Ray Gora / Lincoln Times-News
Groups of people gathered in Cherryville over the weekend, saying they wanted to fight peaceably for their Second Amendment right to bear arms and voice their disapproval with what they perceive as a push for stricter federal gun laws, including a ban on some weapons.
The group said their effort part of a nationwide group of rallies Saturday, which they called “National Day of Resistance.” Additional groups held events in Asheville, Marion and Lenoir.
Maggie Pippin, of Rock Hill, S.C., and her two sisters, Kelly Kakouras and Payton Randall, attended the Cherryville event with signs that contained a quote from George Washington: “A free people ought to be armed,” and a statement from conservative pundit Ann Coulter: “Because in a country without guns, I’m what’s known as ‘prey’—all females are.”
Pippin, whose 21-year-old son George Pippin is currently serving overseas as part of the South Carolina National Guard, told the Times-News that his wife should be allowed to safeguard herself and the couple’s son while he’s away.
“While he’s over there protecting us,” Pippin said, “she has a right to protect herself here (at home).”
Many others proudly displayed their own signs along with National Rifle Association hats, American flags and yellow “Don’t tread on me” flags.
Brother-sister duo Vincent and Ricarda Maccini, both of Gastonia, didn’t have to travel far to attend the rally with their bold signs and passionate opinions about Second Amendment rights.
“It’s not the fact that they’re trying to take away the amendment,” he said. “It’s the fact that they are putting restrictions on it.”
His sister agreed. “Everybody should have the right to bear arms and fight for what they believe in,” she said.
Ty Eckard, a U.S. Air Force veteran from Forest City, drew loud applause from those in attendance as he addressed the rally.
“If we allow the Second Amendment to be gutted, the rest of the Bill of Rights will fall behind it,” Eckard said.
“We can’t appear to our neighbors as some right-wing whackjobs, because we’re not — we’re fathers, mothers, brothers, grandpas. We’re not the bad guys. We can’t change the rest of the country, but we can change one individual at a time. This has to be a grassroots movement.”
Also speaking at the rally were N.C. Rep. Kelly Hasting of Rowan County and Gaston County Sheriff Alan Cloninger.
Cloninger addressed the crowd towards the end of the rally and clarified his stance on gun control, asking all Gaston County residents with conceal carry permits to raise their hands — conceal carry permits that he, a Democratic politician, signed.
“That’s where I stand on gun control,” Cloninger said. “I believe in gun ownership, but I believe in lawful gun ownership.”
He reminded the group that he’s a law enforcement officer, not a lawmaker, but he’s also going to fight hard to “do what’s right by the people” and remove any fear plaguing both those for and against gun ownership.
“I don’t just represent one person and one belief,” he said. “I represent all people.”
Cloninger said he does agree with President Obama’s call for thorough background checks for gun buyers and increased research and assistance for mental healthcare, but disagrees with the federal government’s push for any sort of weapons ban.
“It’s not the mechanism of the structure (gun) we have to worry about,” he said. “It’s the person behind the mechanism.”