“March for Our Guns” organizer Brent Webber opened the rally in Helena, Mont., on Saturday with a fiery speech: “Our freedoms come first. No one will infringe on our right to keep and bear arms.”
Webber spoke to hundreds of people gathered near the steps of the state Capitol. They were there in response to calls for stricter gun control measures at “March for Our Lives” rallies in Montana and across the country.
Similar pro-gun marches were held in Utah, Idaho and other states.
“I believe that self-defense is a God-given right,” 18-year-old speaker Joey Chester said at the Helena event. “I don’t want to see that infringed upon for law-abiding citizens.”
Other speakers included a church pastor, high school students and Helena resident Nicole Giacomini. She’s a mother and military veteran who warned that guns are Americans’ last line of defense.
“It’s a violent society, snowflakes,” she said. “Evil doesn’t disappear because you pass some laws. It rallies harder.”
The crowd in Helena was made up mostly of families and older men sporting hunting caps, beards and camouflage jackets. At one point, children marched up to the lectern and read written statements in support of guns.
16-year-old Austyn Brown was disappointed there weren’t more teenagers.
He said many of his classmates were attending a “March for Our Lives” rally at a nearby park instead.
“They need to get educated about guns,” he said. “Media has been shoved in their head that guns will kill them, that guns are evil, and only bad people carry guns. That’s so untrue.”
High schooler Clara McRae organized the “March for Our Lives” rally in Helena. It was attended by the city’s mayor and Montana’s Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock.
McRae said her organization, Helena Youth Against Gun Violence, wanted to see more stringent background checks and a ban on high-capacity magazines and bump stock modifications.
“We don’t want to have anybody’s constitutional rights taken away,” she said. “But we don’t want those rights to infringe on others’ rights to be able to exist safely in public spaces.”
Montana has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the country. It also has one of the highest suicide and firearm death rates in the U.S.
Many at the “March for Our Guns” blamed those deaths and mass shootings on mental illness.
“The weapon is not what injures or kills or hurts people,” said lifelong hunter Mike Glueckert. “It’s the individual behind it. And that’s what we need to govern.”
Speaking at the lectern, Republican state Rep. Seth Berglee said he wants to reintroduce legislation that would allow Montana teachers with a concealed weapons permit to bring handguns to school.
“The idea that disarming citizens is the path to school safety is a farce,” Berglee said. He referred to a recent shooting in Maryland where a school resource officer shot and killed a student gunman.
Legislation allowing teachers to carry firearms in Montana schools failed to pass last year.
After the event, attendees mingled and ate pizza and donuts.
No one carried any visible firearms.