SANTA FE – More than 100 gun rights advocates used their First Amendment rights to express their support for their Second Amendment right to bear arms at a noontime rally at the state Capitol on Saturday. The demonstrators, some wearing holstered handguns, while others shouldered rifles, were participating in a nationwide peaceful show of force in support of gun rights held Saturday at 45 statehouses across the country.
“This had to be done,” said Robert Overton, of Rio Rancho, who helped organize the event. “We can’t stand by and watch as states strip people of their rights.”
Overton is a member of Sons of Liberty Riders, a national organization that advocates for constitutional rights, “and guns are one of them,” he said.
Members of other groups, such as the American Patriot Party of New Mexico, American Patriot Vanguard, Gun Owners of New Mexico, Pro-2A, and the National Constitutional Coalition of Patriotic Americans, also participated in the rally.
The National Rifle Association, which has been at the forefront of the pro-gun rights movement, was not directly involved, though some of the people at the rally said they were members.
The rally came three weeks after hundreds of thousands of people marched in Washington and other U.S. cities, including several thousand in both Albuquerque and Santa Fe as part of a “March for Our Lives” rally demanding tougher gun laws. That rally came a few weeks after a February school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 people dead.
Speakers at Saturday’s rally said students at Parkland and elsewhere who have spoken out against gun violence since that tragedy have been used as pawns. To provide a different perspective from youth, 17-year-old Andres Sandoval of Santa Fe was asked to speak at the Roundhouse rally.
Sandoval, a junior at Santa Fe’s Academy for Technology and the Arts, said many of his fellow students have been “brainwashed” by anti-gun advocates, and he was there to tell “his side of the story.”
“Putting the blame on guns doesn’t solve anything,” he said of school shootings, adding that if a student fails a test, they shouldn’t blame the pencil. “We would be a lot safer if someone at our school had a gun to protect us.”
Jennifer Wertz, a 31-year-old single mother of three, told those gathered her story of being robbed while she was working at an Albuquerque convenience store about seven months ago. She pulled out her gun and shot the robber in the chest. “He went down with one shot,” she said, eliciting applause. “It was his life or mine, and I was the one that got to go home to see my babies.”
Aubrey Dunn, the state land commissioner who is running for U.S. Senate as a Libertarian, also spoke at the rally.
“I just wanted to thank them for showing up for the Second Amendment,” he said in a brief interview afterward.
After the scheduled speakers had finished, anyone in the crowd who wanted to speak from the podium was invited to do so. John Dunne, of Colorado Springs, was one of about two dozen who did.
He said the best thing they could do to protect their gun rights was to call their legislators. “Call them! Make them so sick of you. Because it works,” he said.
Others speakers urged people to use their vote to pick lawmakers who support gun rights, and certainly not Democrats.
After all were heard, about 60 people, some carrying signs and flag – American or “Don’t Tread on Me,” – marched around the Roundhouse. Several of them then walked a few blocks north and circled the city’s downtown Plaza, including Joe Clayshulte, of Mesilla, near Las Cruces.
Asked why he decided to bring along his AR-15 rifle, he said, “Because this is Public Enemy No. 1 right now, according to March for Our Lives. Fifty years ago, people were marching for the protection of their civil rights. Now they’re marching against our civil rights.”