Low Turnout at Gun March the NRA's Fault, Organizer Says
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Given the long build-up to Monday's Second Amendment March on Washington, the result was a bit anti-climactic: a couple of thousand gun-owners assembled in front of a stage facing the Washington Monument. If only the National Rifle Association had given organizers a little support, said march founder Skip Coryell, there would have been at least 10 times the number of people assembled. "They let us down on this one," he said.
The march, Coryell said, cost his group about $80,000 -- a high price for the 2,000 or so people I estimate gathered at the event's peak. That brings the cost per participant to something like
Sponsors for the march included the United States Conceal Carry Association (at the platinum level), Larry Pratt's Gun Owners of America (at the gold level), the online ammunition store LuckyGunner.com (at the silver level), and several advocacy groups at the "patriot" level, including Oath Keepers , whose founder, Stewart Rhodes, recently accused progressive reporters, including Rachel Maddow and Mother Jones' Justine Sharrock, of being in league with the federal government in a CoInTelPro-style smear campaign against his organization. (See AlterNet's report here, including our exclusive interview with Rhodes.)
Take a few minutes with Coryell, and you'll find a charming, affable man in his 40s, with straight, sandy hair cut in a mop-top style. He complained that people want to paint his gun-rights movement with a single brush, to put everybody in the same "box." The father of six -- including a five-month-old son -- is a stay-at-home dad. "My wife, she's an engineer; she supports me," he explained. "That doesn't fit in peoples' box," he said.
"I carry a gun to protect my family," he told me. "That's the only reason I do it. It isn't any fun to carry this five-pound gun around," he said, pointing to where a holster would be resting if he were not in Washington, D.C., where the District of Columbia gun laws rendered the Second Amendment March unarmed.
"Especially if you're carrying a kid around on the other hip," I offered.
I noted that the march, and his movement, appears to be composed almost exclusively of white people.
"It's not about white-black. It's urban versus rural," he said.
Yet prominently featured on the program was Larry Pratt, credited by many with being the father of the modern militia movement, who was famously kicked off Pat Buchanan's 1996 presidential campaign when it was revealed that Pratt had addressed a group of white supremacists in 1992 in Este, Colorado.
Speaking to the crowd assembled on the monument grounds on Monday, Pratt seemed to have more on his mind that simply protecting his family. He was particularly miffed at former President Bill Clinton's remarks earlier in the week that calls to violence against the government were inherently dangerous. Another figure who attracts the ire of many gun-rights advocates is Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who was that day addressing a ceremony in Oklahoma City commemorating the 15th anniversary of the bombing of the federal Alfred Murrah building by the anti-government extremist Timothy McVeigh, an act that killed 168 people.
"I look around: it's so good to see all these terrorists out here," Pratt said. "Janet Napolitano, she figured, as governor of Arizona, that we didn't have a border problem, but she knows who the real enemy is. Ha, ha, ha, ha. And Bill Clinton's been runnin' cover for her, too. Watch out how you guys speak out there, you know, words can have consequences. Remember Oklahoma City? Yeah, I do. And I also remember the Waco barbecue that your attorney general gave us. Thanks a lot...We're in a war. The other side knows they're at war, because they started it. They're comin' for our freedom, for our money, for our kids, for our property. They're comin' for everything because they're a bunch of socialists."