying firearms, flags and signs saying “Don’t Tread on Me” as they listened to speakers talk about gun rights.
Protesters in Vermont took to the steps of the Statehouse in Montpelier, where days earlier they felt Gov. Phil Scott “betrayed” them when he signed three major gun control measures.
“Three days ago, on these steps, we were betrayed,” Joe Nagle told the Burlington Free Press. “We were promised no new gun laws.”
The paper reported that the National Rifle Association criticized Scott, a Republican, and called on gun owners to abandon the governor, who changed his stance in February after an alleged school shooting plot shook the state.
Saturday’s protests came less than three weeks after hundreds of thousands marched in Washington, New York and elsewhere to demand tougher gun laws after the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17. Organizers of those protests demanded a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and called for universal background checks on potential gun owners.
Pro-gun protesters also showed up in Boston; Indianapolis; Albany, N.Y.; Austin, Texas; Des Moines, Iowa; and other cities.
“We’ve got to stop being quiet,” Nagle told the Free Press.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.