A crowd of more than 1,000, many of them armed with rifles and pistols, rallied in support of gun-owner rights Saturday outside a Coeur d’Alene sporting goods store.
It was a strong show of support for the Second Amendment on a cold and sunny day, and it came in response to sweeping new gun control proposals by the Obama administration following the Newtown, Conn., elementary school massacre last month.
Similar “Gun Appreciation Day” and “Guns Across America” gatherings were held in state capitals and at gun shows and shooting ranges across the nation.
About 800 supporters of gun rights converged on the statehouse in Boise, and another big crowd showed up outside the Washington Capitol in Olympia.
The Sharp Shooting Indoor Range and Gun Shop in Spokane was bustling all day with hundreds of sport shooters, said Jeremy Ball, the owner’s son.
“I’ve had a wait list all day and I’ve got a packed lobby,” Ball said. “Lots of traffic today.”
Dawson and Julie Mosey, of Spokane, brought their 7-month-old daughter and pet schnauzers to the Coeur d’Alene rally at Black Sheep Sporting Goods. The baby, swaddled against her mother for warmth, wore a shirt depicting a semi-automatic rifle and the words “Come and take it.”
“I don’t think taking guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens is going to do what they think it’s going to do,” Julie Mosey said as a patriotic anthem blared over loudspeakers. “You know, we’re not crazy. We’re a family and we own guns. We do it for sport and we have them for protection.”
Dawson Mosey, who recently bought an AR-15 military-style rifle, added, “This is something that was entrusted to us by the founders to not only protect ourselves personally but to protect our freedom, protect our nation.”
The crowd prayed, recited the Pledge of Allegiance, listened to a reading of the Second Amendment, and took an oath to protect the Constitution and defend the country.
Dozens held signs rebuffing calls for stricter controls on the sale of firearms. “From my cold, dead hands,” read one. “Government gun control equals government control,” said another.
“It’s a great day for North Idaho; it’s a great day for America,” said Brian Knoll, spokesman for Black Sheep. “And I’m thrilled with the turnout.”
He said the store has seen a spike in shooting sports sales in recent months and has had a difficult time keeping some items in stock. “Demand seems to be exceeding supply, for the most part,” Knoll said.
Out in the parking lot, a line of speakers took to a flag-draped stage to condemn talk of gun control and vow to defend the right to bear arms.
Gun owners desire to “rid the world of such monstrous acts” as the Newtown tragedy, said Ed Santos, owner of Center Target Sports, a Post Falls sport shooting and training facility.
Those who do not share that view “must recognize that we are not the evildoers,” Santos continued. “We are citizens who exercise our constitutional right to own, use and enjoy firearms safely and responsibly for all lawful purposes. We are part of the fabric of American life, and we treasure our children, our heritage and our traditions.”
Some of the loudest cheers were for a state lawmaker from across the state line, Republican Rep. Matt Shea, of Spokane Valley.
“Our country stands on the brink of tyranny,” Shea said. He added, “Our hope is not in man, our hope is in Jesus Christ.”
The combat veteran, who until recently faced a misdemeanor gun charge sparked when he pulled a gun during a road-rage dispute, said he and other legislators will introduce a bill Monday declaring that the federal government has no jurisdiction over firearms in Washington.
“So right now is a time for us to stand together as courageous patriots,” Shea said. “We’re not doing this for ourselves. We’re doing this so that our kids and our grandkids can live free.”
Similar legislation is being drafted in Boise, state Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, told the crowd.
“Your Second Amendment rights in Idaho will be protected,” he said.
Nonini called for vigilance in the face of the gun control debate in Washington, D.C. “It’s crazy, it’s ludicrous, it’s illegal, it’s unethical, it’s immoral,” he said of the efforts to impose new limits.
Sean Greely, of Sandpoint, attended the rally with an AR-10 rifle slung over his shoulder. He said he has owned firearms since he was 12, and he hunts and does tactical training with his guns.
“I think it’s important for people to know that neither Congress nor the president has the authority to restrict our Second Amendment rights unless they have a constitutional convention,” Greely said.
President Barack Obama, he added, can’t legislate by fiat. “He’s not a king; he can’t write his own laws.”