Last summer, as the teen survivors of the Parkland school shooting embarked on a nationwide bus tour in support of gun reform, a group of Second Amendment advocates followed them in an armored Humvee topped with a replica of a machine gun, accusing them of attempting to “deprive people of their civil rights.”
Now one of those men could lose his guns altogether: Last Friday, Utah gun rights activist Bryan Melchior was charged with five counts of felony gun possession.
Melchior — who with his partner, Sam Robinson, runs Utah Gun Exchange, a free classified ads site where people advertise firearms for sale — was charged with intent to distribute marijuana after a police search of his Sandy, Utah, home in November turned up more than a pound of the Schedule 1 substance. The search was prompted by three separate tips that Melchior was selling the drug out of his home. Police also found guns, silencers, $36,247 in cash, and drug paraphernalia, according to court documents.
The Salt Lake County district attorney did not respond to a request for comment.
Because drugs were found on his property, Melchior was also slapped with five felony gun-possession charges. Under federal law, people who use controlled substances like marijuana are banned from possessing firearms. If convicted, he could be barred from owning guns for the rest of his life.
Melchior did not respond to a request for comment. In a January 11 message on its Facebook page, Utah Gun Exchange said: “UGE is currently reviewing these allegations and charges internally to determine the most appropriate course for the organization moving forward to ensure it accomplishes its mission. Once we have completed our review and selected the most appropriate action, we will release more information on our selected course.” The message now appears to have been deleted.
Utah Gun Exchange first faced off against young gun reformers in March 2018, when the national March For Our Lives rally sparked a Salt Lake City counterprotest that attracted 1,000 gun rights activists, at least 50 of whom were openly carrying guns, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. Later, Melchior and Robinson, along with their six traveling companions and their Humvee, became a ubiquitous presence during the Vote For Our Lives voter registration bus tour, shadowing the group through 20 states over the summer. Under the banner #UGEFreedomTour, the self-described “patriotic convoy” pushed a gun rights message to counter the students’ gun safety agenda, much to the consternation of the young activists and their parents.
“They were telling my friends who had lost family members to gun violence how great guns were,” Parkland survivor Cameron Kasky told the Tribune in July. “It’s not very tasteful to bring a tank to a march for peace.”
One mother accused Robinson of “trying to intimidate” her 13-year-old daughter at a March For Our Lives town hall in July.
In some places, the gun activists presence attracted attention from law enforcement. The Browning machine gun replica topping their vehicle was so realistic-looking that the group was detained by police in New York City for violating a city ordinance banning the possession of replica guns.