Rally in Dover pushes back against gun control

Hundreds attended a Rally for Gun Rights at Legislative Hall on Saturday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — Around the country on Saturday gun rights advocates held rallies in their respective state capitals to demand that their Second Amendment rights be maintained.

Dover was no exception.

Several hundred protesters and various activist groups joined the rally on Legislative Mall in the shadow of the statehouse.

The event was organized by The Second Amendment Institute and featured lively speakers including pop singer and former member of the musical group “The Pussycat Dolls” Kaya Jones, Dick Heller — the plaintiff in a landmark Supreme Court case that upheld an individual’s right to possess a firearm — and a number of other politicians and advocates.

Diante Johnson, president of the Black Conservative Federation, riled the crowd up when he expressed his belief that Democratic lawmakers and thought leaders were incorrect in their characterization of the African American community’s thoughts on guns.

“As an African American, the left says gun laws don’t matter to us,” he said, addressing the rally. “They say we can care less about our rights to bear arms, but I can tell you that I care about the Second Amendment. I care about my right to bear arms and I know the rest of us do too.

“They say we need to make our gun laws more strict. I’m from the south side of Chicago and we have some of the most strict gun laws in the country. But for some reason it’s practically the murder capital of the country.

“Isn’t that odd? It’s not the gun. It’s the person behind the trigger.”

Charles Coverdale with his sign at a Rally for Gun Rights at Legislative Hall on Saturday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

The nationwide protests are seen as a push back on the legislative rush to impose new restrictions on guns and associated paraphernalia in the months following the mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school in February that left 17 dead.

Last Wednesday, the state’s Democratic lawmakers announced they plan to file legislation to end the sale of gun magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds.

Tyson Wiggins of Rehoboth Beach holds her blue line American flag during a Rally for Gun Rights at Legislative Hall on Saturday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

This proposal joins a host of others currently being floated including measures to ban the sale of “assault-style weapons,” prevent 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds from buying rifles, create procedures for taking guns from individuals with severe mental illnesses, criminalize possession of bump stocks and prohibit anyone on the federal terrorist watchlist from obtaining a gun.

The mental illness proposal passed the House without any votes in opposition, while the age and bump stock bans each need to pass only one more chamber but fall more along party lines. The assault weapons restriction and the terrorist watchlist measure have yet to receive their initial committee hearings.

Daniyel Baron with the Delaware 3% United Patriots speaks during a Rally for Gun Rights at Legislative Hall on Saturday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

Tyler Yzaguirre, president of the Second Amendment Institute, urged rally goers to demand restraint from their representatives.

“By coming here today, you are saying to the people in the building behind me (Legislative Hall) that we the people, have had enough and we’re fed up with their corrupt political agendas and their constant assault on our second amendment rights,” he said. “They say they are trying to pass this radical legislation to protect their citizens and communities and we, as well-informed and educated citizens, know that that’s a load of BS and a lie.”

Getting specific, Mr. Yzaguirre said the proposed ban on gun sales to people under 21 would make at-risk populations even more vulnerable.

“I say to these legislators who backed this preposterous and unconstitutional legislation, I want to see them go door to door and tell 18, 19 and 20 year old single mothers with a crazy stalker ex-boyfriend or ex-husband: ‘oh sorry, you can’t buy a gun and you can’t defend yourself. But, when your ex- comes through your door and blows your head off, that’s not our problem.’”

Diante Johnson with the Black Conservative Federation speaks during a Rally for Gun Rights at Legislative Hall on Saturday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

Taking a page from her personal experience, Ms. Jones also advocated for women’s rights to own firearms. During her speech, she explained that she was once violently accosted by five male intruders in her own home at the age of 12. Her single mother had been away looking after her grandmother when the men broke into her home, tied her up and brutalized her, she said.

“I have a scar across my head because they tried to shoot me in the face and I was pistol whipped,” said Ms. Jones. “I had to have 19 staples put into my head. Later, only one of the people who did this horrible crime was ever caught. They only spent two months in jail. That was the beginning of me understanding that when it comes to laws and orders — criminals don’t follow rules. We, as proper gun owners, are the ones that follow rules.”

Throughout the gathering there were almost as many yellow “Don’t Tread On Me” Gadsden flags as there were American flags, but perhaps most eye catching were the amount of handguns and high-powered rifles on display among rally goers in the “open carry” fashion. Although officers from several police departments were posted at the event, a citizen group referring to itself as “The First State Pathfinders” were “patrolling the perimeter” of the rally with their rifles.

Wilmington resident, Al Sarmad, showed up to the rally with his rifle strapped across his chest. He said it was important for him to show his support for the second amendment because he’d lived a “tumultuous life” in areas that had supposedly been gun free and values his right to arm himself for protection.

“It’s important for me to be here because I’ve been a victim of crime in the past,” he said. “I’ve had people standing over my bed with butcher knives, I’ve had people in my family be raped, I’ve had people in my family kidnapped dismembered stuck in holes and found later. I was born in Niagara Falls and I moved here and thought it was a nice state to settle down and I’ve always thought the gun laws were very reasonable. I feel that the legislation being proposed is completely unfair and I’m concerned if the legislators are able to go through with it crime will go up. Criminals will have nothing to fear if law-abiding citizens aren’t allowed to defend themselves.”

For their part, the Libertarian Party of Delaware said their representatives showed up to the rally to lend their support to protecting what they see as an important right, but found a number of the speakers “very Republican in their rhetoric.”

“We’re here to add our support, but some of the speakers strayed from the point a bit,” said Libertarian Party of Delaware secretary Will McVay.

Mr. McVay says his party feels principally, the right to bear arms is to maintain a government that serves its peoples interest.

“It’s necessary to defend ourselves against the government at the end of the day,” he said. “If the whole citizenry is armed, then a standing army can’t rule. It must rule only by the consent of the governed rather than through imposing force. It’s not like a few semi-automatic rifles could stand up to tanks and fighter jets, but it is a deterrent when citizens are armed. You look at some of the wars we’re currently engaged in as a country and we’re basically being stopped by nothing more than people with rifles so that’s proof that it’s not a useless proposition. Of course, we’d never advocate violence against the government, but if citizens have weapons, it gives the police and military pause.”

The event was peaceful and there were no immediately apparent counter protesters, but the gun debate has intensified in the last few months both nationally and in the state. The main sponsor of the recently proposed bill to limit “large-capacity” magazines, Rep. Larry Mitchell, D-Elsmere, claimed in a statement that the bill could limit violence.

“This is a substantial piece of legislation in Delaware’s overall gun safety reform efforts that accommodates our law-abiding citizens while balancing public safety concerns,” he said. “Smaller magazines will not eliminate mass shooting events, but they can help reduce the number of bullets fired and hopefully minimize the tragic outcome.”

The coming months will decide if legislators garner enough support to enact restrictions.

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