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Packing heat to protest: Gun advocates hold first open-carry rally at national park

April 19, 2010 | 10:52 am

Gun advocates gather at Fort Hunt Park in Virginia, becoming the first to carry weapons at a national park April 19, 2010 by Getty Images

They consider the National Rifle Assn. a trifle old-fashioned. After all, despite being one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington, the NRA flexes its muscles by talking and enacting laws and boring stuff like that.

These folks are into carrying guns -- lots of weapons of all kinds, some loaded with extra ammo at the ready. They believe that guns are not only protected by the 2nd Amendment but are emblems of their protest against everything they don't like in Washington. Not content to rally weaponless on behalf of their constitutional right to bear arms, they gather while packing heat to rail against healthcare reform, climate change, bank bailouts, drug laws and that "totalitarian socialism" they say President Obama is marketing.

The brandishing of weapons is "not just an important symbol" but "a reminder of who we are," rally organizer Daniel Almond, an Iraq War veteran, told the Washington Post. "The founders knew that it is the tendency of government to expand itself and embrace its own power, and they knew the citizenry had to be reminded of that."

On Monday, the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing and the government siege at Waco, was a tale of two rallies in the nation's capital. Those boring NRA types came to the National Mall to demonstrate for their right to bear arms. As the District of Columbia outlaws handguns, the "Second Amendment March" participants came without any. Or maybe they came unarmed because they believe the power of speech confers more authority than the potency of a rifle. Imagine.

Across the Potomac River, Almond and other self-described patriots made history in Virginia, becoming the first protesters to carry weapons at a rally at Fort Hunt National Park since Obama cleared the way by signing a law allowing guns in national parks. The bill was aimed at preventing credit card companies from charging walloping fees, but Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn added an amendment permitted loaded weapons in national parks. Obama swallowed it.

Parading under the banners of groups such as Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, the "Restore the Constitution" rally featured lots of speeches about demonstrators called the socialist Democratic agenda.

Also lots of guns.

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: A protester at the Fort Hunt National Park rally. Credit: Getty Images

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