Gun rights supporters hold Saturday gathering

Jan. 19, 2013 @ 06:32 PM

Smoke from grills and cigars wafted through the air Saturday morning as hundreds gathered in a grassy field just off U.S. 1 in eastern Moore County to voice their opposition to gun control.

Gathered in and around Ed’s Gun Shop in Vass, gun rights supporters from around the area came out sporting hats and shirts featuring American flags, declarations of love for their guns or their status as a veteran. One man was even dressed in colonial garb, right down to a wig and tricorner hat.

Part of a national push dubbed “Gun Appreciation Day,” Saturday’s event — which was hosted by the Moore Tea Citizens group and several other local organizations — focused mainly on criticizing gun control but also featured several public admonishments of other issues generally opposed by the Tea Party.

At least two petitions circulated at the event, including one to oppose gun control and any politicians who don’t, and one to support the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners, which passed a resolution Friday to actively fight federal gun control efforts and to call a nation-wide constitutional convention to address gun control and states’ rights.Also, on Friday, Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter announced in a letter that he “will never by use of force or any other means, confiscate any firearms possessed by law abiding citizens of Lee County.”

Bob Mason, of the Moore Tea Citizens, said he doesn’t know how people can support gun control and also claim to respect the wishes of the Founding Fathers.

“We can’t understand what (gun control supporters) don’t understand about ‘shall not be infringed,’” he said, referring to the final words of the Second Amendment, which states in full that: A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Mason — dressed in Revolution-era clothing, with a musket he made himself strapped across his back and a large American flag in his hands — said he thinks the Second Amendment is clear and anyone who says otherwise is trying too hard to find nonexistent loopholes.

Rob Wilkins, District Court judge for Moore, Randolph and Montgomery counties, agreed, noting the U.S. Supreme Court has recently struck down two gun control laws — albeit by 5-4 votes.

“From our cold, dead hands,” he said, opening a speech to the audience with a phrase often invoked by gun enthusiasts, shouting as he waved a small booklet. “Now, you’ll notice I’m not holding a gun in my hands, although I’ve got one nearby. I’m holding the Constitution.”

He went on to say any effort to enact gun control would be an afront to the Constitution and to human rights in general.

“We have got a natural, God-given right to defend ourselves,” said Wilkins, a former commander in the U.S. Coast Guard. “All this does – the Second Amendment — is codify that.”

Wilkins was followed by other speakers, including local N.C. Senator Ronald Rabin, a former Army colonel who said the oaths he took in the military should apply to everyone, veteran or not.

“All of us are supposed to support and defend the Constitution, which is what this meeting is all about,” he said.

Inside the store, dozens of people came to make a purchase or to simply ask questions. They ranged from aficionados to novices, with one older woman asking an employee to explain what exactly a revolver was, while others came with lists of all the specific features they were looking for in a new firearm.

Back outside, the crowd agreed on one acceptable definition of gun control, approving with loud applause when Wilkins said: “Gun control, to me, means you hit what you shoot at.”

That message didn’t seem to extend 60 miles away in Raleigh, where two people were shot and injured at a gun show at the State Fairgrounds at about the same time Wilkins was giving his speech. According to multiple news reports, a pistol apparently went off accidentally when a law enforcement officer was trying to unload it at a security checkpoint.