By DAN DEARTH
6:30 PM EST, December 29, 2012
Second Amendment supporters braved the cold Saturday during a rally in Martinsburg, vowing to never compromise their right to bear arms following a deadly school shooting that has left some lawmakers calling for a ban on certain types of guns.
Sidearms were carried by a few of the estimated 40 people who attended the rally in front of Republican U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito’s office off Foxcroft Avenue. Many of the attendees wore camouflage, while others held signs that read, “No Free country would disarm its citizens” and “Love your freedom? Thank a gun.”
Capito did not attend the rally.
Casey Lohman of Hedgesville, W.Va., said before the rally started that he believed more people in America have been killed by drunken drivers than firearms.
“We’re trying to protect our Second Amendment rights,” Lohman said. “Too many lives have been lost protecting this freedom.”
Lohman, who said he owns an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and a Ruger pistol, stood firm with others at the rally asserting that the Second Amendment was created to protect Americans from the government.
Art Thomm, vice president of the West Virginia Citizens Defense League and one of the event’s several speakers, said evil people such as Adam Lanza, the man who on Dec. 14 shot and killed six adults and 20 students at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., will commit violence regardless of the circumstances.
“To strip people of the ability to defend themselves from a criminal is absurd,” he said. “(Legal gun owners) are the ones who are safe. We’re the ones who help everyone be safe.”
One of the speakers said the rally was the securest place in Martinsburg because some of the attendees were carrying concealed weapons.
“We have to meet force with equal force,” Thomm said.
Several of the ralliers said they disagreed with gun control advocates who claim that the Second Amendment, which was adopted in the late-18th century, was meant to guarantee the private ownership of muskets — not semiautomatic weapons.
“I support a modern weapon for a modern threat,” said Matt Keplinger, a member of the tea party-affiliated Blue Ridge Patriots. “(The government) wants to take everything. I know that. They know that.”
He said he believed that the death toll at Sandy Hook could have been reduced if an armed person with weapons training were in the school when Lanza opened fire.
“I’m not into a police state, but if there are teachers who are willing to take the (firearms) training, I support that,” Keplinger said when asked whether he advocated arming certain school employees.
Chris Anders, one of the featured speakers at the rally and a member of Campaign for Liberty, said he plans to organize a group to take the fight to U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin’s office.
Manchin took a pro-gun stance when he campaigned for the open West Virginia Senate seat during the 2010 election, but has called for a debate on gun control since the shootings in Connecticut.
“He is a creature of politics,” Anders said of Manchin. “He wanted to get re-elected.”
A message left Saturday at Manchin’s office in Washington, D.C., was not immediately returned.
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