Standing on the Utah Capitol steps, framed by American and yellow Don’t Tread on Me flags, Steven Lund, with a handgun strapped to his chest, asked the hundreds of people standing below if they were willing to let movie stars, politicians and teenagers run their lives by helping to enact gun control.
The crowd roared back a resounding “No!”
“If these people are willing to march their rights away,” Lund said soon after, “then they ought to be willing to march their Commie asses to a place where that has already been done. If that is the utopia that fits their agenda, let them go.”
Someone in the crowd screamed back, “I’ll pay for it.”
“I’ll buy a ticket,” another yelled. “I’ll buy one, too!” someone else said.
Rolling with the momentum, Lund continued, “In the spirit of our framers, our forefathers, we must hold our ground. We must show that we will not budge. We will not be pushed around. We are Utah.”
Lund, who owns ACE Firearms in West Jordan, was among nearly a dozen speakers at Saturday’s pro-Second Amendment rally who drew a stark line between themselves and those who advocate any kind of gun regulation, which many speakers said was akin to tyranny. The rally came less than a month after thousands of people — and hundreds of counterprotesters — gathered at the Capitol in support of gun control as part of the March For Our Lives campaign.
About 300 people, mostly adults, attended the Saturday event, which was held in conjunction with nationwide rallies, including ones in Orem and Cedar City. Many strapped guns and knives to their thighs or waists or slung them over their shoulders. American flags and the yellow Don’t Tread on Me banners dotted the crowd, waving in the gentle breeze.
Robert, who organized and emceed the event but declined to give The Salt Lake Tribune his last name, opened the rally by reminding people why they were there: We want to keep the Second Amendment, he said, and we want to keep our guns.
If guns are taken away, the Utah Unorganized Constitutional Militia member said, there will be grave consequences.
“The media doesn’t want to sit there and give us any press. They just want to try to push an agenda, and that agenda is to disarm us,” he said. “Remember that every country in the last century has had a genocide.”
Although recent talk about gun control — especially coming from young people — concerned Robert, one boy — 16-year-old Collin Thorup — gave him hope for the future.
Thorup, a student at Hunter High School in West Valley City, told the crowd that he used to base his political opinion on feelings. More recently, he said, he’s started using facts. When he recently preregistered to vote in 2020, he proudly checked the Republican box.
On March 14, as his fellow students walked out of the classroom to protest gun violence, Thorup said he was one of three students who stayed behind. Although he has felt ostracized by some of his peers and at least one teacher, and has gotten in some arguments, Thorup said he gets satisfaction in knowing he’s right.
“I was open to open-minded discussion,” he said, “but everyone who said they were open to it, I either offended them by my facts and truth, or they cursed me out.”
Someone from the crowd yelled, “Sounds like you won.”
Josh Woolsten, also 16, came to the rally with his brother Adam, 22, to show his support for the Second Amendment and to make the point that gun control isn’t the answer to the problem of gun violence and school shootings.
His white picket sign said, “Disarming innocent people doesn’t protect innocent people.”
As John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” blared over the speaker system on the Capitol steps, Woolsten said he attended “because I really do believe that they’re trying to take away guns from people who know how to use them and need to be able to use them.”
Toward the end of the demonstration, Robert took the microphone again and cautioned attendees against compromising on gun regulation. More compromise, he said, means lawmakers will try to take away more rights — and anyone who does that is not a friend, ally or American.
Although he conceded he’d rather be at home having a cold drink on the sunny day, he said being at the rally was important.
“We have to be vigilant. If we’re not,” he said, pointing back to the Capitol, “these people up here are going to take away our rights.“