Radio talk-show host G. Gordon Liddy urged a crowd of about 2,000 enthusiastic gun owners Sunday to disobey a federal ban on 19 kinds of semiautomatic weapons.
“The Constitution is absolutely crystal-clear” about the right of Americans to bear “any arms you choose,” Liddy said. “Just don’t obey the damn law! They’re not going to put 150 million Americans in jail!”
A roar of approval rose from the crowd, gathered at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial for the secondannual rally in support of gun ownership. As flocks of foreign tourists looked on in bafflement, the protesters waved tiny American flags, brandished antiClinton lapel buttons and pumped a variety of hand-lettered signs that said, for example, “We are the Militia.”
Despite their high spirits, rally orga nizers were disappointed by the crowd, saying many people declined to attend because gun owners have been vilified in the wake of the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City, allegedly by anti-government terrorists with ties to the right-wing militia movement.
“A lot of people dropped out because of Oklahoma,” said rally organizer Ron Long, who estimated that 13,000 people showed up for his first rally last August. “I know at least 10 buses canceled because of this.”
Long, an engineer from Templeton, Mass., heads a grass-roots gun-rights coalition called the Committee of 1776. By advertising on the Internet computer network, on shortwave radio and in gun industry magazines, the group summoned gun owners from across the nation to rally in support of the Second Amendment and against President Clinton, the ban on semiautomatic weapons, federal raids and other forms of what they consider government encroachment upon American liberties.
Billed as an “anti-government rally,” the event featured five hours of speeches in the sticky Washington heat from an eclectic band of gun advocates, including two-time independent presidential candidate Lenora Fulani; Caroline Trochmann, wife of Militia of Montana commander John Trochmann; and Arizona sheriff Richard Mack, who launched a legal challenge against the Brady law’s waiting period for gun purchases.
But the incendiary Liddy was clearly the star of the show. The diminutive syndicated talk-show host was mobbed after his speech by burly men pleading for his autograph on their dollar bills and gun permits and by one young woman who asked Liddy for a peck on the lips and got a sloppy, open-mouth kiss.
A former FBI special agent initially famous for his role in Watergate, Liddy currently is more notorious for encouraging his listeners to defend themselves in the event of a raid on their homes by aiming for the heads of any intruding federal agents.
Liddy reminded the crowd Sunday that federal agents were looking for guns when they raided the Branch Davidians’ compound in Waco, Texas, and when they fatally shot the wife and son of white separatist Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge, Idaho.
“If they come smashing into your house in the middle of the night with no warning, you’ve got a choice, don’t you?” Liddy said. “You can lawfully die. Or you can constitutionally live.”
Liddy also won cheers for castigating Clinton’s decision to close down Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House to deter terrorists in the wake of the Oklahoma bombing, a move many speakers mocked as a sign of presidential cowardice.
During the Vietnam War, Liddy said, Clinton “fled to a foreign country. When a bomb went off in Oklahoma City, his response was to close Pennsylvania Avenue. The next time something happens, he’ll probably close the Pennsylvania Turnpike!”
But don’t worry, Liddy told the crowd. In 1996, “we’ll get rid of the Coward in Chief and the Mrs. both.”