Gun-rights supporters across Ohio and the nation will rally Saturday against what they see as unconstitutional government gun control measures.
“Our God-given rights are being infringed,” Dayton Tea Party President Don Birdsall said. “The Bill of Rights is kind of the untouchable rights that government is not to infringe — that’s what it says in the Constitution — and what we feel the government is doing is trying to infringe those rights.”
Birdsall said more than 100 “Day of Resistance” events are planned around the country at a time when gun background checks ticked up after the November election and then reached record numbers after the Newtown, Conn. school shooting and President Barack Obama’s talk of new gun legislation.
Many of the gun-rights rallies reference Saturday’s date as .223, the caliber of the weapon the Newtown shooter used to kill 20 first-graders.
Birdsall said he’s not sure how many people will attend the Dayton rally, but estimated between 200 and 600. He also said The Dayton Tea Party is discouraging attendees from openly carrying weapons.
“We don’t want the message to get distorted saying it was an armed, militant group,” Birdsall said. “We want it to be a peaceful demonstration against government policy.”
Toby Hoover, Executive Director at Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, said the Ohio Rally for Sensible Gun Laws on Saturday in Columbus has been scheduled “for quite a while.” The event is sponsored by her group and One Million Moms For Gun Control.
Hoover said there is room for discussion with many gun owners, but probably not the ones who would show up at Saturday’s “Day of Resistance” rallies. She said surveys show most Americans are in favor of President Obama’s executive orders and for effective background checks.
“It’s such an extreme attitude of ‘Anything that is done about guns will take all my guns away’ that I don’t know how we’re going to have a conversation with them,” Hoover said. “But they’re such a small minority of gun owners.”
Last month, President Obama signed 23 executive actions he hoped would help end “the epidemic of gun violence in this country.” Beyond those actions, other gun legislation has been introduced around the country to ban possession of some assault weapons, limit magazine size and create a database to log all gun and ammunition sales. In response, a bill in the Ohio Senate seeks to “nullify unconstitutional federal gun control laws.”
In December, the number of federal government-instituted background checks processed in Ohio on potential gun owners totaled 102,531, up 64 percent from December 2011, according to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
In fact, of the all-time top 10 weeks with the most NICS checks, seven have come after Newtown, including the highest week of 953,613 in the first full seven-day reporting period after the massacre.
“I’m very supportive of the right to have your weapons and very supportive of (Ohio Senate Bill) 36 and the Buckeye Sheriffs voted to support it also,” Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones said. “I was asked to be the guest speaker, but I have another engagement.”
Dayton police Lt. Kenneth Beall, who commands the central patrol operations division, said Dayton PD will not really be involved but has heard from county officials that the Dayton Tea Party has had events at Courthouse Square before and there hasn’t been any problems.
“We’re aware of it and our crews are going to be aware of it,” Beall said. “We’re going to be on our patrol anyway.”
Birdsall said his group got the required permits and informed the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and other county officials of the event. He also said there are no featured speakers and that “a bunch of people are going to show up at noon and wave some flags and some signs and hear some people say some words of encouragement and then go away.”
Area sheriffs reached Thursday differed as to their knowledge of the rallies and whether they wanted to be drawn into a political debate.
Jones said that more proposed laws won’t do anything to lower crime or heinous massacres.
“The sheriffs are kind of the last line of defense,” he said. “Police chiefs and things like that, they have city councils and city managers and safety directors to answer to. The sheriffs just answer to the people, it’s pretty simple.
“If you think that all the gang-related deaths, that all these gun background checks are going to do anything to slow that down, they’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid.”
Greene County Sheriff Gene Fischer said he hasn’t studied extensively on the latest legislative efforts, but that he’d “support the guys with the guns” at the rallies.
Warren County Sheriff Larry Sims said he supports the Second Amendment but that he is sworn “to uphold the U.S. Constitution and the Ohio Constitution and the laws, which I will do, and until we see any of those changes in writing, I just don’t want our office to get into this bantering back and forth in this political arena.”
‘Day of Resistance’ rallies
Noon - 1:30 p.m. Saturday
Courthouse Square, Dayton
Noon - 4 p.m. Saturday
The Square at Union Centre, West Chester Twp.
Ohio Rally for Sensible Gun Laws
11 a.m. Saturday
Columbus City Hall, Columbus