Hundreds of Second Amendment activists from as far away as Chicago and Cincinnati descended on downtown Pittsburgh, Pa. Monday to deliver a message to Mayor William Peduto and the Pittsburgh City Council about their proposed gun control measures: Don’t do it.
There was no mistake about where these gun owners stood on the Second Amendment and protecting their rights. Sam Piccinini, owner of the Master Ammo Company in Rochester, declared to the mayor, who was not present, “I want to tell you Mr. Mayor, the reason for the Second Amendment isn’t so much for us to protect our families, it’s to protect us from people like you!”
The proposals are in reaction to the Oct. 27, 2018 mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in which 11 people were killed and others were wounded. But the hundreds of gun owners who turned out for Monday’s event were there to remind city officials and the media that they didn’t harm anyone and should not be penalized for the tragedy.
Organized by Justin Dillon, a veteran rights activist and founder of Open Carry Pennsylvania, the rally drew by some estimates close to 700-800 people, many of them visibly armed with either sidearms and/or long guns. A counter-demonstration materialized across the street from the City-County Building, with Pittsburgh police separating the two crowds.
While the rally may have been organized to protest the proposed gun control schemes, which include a ban on semiautomatic rifles and some accessories in the city, at the heart of the fight is Pennsylvania’s preemption statute, which prohibits local gun control ordinances. Dillon has successfully defended that state law in the past, by suing the City of Erie. That case was, coincidentally, decided five years ago to the day of yesterday’s rally on Jan. 7, 2014.
Pennsylvania’s statute is clear: “No county, municipality or township may in any manner regulate the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms, ammunition or ammunition components when carried or transported for purposes not prohibited by the laws of this Commonwealth.”
The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania sided with Dillon.
In a telephone chat with Piccinini Tuesday, he observed that anti-gunners are “hell bent on their personal beliefs, and have the money behind them.”
“I don’t think they’re going to give in at all,” Piccinini said. “I think we need to draw a line in the sand and let them know this is going to be political suicide.”
That rhetoric is not unlike one hears at the far end of the country, where state preemption and gun rights are under attack in Washington State. That state’s 35-year-old preemption statute is also in the crosshairs of the Seattle-based gun prohibition lobby. There, rights activists are planning a Jan. 18 ‘Lobbying Day,” organized by the Gun Rights Coalition. Last spring, that group spearheaded a rally on the capitol steps in Olympia that drew 2,500 people.
With passage in November of anti-rights Initiative 1639, those activists—like their counterparts in Pennsylvania—will likely be busy as the State Legislature convenes next week, with several gun control proposals on the agenda.
What happened Monday in Pittsburgh and what may happen next week in Olympia may occur 3,000 miles apart, but they bring grassroots gun owners together as a force that billionaire money can’t buy and anti-rights politicians can’t blame for something they didn’t do.