Convinced their Second Amendment rights are under siege, an estimated 500 gun owners and supporters many openly carrying firearms participated in a peaceful protest rally here Saturday.
After gathering at the Madison County Courthouse, the group walked several blocks to the citys Tabernacle Civic Center, where they sang the The Spangled Banner, listened to speeches and signed petitions reasserting their right to keep and bear arms in defense of our lives, liberty and our property and called on local government leaders to join them.
Many in the crowd waved American flags and carried homemade placards as they walked along city sidewalks. They also carried a dizzying array of hunting rifles, handguns and military-style weaponry, either slung from their shoulders or strapped to their hips. The slogans on the placards got right to the point: Armed people equals free people. Dont tread on me. I need my protection.
The SOS Rally Save Our Second Amendment was organized by Dan Roberts, an unsuccessful candidate last year for Idahos District 34B legislative seat. Although set to start at 11 a.m., Roberts delayed the event for about 15 minutes to accommodate a steady stream of late-arriving supporters. Finally, he grabbed a bullhorn and addressed the crowd from the top of the Courthouse stairs. All right, were ready to go.
Cheers erupted and many in the crowd gave him the thumbs-up sign.
I see lots of sportsmen and patriots, Roberts said. This is important people, very important. Were on a very slippery slope (with calls for gun control). Im tired of butting heads with the federal government. We need to start acting like sovereign citizens from sovereign states.
The group prayed, recited the Pledge of Allegiance and briefly discussed gun safety before heading toward the Tabernacle. Matt Brady of Ashton was among those who made the trek. He had an AR-15 military-style assault rifle slung over his shoulder and a Glock pistol strapped to his waist.
I think our (Second Amendment) rights are being eroded, Brady said. Still, he wasnt ready to condemn all of the Obama administration proposals to reduce gun violence. Brady, who said he is a psychologist, supports the presidents call for more money for mental health programs.
My concern, he said, is what the (larger) legislative agenda is going to be. I have a lot of concern about (the federal government) taking away our Second Amendment Rights.
Marilyn Glenn drove up from Idaho Falls to attend the rally.
Im all for standing up for our rights. They cant take our guns away, she said.
Stacy Smith stepped away from her desk Saturday and watched the protesters pass by her downtown office.
Its the people behind the guns that are causing the problems, not the guns, Smith said. Its irritating to me that the government is trying to take away our rights.
But President Obamas 23 executive orders aimed at reducing gun violence address administrative matters not the Second Amendment. Those measures include enacting stricter background checks on those buying guns, making it easier for states to share that background information and incentives for schools to add more police on campus.
The most controversial of Obamas proposals reinstating the nationwide assault weapons ban and banning high-capacity ammunition magazines require Congressional approval, which experts dont see happening.
But many of the Rexburg protesters werent buying it. Nor did it seem to matter that an ABC News/Washington Post Poll released Friday found that Americans favor Obamas proposals by a 53 percent to 41 percent margin.
In Rexburg on Saturday, only the 41 percent was represented.