With cries of “Second Amendment remedies” to “government tyranny” ringing in their ears, a crowd of several hundred people gathered near the state Capitol in Olympia, Wa., on Saturday, to voice their defiance of Initiative 594, the new state law requiring background checks on most gun sales.
Most people in the gathering carried firearms of one kind or another, and a number of them openly exchanged weapons as a way to make a statement supporting the “We Will Not Comply” rally. There was even a table marked “I-594 Violation Station,” where attendees could openly swap or sell firearms.
The focus of the event, though, was the parade of speakers who encouraged the audience to defy the new law on the grounds that it violated the Constitution. Many of them were longstanding antigovernment figures, including former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack, whose fame on the radical right has much to do with his own challenge of federal gun laws and “III Percent” movement provocateur Mike Vanderboegh.
Accordingly, many of them referenced violent action in defense of their gun rights as the ultimate response to what they see as tyranny.
“Make no mistake: If we do not stand up, America, our children and our grandchildren will take back liberty at the price of blood!” intoned Gavin Seim, the Ephrata, Wa.-based “liberty speaker” and chief organizer of the event.
Vanderboegh was even more explicit: “When democracy turns to tyranny, the armed citizenry still gets to vote!” he told the crowd, to loud cheers. “So be careful what you wish for. You may get it.”
Vanderboegh blamed the passage of I-594 last month, with nearly 60 percent of the vote, on internecine bickering between gun rights organizations, notably the National Rifle Association and the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation. He warned the groups that they needed to work together now to prevent the law from being fully enacted.
“[W]e are here today to remind them, and to remind the enemies of liberty in this state, that if they fail, there are always Second Amendment remedies,” he said. “And like that determined minority of colonists, that original three percent who fought the forces of the greatest empire on the planet to a standstill, we will not be intimidated, we will not compromise, we will not back down, and we will be heard, one way or the other!”
Even more chilling were the demands that were quietly read by an Oath Keepers representative from Washington, Scott Bannister, who demanded that current office holders in the state step down from their positions, or face violent consequences.
“We the people demand that our current government, and their many crimes of treason against the Constitution, breaking the oath they swore to uphold … we are asking them to step back and surrender their position or office they hold, or be arrested by the sheriff of their local state,” he read from a prepared statement. “By their failure to uphold their oath that they swore, they are committing treason and high crimes against our country, and I don’t think any of us want to stand for that. These tyrannical acts and criminal acts toward us American people are out of control.”
Bannister explained further: “Every once in awhile, the tree of liberty needs to be refreshed, and the blood of tyrants needs to flow. If they don’t do it quietly, and resign, sad to say it, maybe that’s what’s gonna happen, I hope not. But we will stand our ground, and no comply.”
Bannister also indulged in a moment of unintended irony when he told the crowd: “I wish more people would realize what’s going on with our country. Because we are all told so many lies, and so many people believe it. It’s really sad that we’ve all been brainwashed.”
Most of the speakers, including state Rep. Elizabeth Scott, who declared “Molon Labe!” (Come and Take Them) to the idea of gun registration, argued that both the Second Amendment, as well as provisions in the state constitution, prohibited such laws as I-594. Several, including Seim, argued that these constitutions prohibited any regulations of any weapons whatsoever.
“We need to draw the line,” Seim said. “Read my lips: The people should be armed equal to government! Because when the people are armed, there is liberty, and when there is liberty, there is safety, and there is security. We must stop trading away our children’s birthright for false promises of security and trade for liberty, because that, my friends, is not liberty, and that’s why we stand here today.”
Richard Mack argued along similar lines. “I don’t care if it’s state level, county level, whatever—the only way a background check before you can get a gun is lawful is if you voluntarily do it,” he told the crowd. “If you don’t want to do it, you don’t have to. Because you’re not a criminal, you’re an American, and you don’t have to go through that. Because your government has no authority, no right, no power, no business ever saying to you, ‘Unless you submit and unless you subject yourself to my background check, you can’t have your Second Amendment.’
“That’s not the way our government works. We don’t need your permission! We don’t need your permission to be here, or to exercise our Second Amendment rights, but you need our permission to exist. You got it all backwards!” he said. “And we will not comply, we will not disarm, we will not be slaves, and we will not subject ourselves to you, in any way!”
Seim demonstrated how deeply he embraced this idea at the end of the four-hour-long program by burning his state concealed-carry permit, claiming that the government didn’t have the power to control his gun rights.
“You do not need a permit to exercise your rights,” he said. “If you, my friends, want a tank in your front yard, then buy one, and I for one may want to live next door, because your house will be the safest on the block.
“I was on a radio interview a little while ago, as we were planning this rally,” he continued. “He suggested that I was too radical. And he said, ‘If you stood up before all those people and said you ought to be able to own bazookas, they would not stand with you.’ And I said, ‘Well, challenge accepted,’ or something along those lines. So I say, if you want to own a bazooka, you can own a bazooka! Although an AR-15 might actually be a more effective weapon.”
The crowd cheered loudly, and a number of them came up to toss their concealed-carry permits into the fire as well.