ALEXANDRIA, Va. —Several dozen Second Amendment advocates — many with loaded handguns on their hips and empty rifles dangling from their shoulders — gathered in a park within view of the U.S. Capitol building on Monday, marking a day of protest against what activists called dangerous breaches of the U.S. Constitution.
"It's paid for in blood and, if necessary, we'll defend it in blood!" said Bob Wright, one of the speakers at the "Restore the Constitution" protest at Gravelly Point, a national park just across the Potomac River from Washington. Organizers said they chose the spot to highlight what they see as unconstitutional gun laws.
A recent law allows gun owners to carry firearms in some national parks, while openly carrying guns is prohibited under the District of Columbia's strict gun laws. Organizers said it's the first armed rally in a national park since the law passed.
"We want to get the message across to the other side of the Potomac that we're tired of the Constitution not being followed," said organizer Daniel Almond, as he held a paperback copy of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Almond, a 31-year-old former Marine, carried an unloaded AR15 rifle, a bandoleer of loaded rifle magazines and a holstered pistol. He and others wore yellow ribbons across their forearms to indicate their weapons had been checked by volunteers and were in line with laws on ammunition and gun locks.
Other, unarmed advocates rallied on the National Mall. The crowd of hundreds that gathered near the Washington Monument was dotted with orange stickers that read "Guns saves lives."
Almond said he chose the date for the event to coincide with the anniversary of the "firing of the first shot in the Revolutionary War." It is also the 15th anniversary of the bombing of the courthouse in Oklahoma City.
He was joined on the grassy lawn in Virginia by prominent figures in the militia movement, including Wright, who is affiliated with the 1st Brigade New Mexico Militia, and Mike Vanderboegh, a founder of the pro-gun Three Percenters, the group recently criticized by former President Bill Clinton for stoking extremism.
"We are coming to a fundamental break where people, real people — the guilty and innocent alike — where people are going to be dying for their failure to understand," he told the group, whose numbers were nearly matched by members of the media. "They start wars, these wannabe tyrants."