CHEYENNE -- Several dozen people gathered in downtown Cheyenne to express support for gun rights, as a response to nationwide protests calling for increased restrictions on gun ownership.
The rally Saturday in front of the Wyoming Supreme Court building,, which included politicians and members of militia groups, was coordinated with rallies at other state capitols under the auspices of the National Constitutional Coalition of Patriotic Americans, an alliance of nationalist organizations dedicated to putting America "back on track,” according to its website.
And while organizer Jodi Mandelias acknowledged Wyoming’s gun laws were some of the friendliest in the country, she said people still needed to remind the public of the Second Amendment’s importance in light of recent demonstrations demanding restrictions on gun ownership following a school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
The shooting, conducted by a 19-year-old with an AR-15-style rifle, and the outrage that followed prompted some politicians, including President Donald Trump, briefly, to consider additional gun restrictions.
“There’s been a lot of publicity around gun control recently,” Mandelias said. “We’re here to publicize the Constitution and the Second Amendment.”
The event began with a short speech from Republican gubernatorial candidate Taylor Haynes, who said he thought everyone should have guns and no one should raise taxes, and then turned into an open mic for Second Amendment supporters.
Most of them had the same message: that gun ownership was an integral part of founding the country, that attempts to curb access to guns were attempts to subvert American democracy and that criminals didn’t care about gun laws.
“There’s been a large attack on gun ownership lately,” said Laramie County resident Russell West, who said he used his guns for target shooting, “but these are our rights. (Supporters of gun restrictions) are ignoring the basic principles of our country.”
Daniel Marces spoke along the same lines. He said that without guns, people wouldn’t be able to overthrow a tyrannical government.
Wyoming itself is one of the most gun-friendly states in the nation. State Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, touted recent enactment of a “stand your ground” state law, and many of those in attendance were armed. But multiple speakers said there was still work to do.
Roy Fansler said that complacency allowed the erosion of gun rights in California, where he lived before moving to Cheyenne.
Mandelias pointed out that only 100 miles away, the Boulder, Colorado, City Council had given initial approval to a ban on assault weapons.
And Marces, who said he was a parent of a Laramie County School District 1 student, accused the district of supporting gun control by allowing students to walk out of class March 14 – along with more than a million others nationwide – to honor the 17 Parkland victims.
He said the event was disguised as a “vigil” for the victims but was actually an “anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment event planned and organized by gun control groups and celebrities.”
He said he would be running for school board at the next opportunity to represent students and parents “whose voices were silenced” by the board.