Second Amendment supporters rally in Hartford

People in the crowd wave their flags during the Rally for Our Rights held Saturday, April 14, 2018, by the pro-gun rights group Connecticut Citizens Defense League at the state Capitol in Hartford.  (Dana Jensen/The Day)
People in the crowd wave their flags during the Rally for Our Rights held Saturday, April 14, 2018, by the pro-gun rights group Connecticut Citizens Defense League at the state Capitol in Hartford. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

Hartford — They sported shirts and signs with messages like, "If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns," "I am not a criminal" and "You are not for women's rights when you want to strip them of their right to self-defense."

They waved American flags and yellow Gadsden flags with the rattlesnake and words "Don't tread on me." They booed at most mentions of the names Murphy, Blumenthal and Malloy. They chanted "Vote them out" and "We're not the problem."

According to Connecticut State Capitol Police, about 1,500 people gathered on the north side of the State Capitol on Saturday for Rally for Our Rights, held by the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, a pro-Second Amendment grass-roots organization.

"That gun in my hand empowers me with the ability to say no: No you can't come into my home, no you can't hurt me, no you can't hurt my family," said gun rights activist Dom Basile. "That's pretty much it. Whether I choose to exercise that right is my prerogative."

Basile was among 13 speakers, a lineup that included CCDL leaders, state legislators and high school students.

CCDL President Scott Wilson told The Day the rally was planned in part because there were a lot of requests to respond to what happened last month, between the National School Walkout on March 14 and March for Our Lives on March 24.

"I've talked to some people who have gone to the event, and for the most part, we like them," said Wilson, a New London resident. "We all want our children protected and safe."

But he said that "mixed in with the everyday people" were "hardcore individuals" with signs stating messages like, "Repeal the Second Amendment," "Kill the NRA" and "Gun-owners love guns more than their children."

The last idea was one that Holly Sullivan, events coordinator for CCDL, refuted at the rally.

"I am a mother of a 4-year-old child. She is my world. She is my heart. She is my everything," Sullivan said. "I do not love my child any less because I support the Second Amendment."

In the crowd, Middlebury physician Walt Kupson held up a sign reading, "We don't want kids to die in school either" on one side and "My guns and I have done nothing wrong" on the other.

Addressing the crowd, National Rifle Association liaison Catherine Mortensen commented, "Demonizing the millions of law-abiding gun owners in the National Rifle Association will not stop the next mass shooting."

She instead advocated for addressing mental illness, the country's culture of violence, and the failure of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

The bipartisan Fix NICS Act is one area where there is common ground: Connecticut Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal introduced the bill with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and the NRA endorsed the plan.

Farmington sisters Leahna, Preeya and Sabrina Diana, all teenagers, were at the rally holding up a sign reading, "Disarming innocent people does not protect innocent people like me."

"My mom owns a gun, and I feel more protected with her having one," Sabrina said. Leahna added, "We grew up in Hartford, and it was a very dangerous neighborhood, and we had our car broken into."

They were by no means the youngest attendees; many parents brought their kids.

Katie King, 30, said she is in the process of getting her pistol permit and feels the Second Amendment is one of the only ways to keep herself safe from people who don't follow the laws. As a woman, she said, she's not strong enough to be able to defend herself against someone who's larger than her.

Rally For Our Rights was the first rally that Sean Damm, a Groton resident and NRA instructor, ever attended. Damm, 47, gestured to the Capitol behind him and said, "I feel we don't get represented well in this building."

e.moser@theday.com

People listen to one of the speakers during the Rally for Our Rights held Saturday, April 14, 2018, by the pro-gun rights group Connecticut Citizens Defense League at the state capitol in Hartford.  (Dana Jensen/The Day)
People listen to one of the speakers during the Rally for Our Rights held Saturday, April 14, 2018, by the pro-gun rights group Connecticut Citizens Defense League at the state capitol in Hartford. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Waylan Page, 6, of Higganum holds up his flag and places his tricorn hat over his heart after he and other youth attending the Rally for Our Rights were called to stand on the steps of the state Capitol for the national anthem and Pledge of Allegiance. The event was held Saturday, April 14, 2018, in Hartford by the pro-gun rights group Connecticut Citizens Defense League.  (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Waylan Page, 6, of Higganum holds up his flag and places his tricorn hat over his heart after he and other youth attending the Rally for Our Rights were called to stand on the steps of the state Capitol for the national anthem and Pledge of Allegiance. The event was held Saturday, April 14, 2018, in Hartford by the pro-gun rights group Connecticut Citizens Defense League. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Eric Nash of Bristol carries his Ruger P95 9 mm hand gun while at the Rally for Our Rights held Saturday, April 14, 2018, by the pro-gun rights group Connecticut Citizens Defense League at the state capitol in Hartford.  (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Eric Nash of Bristol carries his Ruger P95 9 mm hand gun while at the Rally for Our Rights held Saturday, April 14, 2018, by the pro-gun rights group Connecticut Citizens Defense League at the state capitol in Hartford. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

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