Concord, NH – A vigil at the State Capitol to promote background checks for gun buyers was marred by the unruly behavior of anti-gun control activists, many of whom came to the rally bearing arms. The event was part of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns bus tour to commemorate the six-month anniversary of the Newtown-Sandy Hook massacre that claimed 26 lives, twenty of them children.
Throughout the afternoon, before the “No More Names” bus that featured the names of victims of firearms, proponents of expanded background checks read the names of the more than 6,000 people who have been killed by guns since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
John Jackson, the first gun rights advocate to arrive at the vigil held on the sidewalk in front of State House Plaza, came with his AR-15 Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle. New Hampshire is an “open carry” state and he was within his rights to do so.
The 20-something young man was unfailing polite. He explained that he had come out not to show disrespect to the Newtown-Sandy Hook families, but to protest Bloomberg’s anti-gun policies.
Saying that he felt what happened at the Sandyhook school was horrible, Jackson said his presence at the vigil was all about the New York mayor, a dedicated opponent of gun rights. “Bloomberg should stay in New York. He shouldn’t have any say in New Hampshire.”
Jackson went on to claim, “Guns don’t hurt people. People hurt people.”
As the 5 PM scheduled time for a rally featuring pro-gun control speakers approached, proponents of gun rights began showing up. Many of the Second Amendment supporters were rowdy and disrespectful. By the time the second speaker, a Congregationalist minister, began his remarks, more than 40 gun owners had arrived.
The minister and another New Hampshire minister who followed were treated with rowdy outbursts of contempt and continued heckling in an attempt to shout down the speakers. The gun rights activists continued to heckle and yell their slogans even during the prayers offered by the two ministers.
Despite the fact that the speakers were all from New Hampshire, many of the gun rights hecklers shouted “Go back to New York!”
During a speech by John Cantin, a domestic violence activist whose daughter was murdered by his son-in-law (he himself was shot in the incident), one over-enthusiastic defender of the Second Amendment approached the dais and continued to interrupt his speech.
Cantin was sympathetic to gun rights and had been a supporter of U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte. The gist of his speech was that Ayotte was wrong to vote against expanded background checks and that the two sides, gun control proponents and opponents, needed to open a dialogue to get something accomplished and get guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and others who should not have access to firearms.
The gun rights activist continued to interrupt Cantin, eventually declaring, “It’s all government propaganda” in reference to the points made by his speech. He moved away from the dais as security guards made their presence known.
The Concord Police then approached the man. According to an eyewitness, when the man put his hand on one of the police officers, they reacted by tasering him. He was then detained for resisting arrest.
Other pro-gun activists were extreme vocal in their displeasure with the Concord police, with one older man yelling obscenities at them. Many of the gun activists were openly confrontational, and recorded the event on videocameras and I-phones. The police made their arrest without further incident, and the rally continued.