A self-proclaimed Paul Revere circled the state Capitol grounds on a bicycle Saturday at noon, ushering people to the north side of the building to join in a national day of protest against a renewed push for gun-control regulations.
The rally, organized by Guns Across America, a gun rights organization, was one of 49 protests occurring across the nation. It coincided with Gun Appreciation Day, a response to a national gun debate incited by the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six staff members of Sandy Hook Elementary were killed by a gunman.
Roughly a thousand people attended the rally, and after a failed attempt to start a chant of “USA,” the crowd gathered together with shouts of “Texas!” and “Freedom!” A large sign reading "Come and Take It" featuring a semi-automatic weapon where a cannon normally would sit loomed over the crowd as protesters waited for the event to begin.
Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff and failed Texas congressional candidate, addressed the crowd, criticizing President Obama’s recent gun-related executive orders, calling them unconstitutional and “a joke.”
“If there was any good to gun control, it would be magic,” Mack said. “If you want magic, then go to Disneyland or see David Copperfield in Las Vegas.”
The measures signed by Obama address mental health, armed school guards, research on gun violence and the nomination of a director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a post he proposed this week should be filled by B. Todd Jones, the current part-time director of the ATF.
Republicans have been critical of the president, calling gun-related executive orders an overreach of federal power and an infringement on the Second Amendment.
U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Friendswood, took to the airwaves on Tuesday’s edition of On the Record w/ Greta Van Susteren to continue his push for the impeachment of Obama if executive orders were used as means for gun control.
Texas lawmakers have filed a multitude of gun-related bills to be brought up during the 83rd legislative session.
One bill filed by state Rep. John Otto, R-Dayton, House Bill 553, would make it illegal for any Texas official to enforce federal gun-control laws related to “confiscating any firearm, banning any firearm, limiting the size of a magazine for any firearm, imposing any limit on the ammunition that may be purchased for any firearm, taxing any firearm or ammunition or requiring the registration of any firearm or ammunition.” The bill calls such laws a direct violation of the U.S. Constitution.
State Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, who spoke at the rally, has promised to file similar legislation that he is calling the “Firearms Protection Act.” Toth blasted the president for using the tragedy at Sandy Hook to advocate for gun-control measures.
“This president is using children as a human shield to advance a liberal agenda that will do nothing to protect them,” Toth said.
Marsha McCartney, president of the Texas chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said the organizers of Saturday's event should be “ashamed” to hold the rally on the same day as the National Day of Service, a day of community service encouraged by the Obama administration to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
She also criticized gun rights advocates who are opposed to Obama's 23 gun-control-related executive orders.
“The other side is losing their minds over these executive orders,” McCartney said. “I guess they didn’t even read it to realize how common sense the measures were.”
Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson spoke at Saturday's rally. He said that even though he stopped to consider his stance on gun rights after the massacre at Sandy Hook, he decided that banning certain weapons would not stop a criminal from acts of violence.
“Liberty has a price, and there are always going to be those who abuse it,” Patterson said.
He placed blame on the media for focusing on gunmen who commit mass murders. Patterson said the constant focus on a gunman could incite “a teenager sitting in his basement playing video games” to emulate his or her actions.
Trease Fullingim, a resident of Rockport who attended the rally, said the push for gun control could leave her and many others defenseless.
Fullingim said she was the survivor of a brutal attack in 1993 where two men beat her unconscious. She said that if she had had a gun to protect herself then, the incident may not have happened.
“If they take away my protection, I will have no way to defend myself,” Fullingim said. “I never want to be victimized again.”
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