Gun control views take to the streetsWith the William A. Irvin ore boat as a backdrop, two small but enthusiastic groups shared sharply different views about gun control on Saturday morning.
By: John Lundy, Forum News Service, The Jamestown Sun
With the William A. Irvin ore boat as a backdrop, two small but enthusiastic groups shared sharply different views about gun control on Saturday morning.
Inspired by the presence of the Duluth (Minn.) Gun and Knife Show across the street at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, the group Protect Minnesota gathered at 11 a.m. at Harbor Drive and West Railroad Street, using handmade signs to call for expanding background checks on gun sales.
“Stop Gun Violence,” “Background Checks on All Gun Sales Save Lives,” read some of the signs.
Minutes later, a second group started to form about 50 feet up the street, displaying signs of their own.
“Founding Fathers Say No to Gun Control,” read one. “Violent Crime is Down, Propaganda is Up,” read another.
The latter group came because they knew of Protect Minnesota’s plans, said Becky Hall of Duluth, a well-known participant in local Tea Party rallies. The counter-protesters weren’t there as part of any specific organization, Hall said.
“We just spread the word to just get folks out who want to stand up for the Second Amendment,” she said.
The demonstrators drew curious stares from motorists passing by on the two streets. Several honked their horns in support of one group or the other. A handful lowered their vehicle windows long enough to shout at the Protect Minnesota group.
At its height, the pro-gun control people outnumbered the anti-gun control group 19 to 15. But the former group eventually dwindled, giving their opponents the numerical advantage at the end. Both groups disbanded around noon.
For the most part, the groups themselves didn’t interact, letting their signs speak for themselves. One exception occurred about 10 minutes into the twin demonstrations, when Leroy Duncan of St. Paul pulled up to the curb in a van halfway between the two groups. He brought Styrofoam cups and a Thermos filled with hot cider to the Second Amendment group, and identical provisions to the Protect Minnesota group. Then he returned to his van, found a place to park, and took his place with Protect Minnesota.
“It’s really cold out here,” Duncan said later, explaining his actions. “One of the things that brings us together as Minnesotans is the fact that we all have to brave the winter. We all have to deal with the effects of it. And having hot cider helps people deal with those effects.”
Hall was appreciative.
“That was nice,” she said. “You know what? At the end of the day we’re all Americans, and I love it.”
Hot cider seemed appropriate, as the two groups stood in temperatures near zero with a breeze in their faces. Most of the demonstrators were bundled up, but Lowell Rudd, 69, of Duluth had an open collar, no hat on his head and at first wasn’t wearing gloves on the hands that held a sign reading “Guns Stop Violence (Ask Me How).”
Asked why he was out in the cold when he could have been inside Pioneer Hall looking at guns, Rudd said, “This is more important; much more important. These firearms are the one thing that makes a 90-pound woman as strong as a 290-pound male attacker.”
Rudd doesn’t want background checks expanded to include private sales, he said.
“Once you allow the government more control in that area you find that it gets away from you,” Rudd said.
But one of the ways criminals get guns is through private sales, said Joan Peterson, a longtime gun control advocate and one of the leaders of the Protect Minnesota group.
“At the very least we can stop this way for them to get their guns,” Peterson said. “We should be making it harder for people to access guns.”
Peterson and other members of the group also argued that background checks have wide support, even among members of the National Rifle Association.
“The polls show 90 percent of people are in favor of it, not just in Minnesota but across the country,” said Gay Trachsel, another longtime gun-control advocate.
The gun show, which continues today, has about 60 exhibitors, said organizer Jim Wright in an interview on Friday. Wright is owner of Crocodile Productions, based in Blaine, Minn., which runs the show. He said the Duluth show is one his larger shows.
Wright had been told about plans for a pro-gun control demonstration near the show, he said, and he had been assured the group wouldn’t enter the DECC. He was dismissive of the protest.
“I don’t understand why people in the north woods would want to protest guns when that’s part of their livelihood,” Wright said.