EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 2, 2013

Gun proponents plan nationwide rally

By John Toole

---- — DERRY — Guns are coming out in the neighborhood.

An unusual national demonstration is slated this fall to highlight gun owner rights and the people behind them.

Gun Rights Across America issued the public call to arms this way: “We want you to strap on a holstered handgun to your hip, and give one hour of your day to make our presence as law-abiding gun owners known.”

Differing gun laws mean the “Guns Next Door” demonstration will take different forms in each state.

In New Hampshire, gun owners are asked to wear holstered handguns in the front yard and carry unloaded rifles outside their home.

The plan for Massachusetts is unclear, but will fit within the Bay State’s gun laws.

Californians will wear empty holsters because that state’s laws are so strict.

The gun rights group is researching gun laws, so participants will act responsibly within state laws.

“This is a rally with a twist,” said Eric Reed, Gun Rights Across America founder and the man behind the pro-gun rally.

People won’t go to a rally, instead the rally will come to them.

“People will see armed Americans outside their homes with signs everywhere they look,” Reed said.

The gun owners also will have flags and wear T-shirts promoting gun rights, organizers said.

The event is set for Saturday, Oct. 19, with hour-long sessions staggered by time zone so Americans participate simultaneously.

In Massachusetts and New Hampshire, the demonstration is set for 5 to 6 p.m.

New Hampshire and Massachusetts state leader Chris Smart of Derry said he plans to speak with Derry police beforehand so they are aware of the event.

“We hope police departments don’t become overwhelmed with alarms,” Smart said.

New Hampshire is a so-called open carry state, which let owners wear guns in public. They must have a license if one is concealed under clothing or in a vehicle.

Smart anticipates strong participation in New Hampshire.

“I personally know of at least 200 associates and acquaintances of mine who are doing it,” he said.

Reed formed the group last year in the aftermath of the Connecticut school shootings.

He admits he was upset when President Obama immediately came out with a gun control agenda.

“That just angered me,” the 38-year-old airline pilot from Texas said.

He said he wondered why no one was doing anything proactively to defend the constitutional rights of gun owners.

“I decided if I’m not part of the solution, I’m part of the problem,” he said.

In New Hampshire, Smart, 35, a small business owner from a military family, heard the call.

“We’re just showing the general public we’re not all bad when it comes to firearm owners,” Smart said.

In the case of mass shootings such as those in Connecticut or Colorado, Smart blames “the individual who has the gun.”

He said he feels badly for the friends and families who lost loved ones in Connecticut, but society should first be looking at the mental health system.

“We need the resources to get people help,” Smart said.

Now more than ever, in Smart’s view, gun owners need to speak up.

“If we silence any part of our voices now, our country is going to get worse,” he said.

Reed, a former police officer, sees it as a constitutional issue.

“I’ve always believe the Second Amendment was put there to protect our freedoms and the basic right to self defense,” he said.

The group’s New Hampshire Facebook page had 1,164 likes last week. The Massachusetts page had even more, 1,180.

Reed said that’s not just a reflection of the larger population in Massachusetts. The state also has strict gun laws, he said.

“When people’s rights are infringed on, that upsets them,” he said.

The group is working on educational pamphlets in advance of the event. Reed said some gun owners may pass out candy to neighbor kids.

“This is a chance to show people gun owners are not bad people,” he said.