About 40 young people waved signs and voiced loud support for Second Amendment rights in the front of D.C. city hall on Friday, an unusual sight in a heavily Democratic city that is known for its strict gun-control laws.
For about two hours, they captured the attention of passing motorists and tourists with their argument that increased gun ownership equals increased public safety.
Their rally comes two days after an unarmed building manager was shot in the arm at the Family Research Council, a conservative organization in the District’s busy downtown. Mayor Vincent C. Gray has pledged to preserve the city’s strict gun laws after the incident renewed debate about firearm safety in the city.
Protests are a frequent occurrence in front of the John A. Wilson Building, which houses the offices of Mr. Gray and D.C. Council members. Yet pro-gun rallies are unusual and the sight of young protesters touting traditional conservative views at city hall made it stand out.
“Hey, hey! Mayor Gray! We want concealed carry,” the protesters chanted.
The group was consistently loud and lively, riffing off popular songs by Twisted Sister and the Beastie Boys — “You gotta fight. For your right. To caaaaarrrry!” — to get their message across.
“I really do believe we should be allowed to have our Second Amendment rights,” protester Amanda Haas, 21, said.
Ms. Haas said she is “a single girl who’s living in the city” and should have the right to protect herself with a firearm if, for instance, she is accosted while walking at night from the Metro to her home near Eastern Market.
While some were D.C. residents, many of the protesters told The Washington Times they lived across the river in Virginia.
Organizer Mike Armstrong, 25, of Arlington, said almost all of the protesters lived in the D.C. metro region. He said many of them know each other and were able to organize the rally over the Internet.
Mr. Armstrong acknowledged the rally comes on the heels of the FRC shooting, but said they had been planning a protest for some time. The debate around gun control shows no signs of stopping in the District or elsewhere in America, especially after mass shootings at a theater in Aurora, Colo., and at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.
Mr. Armstrong reiterated the argument that an armed society could stop mass shootings from escalating. He also said the District’s level of violence shows its strict gun laws are not working.
But some passers-by were not amused by the spectacle.
“I’m just embarrassed by this,” Malcolm Odell, of Georgetown, said after he stopped to engage in lively debate with several of the protesters.
In a NewsChannel 8 interview on Thursday, Mr. Gray said he is proud of the District’s gun restrictions and he renewed his criticism of a billboard in the District that touts formal gun training.
“While we support their right to express their opinions under the First Amendment, the facts are clear that more guns do not equal safer communities,” Mr. Gray’s spokesman, Pedro Ribeiro, said Friday. “States with the lax gun laws and higher gun ownership rates have the highest per capita number of gun related deaths. The District is currently on pace to have the lowest homicide rate it’s had in over 40 years; our laws are working.”