President Donald Trump spoke on Friday in Dallas at the annual National Rifle Association meeting. Supporters who heard him speak agreed mostly with what he said, saying they admired Trump for defending Second Amendment rights. (May 4)
DALLAS — The father of one of the teenage victims of the Parkland, Fla., massacre mounted a stage only four blocks from the National Rifle Association convention Saturday to call for gun reform as gun rights supporters heckled him with a bullhorn.
“My daughter was hunted at school,” Fred Guttenberg said, recalling the death of 14-year-old Jaime at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school on Feb. 14.
He said he is still haunted by the fact that he can’t remember if he told Jaime he loved her as she rushed off to school the day of the shooting, when she and 16 other people died.
Guttenberg described how she was shot and killed on the school’s third floor, a bullet from an AR-15 assault-style weapon piercing her side and severing her spine, killing her instantly.
On a makeshift stage in Belo Garden park, he reiterated his specific calls for gun reform: universal background checks, red-flag laws that will allow police to confiscate guns from people deemed dangerous, banning high-capacity magazines and raising the age to purchase weapons from 18 to 21.
As he spoke, pro-gun supporters just outside the park heckled him with a bullhorn.
The rally, one of two gun control protests, was organized by the newly formed NoRA — or “No Rifle Association.” They brought piles of free “NoRA” T-shirts and posters reading “OUR LIVES OVER NRA MONEY.” Some had signs reading “NEVER AGAIN” and “AR-15 IS A WMD.”
Actor Alyssa Milano, founder of the group, read from an “NRA Bill of Rights,” a list of demands such as “the right of our children to live free of gun violence in our nation,” and led the crowd in chants of “Vote Them Out!”, referring to politicians who take contributions from the NRA.
Milano and other activists had a brief confrontation with the gun-rights supporters, until Dallas police officers escorted them from the park.
Also in attendance at the NoRA rally were Manuel and Patricia Oliver, whose son, Joaquin, was also killed during the Florida shooting.
Manuel Oliver said the gun reform movement started after Parkland has gained more momentum than those that occurred after previous mass shootings for two reasons: improved technology social media and the impatience of the young activists.
“They don’t have patience to wait for answers,” he said. “They want answers right now. That’s how they were raised.”
Two hours after the gun reform rally, an “open carry” pro-gun-rights gathering drew around 30 people to Belo Garden Park.
James Singer, 27, of Pleasanton, Texas, showed up with an AR-15 rifle slung on his torso and holding a white flag emblazoned with a picture of an AR-15 and the words, “COME AND TAKE IT.”
He said they were there to show that safety increases when people have guns and to stress the importance of gun rights.
“We’re here to defend the Second Amendment,” Singer said. “Without the Second Amendment, the government could do whatever it wants.”
Ben Jackson, an NoRA co-founder, said the group is aimed at educating the public on the NRA’s influence in government and urges voters not to support politicians who accept NRA donations, whether they be Republican or Democrat.
“The amount of money the NRA spends on government really affects how we debate gun violence,” he said. “We’re not trying to take away anyone’s guns, we’re not trying to repeal the Second Amendment. We’re trying to help government function better.”
Dallas residents Carlo Taboada and Keila Curry said they showed up to the NoRA rally to support groups pushing gun reform. Taboada was dressed in a costume that made it look like he was being carried on the shoulders of President Trump. His T-shirt read “NRA, I’m with stupid” with an arrow pointing down.
“We’re just doing our small part to ignite some change in regard to gun laws,” Taboada said. “It’s way overdue.”
At another rally at City Hall, supporters of the student-led “Rally4Reform” gathered at City Hall to protest what they said was the “NRA leadership’s dangerous agenda.”
Protesters stage a demonstration outside of Dallas City Hall before marching to the NRA Annual Meeting & Exhibits at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center on May 4, 2018 in Dallas. (Photo: Justin Sullivan)
In remarks to the 80,000 participants at the convention, Trump on Friday set a tone likely to either inspire or anger activists, depending on their leaning.
Trump told NRA members they need to be vigilant in the face of anti-NRA forces.
“Your Second Amendment rights are under siege,” the president told the cheering crowd at the convention center. “But they will never, ever be under siege as long as I am you president.”
He also dismissed calls to ban guns as a way to reduce terrorism or gun deaths, by noting the outbreak of incidents in which terrorists used trucks to ram pedestrians. “So lets ban all trucks and vans. Maybe all cars.” he said.
NRA spokesman Jason Brown said the group has been aware of the planned demonstrations and is taking security precautions. “NRA’s security team has worked closely with local law enforcement to ensure the safety and security of all our members, exhibitors, visitors and staff throughout the event and do not expect any issues to occur,” he said.
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