Gun-rights supporters rally

Feb. 24, 2013 @ 09:57 AM

More than 100 Second Amendment supporters gathered Saturday in the downtown square, joining in a peaceful protest mirroring others held the same day across the country.

The people singing and waving flags represented the Lenoir chapter of the Day of Resistance, a national movement that held about 150 protests in states across the U.S. Candace Henson traveled from Statesville to the Lenoir Day of Resistance because it was the closest event she could find. She said she feels betrayed by the federal government.

“Our government’s letting us down, every way we turn,” Henson said. “We the people need to start letting them know we’re not going to have it, we’ve had enough of it.”

Most of the protests across the region, including Morganton and Marion, were similar in size to the one in Lenoir, said Donny Loftis, who organized the Marion protest. The largest protest he had heard reports of was in Asheville, where organizers said they drew several hundred people. “It stole some of our people,” Loftis joked.

The protests were referred to as a “grassroots movement” by their organizers, but they received some funding from Stop this Insanity Inc., a Tea Party-affiliated political action committee.

In Lenoir, protestors encountered no local resistance. As they gathered around the pavilion, the only onlookers were reporters and police. Traffic drove past without stopping.

“There’s a lot of people in the area that agree with us,” said Ken Thierfelder, a Sawmills man who held a sign at the street corner throughout the protest. “They’ll give us a wave or a thumbs-up as they go by.”

The protestors’ attitude toward the General Assembly and the state’s delegation in the U.S. House of Represenatives was tentatively appreciative as well.

“Our North Carolina people are doing a pretty good job,” event organizer Kevin Long said. “The problem isn’t in North Carolina. The problem is in Washington, D.C.”

At one point, Long read comments he had solicited from various politicians, including U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-11th, and state Rep. Edgar Starnes, R-Caldwell. All had expressed their support for the Second Amendment. And Starnes has introduced pro-gun legislation in the General Assembly.

Throughout the day, gun control proponents targeted by speakers at the event were largely understood to be people from outside North Carolina, even outside the South.

Long – a military veteran, concealed-carry permit holder and nurse – was the Lenoir event’s primary organizer. He pulled it off in about three weeks, aided by a handful of local people and two sponsors, Guns Too and American Trade & Loan.

The rally had about 100 people in the crowd at the start, and a bit more than that its peak, though some trickled off toward the end. That was “pretty good for little old Lenoir,” Long said.

Some speakers edged up against controversy.

Long referred to the shootings in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., and suggested they were overplayed by the media and federal government.

“Why are we talking about that so much?” he asked. “Not to diminish what happened, because it would kill me if it happened here, if it happened to anyone I knew. But why are we talking about that so much when we haven’t balanced the budget, we haven’t done so many other things?”

Eddie Jolly of Homegrown Radio in Granite Falls, took a hard line against the perception of gun owners in liberal circles.

“The Second Amendment is not about hunting deer,” Jolly said. “It’s about protecting your family from a tyrannical and overreaching government.”

The event was peaceful, as promised. Under N.C. law, no attendee was allowed to actually carry a weapon, concealed or otherwise, because the event qualified as a “parade, funeral procession, picket line or demonstration.” Long reminded the crowd of that and said that if anyone forgot, they should go lock their guns in their cars.

And though its participants had plenty to say, the event was calm as well.

Southern rock band Shattard Glass played well known, patriotic hits, such as “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Wagon Wheel” and some Lynard Skynard. People held hands, looped their arms around each other and swayed to the music.

There was talk about starting a network, staying connected on Facebook, launching a series of regular protests. Hands were shaken and backs were slapped.

The event started and ended with the National Anthem. American flags adorned T-shirts, tote bags and signs.

Toward the end of the afternoon, Danny Pierce spoke on behalf of Caldwell County Friends of the NRA. He listed the names of the three North Carolinians who signed the Declaration of Independence: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes and John Penn.

“You are true patriots,” Pierce told the crowd. “You’re patriots just like they are.”