Michelle Finn is a longtime Second Amendment activist and a resident of Roseburg, Oregon. When she heard President Obama was visiting town on Friday to meet with families of the victims killed in last week’s mass shooting at Umpqua Community College, she felt disgust. When she talked with a couple of likeminded friends, consensus about the President’s visit coalesced.
“We do not want you here,” was the shared sentiment, as Finn paraphrased it for The Trace. “We don’t want your political ideology here.”
Casey Runyan, a fellow activist and 2014 Republican candidate for the Oregon House of Representatives, quickly put up a Facebook page, Defend Roseburg – Deny barack 0bama. (The typos are totally intentional.) The organizers called for “a lot of people” to show up at the town to protest the president “politicizing the event as a conduit for increased executive orders on gun control via means of his pen, and his phone.”
There’s just one rub when assembling thousands of people passionate about guns to protest the President of the United States: What to do if some of them come armed?
“If you carry to the grocery store, by all means carry, but by no means carry specifically for this.”
An update to the Facebook page suggested this was a big enough concern that the organizers felt they had to directly address it: “We will not tell you how to carry or what to carry if you plan to bring firearms, although we politely suggest that you consider choosing a handgun instead of a rifle, if you plan to open carry. That being said, the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING is that regardless of what you carry, that you do so safely, responsibly, and with the highest level of decorum and conduct.”
Finn says the message wasn’t just a prophylactic measure: she and her fellow organizers had to kick “several hundred people” out of the Facebook group for using menacing language toward the president or making outright threats. She says the group has been in touch with the city government, local police, and state police, but had not yet heard from the Secret Service. The Secret Service did not respond to several calls for comment about the possibility of armed protesters amid the throng greeting the President.
In an interview, Finn was more direct: She wanted her fellow gun owners to tread lightly. “We would prefer that they carry concealed like they would every day. If you carry to the grocery store, by all means carry, but by no means carry specifically for this,” she cautioned. Finn said they had gotten “400 or so people” to patrol the crowd, looking out for anyone trying to make a scene. “If you have four AK’s strapped to your back, you’ll be asked to leave.”
[Photo: Flickr user The White House]