“I started the march back in 2009 after Barack Obama was inaugurated,” Coryell said. “The community in general was really afraid that we would lose our Second Amendment rights because of the things he’d said on the campaign trail.”
Since then, they’ve focused mostly on Michigan-based events and advocacy.
Master of Ceremonies Joel Fulton, of Freedom Firearms, kicked off the event by citing a Benjamin Franklin quote concerning the trade-off between liberty and safety.
“Freedom lets other people have choices,” Fulton said. “People make bad choices sometimes, but it’s still about freedom, and I would rather have the animated contest for freedom than peaceable servitude. I do not want to be a slave.”
This sentiment of freedom over safety was echoed throughout the event.
Second Amendment and gun rights advocacy groups had tables at the event where they were able to promote their businesses, sell merchandise and engage in conversation. Tommy Troyer of Second Amendment Processing was there to support the march, and to raise awareness for his business.
According to their website, Second Amendment Processing is for businesses that have fallen victim to “Big Tech.”
To Troyer, traditional values have been turned away from major financial institutions because of their political stances. Troyer himself is a veteran, and donates 20% of fee profits to organizations that help protect Second Amendment rights.
Another focus of the event was the representation of gun owners.
People in the crowd said they felt as though they had been unfairly represented by the media, a sentiment which echoed by both speakers and attendees of the rally.
“Basically, what I'm seeing in America is ... we have two Americans, right?” Coryell said. “We have urban America and then we have rural America. You know, I popped out of my mom's womb, I got a shotgun in one hand and a pistol in the other.”
To Coryell, gun rights discourse is a fundamental misunderstanding between rural and urban populations.
“It's different in the city,” Coryell said. “In the city, their only connection with guns is, ‘Oh, I got mugged last week. Well, there was another drive-by shooting.’”
Coryell said he believes that urban populations equate guns with crime, and therefore, don’t understand why there are people who are so passionate about fighting for gun rights. For rural folk like Coryell, guns are “just another tool.”
“The big tension is ... how do you balance that perception of the city and the reality that's in the country,” Coryell explained.
One of the keynote speakers for the event was Doug Giles, author of “If Masculinity is ‘Toxic’, Call Jesus Radioactive” and “Raising Boys Feminists Will Hate.”
Giles is the founder of ClashDaily.com, a popular conservative talk radio and podcast platform.
In contrast with some of the other speakers, he related the gun rights movement to American masculinity, saying that he was there to “cheer on the dudes who are dudes.”
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The themes of masculinity and individual freedoms continued throughout Giles’ speech, where he urged attendees to respond to government tyranny by “telling them to pound sand” if government officials ever told them to do something against their convictions or their view of the Bible.
He encouraged attendees to raise their sons carefully. He said the best way to do this is to bring up young boys in hunting and fishing with an understanding of firearms.
Spokesperson for Turning Point USA Chris Howse was also at the rally.
Howse said his goal is to get more youth involved in the fight to protect Second Amendment rights. He said he believes that young people aren’t as interested in advocating for the Second Amendment as they used to be.
“I see [youth participation] as pretty crucial … because a lot of young people are taught that guns are kind of the devil, so they’re not going to grow up to protect Second Amendment rights,” Howse said. “Our role is to go onto campuses and educate.”
Mary Callison and Christie Bass brought their perspectives as women to a male-dominated event. Their case for protecting the Second Amendment focused on self-defense: both shared personally traumatic events that informed their views on firearm ownership and women’s place in the gun rights movement.
Callison, a co-chair of the organization 1 Million Moms Against Gun Control, became involved in gun rights advocacy following the conjunction of the Sandy Hook shooting and the assault of her sister, who was unarmed in her own home when a man beat and sexually assaulted her.
Callison said she felt that women like her weren’t represented by organizations like Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety, which rose to national acclaim in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting.
She said that watching Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts “come out and speak saying she spoke for all women and all moms” expressing that “firearms are evil and firearms are bad,” made her pause and think of all the women she knew who supported gun rights and believed that guns are important to women’s ability to protect themselves.
Christie Bass, owner of Phoenix Rising Firearm Academy said, “I am here because I am a mom, I am a wife, and I can’t carry him around with me,” indicating to her husband with a laugh.
She also experienced an incident that compelled her to take up gun rights advocacy. Her four-year-old daughter was almost taken from her cart at a grocery store, and she said the only thing that prevented it was the sight of Bass’ firearm.
For Bass, being at the Capitol was important because she said, “I think that if we don’t do things like this, they don’t hear our stories and they don’t hear our ‘why’ and they put us into this horrible box that’s just not who we are.”
Another prevalent theme of the event was civic participation. Donating, making personal relationships with legislators and volunteering for the cause were all encouraged by the different speakers. Mike Brown, one of several Republican gubernatorial candidates, exemplified this call to action.
“The second amendment allows people to possess and bear arms,” Brown said. “So, I support that, to constitutionally carry in Michigan, and I will sign that bill when it comes to my desk when I'm the governor.”
Brown, a current police captain and former infantry marine, said he is a firm supporter of the second amendment for he believes in the right to protect oneself, just as he did while serving in the infantry.
“Our founding fathers put the Second Amendment in place for a well-regulated militia back then,” Brown said. “And it gave the citizens the right to keep and bear arms to protect themselves and their family and defend the country. That’s what it meant when I was in the Marine Corps, and it still means that to me today.”
During the event, responsible carry of open, concealed and long guns was emphasized. Several speakers and attendees also stressed the importance of gun safety and gun education.
Following the event, Second Amendment March President Terri Stocke commented on the space that Democrats hold in the movement to protect the amendment. While some speakers expressed disdain towards the Democratic Party and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, historically, Democratic legislators have been involved with the march and have spoken at their rallies.
“Today, you probably heard impassioned speakers who understandably could give the impression that we are partisan, though we as an organization are not,” Stocke said.
Stocke explained that while their movement tends to attract those from the Republican party, the march is open to everyone.
“We welcome anyone with any party affiliation, ideology, or belief,” Stocke said. “We may or may not agree on much else, but when someone supports the constitutional right to keep and bear arms, this is where we find our common ground.”
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