Gun rights activists plan to openly carry weapons as they march across the Arlington Memorial Bridge into the District on July 4 as part of a protest organized by an Internet talk show host — a plan that drew a swift and confrontational response from the city’s police chief.
“If you’re coming here to break the law, then we’re going to take action,” Chief Cathy L. Lanier said Tuesday in an interview on News Channel 8. “There is a pretty good chance we’ll meet them on the D.C. side of the bridge.”
The idea of the armed march, which would start at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia and proceed across the bridge into the District — where it is illegal to carry guns on the street — was proposed by radio show host Adam Kokesh this week on his “Adam vs. The Man” show.
“This is an act of civil disobedience, not a permitted event,” Mr. Kokesh wrote on his website. “We will march with rifles loaded and slung across our backs to put the government on notice that we will not be intimidated and cower in submission to tyranny.”
March organizers will coordinate with law enforcement beforehand in order to determine at what point armed marchers would risk arrest, Mr. Kokesh said.
“We will approach that point as a group and if necessary, I will proceed to volunteer myself to determine what their actual course of action with someone crossing the line will be at which point fellow marchers will have the choice of joining me one at a time in a peaceful, orderly manner, or turning back to the National Cemetery,” he wrote.
As of Tuesday, more than 2,400 people had said via Facebook that they planned to attend the march.
On Tuesday, Chief Lanier said the police department has not been in contact with Mr. Kokesh or other organizers but supported coordination between the group and law enforcement in order to educate protesters about the laws they would be breaking and the punishment they could face.
“We’ll make sure that they understand that if they want to pass through the District of Columbia with firearms, as long as they’re in compliance with the firearms laws for transportation of firearms through the District, we’re all for it. But passing into the District of Columbia with loaded firearms is a violation of the law, and we’ll have to treat it as such,” she said.
Since a the Supreme Court struck down the District’s 30-year near-total ban on handgun ownership in 2008, D.C. residents have been able to purchase and keep handguns in their homes but are precluded from carrying them on the street.
A person caught carrying a gun outside of their own home or place of business can face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine, according to D.C. law.