Depending on your opinions about stricter gun laws in the country, Oct. 19 will be a day to either lock and load or take cover.
Followers of Gun Rights Across America (GRAA) urge their fellow citizens to arm themselves openly and publicly in their front yards during “Guns Next Door,” a nationwide rally set to occur on the third Saturday in October.
“It raises awareness for the Second Amendment, and we are trying to change the image of the law-abiding gun owner. We’re not evil people: we’re professional people, we’re your neighbors…it’s not us you have to worry about, it’s the criminals,” Eric Reed, president and founder of GRAA, told MSNBC.
The pro-gun group hopes Americans will bring the rally to their own properties, but simultaneously abide by local, state, and federal laws to avoid arrest. Some states allow residents to carry openly in public places. In other areas, residents can only legally hoist a weapon if they are standing on their own property; some states don’t allow that at all.
Participants should arm themselves with a handgun in states where open carry laws are legal, wear T-shirts supportive of the Second Amendment, and hold signs, said Reed, adding that his three children, who are all under the age of 21, will join him in his yard.
“This is a family event too. Feel free to strap on a plastic red gun onto your children as well…pass out candy or lemonade to the kids riding their bikes and playing in the neighborhoods,” the group wrote on its Facebook event page.
Some states’ laws will prevent residents from participating. Reed said he encourages residents to “strap on an empty holster and stick a banana in it if they want.”
“We’re just making a presence known and just showing our faces that we’re good people. If that means handing out candy, then so be it. If that means waving to people as they’re driving by in cars, so be it,” he said.
But some Americans disagree with the principle and message of the event.
“As a mother I am outraged that they would try to teach my children that not only should they not be leery of strangers, but they shouldn’t be leery of armed strangers… I’ve spent a decade trying to teach my children that it isn’t safe to approach strangers,” Shannon Watts told MSNBC. She is the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and a mother to five children.
The event will last from 5 p.m. until 6 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and stagger simultaneously according to each time zone. GRAA has received “positive” and “excellent” responses through Facebook promotion, said Reed, an airline captain from Texas.
He established the volunteer group after last December’s mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. Since then, GRAA’s followers have held counter-rallies across the country in support of citizens’ gun rights.
There is “absolutely not” a gun problem in America, Reed said.
“There is a crime problem in this country—that includes guns, that includes knives, that includes whatever that criminal’s weapon of choice may be,” he said.
Watts’ group organized the first “Skip Starbucks Saturday” on Aug. 24 to boycott the company’s policy that complies with states’ gun-carrying laws. GRAA, along with other pro-gun organizations, countered the protest by urging customers to buy from the coffee chain.
Watts said her group will “double their effort” on Saturday, Oct. 19 to prevent coffee drinkers from purchasing Starbucks’ products.
“This is part of an ongoing attempt by gun advocates to normalize a behavior that is not normal,” she said. “What they’re actually doing is frightening people. God forbid there be a horrible accident or shooting because of this.”
The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School fueled a national debate about gun control that has faded from the headlines after the Senate in April failed to pass a bipartisan background checks bill that would have made it more difficult to buy guns from private sellers and on the Internet.
In addition, a jobs recall of two Colo. Democratic senators earlier this week could leave members of Congress wary of crossing the National Rifle Association. Voters rejected John Morse and Angela Giron—who supported tougher gun restrictions—after the state’s conservatives launched recall campaigns against them. Colorado, which experienced both the 1999 Columbine High School and 2012 Aurora movie theater shootings, remains gun-friendly.
Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid last month said a vote on a background checks bill would happen no sooner than before the 2014 midterm elections because of congressional disagreements over government spending.
“I have yet to see a bill that addresses how we are going to keep those guns out of the hands of criminals,” Reed said. “We all know criminals don’t follow the laws—that is why they are called criminals.”