On Thursday, a group of gun control advocates gathered in Missoula, Montana, to raise awareness about victims of gun violence and to push lawmakers into supporting tougher gun laws, specifically universal background checks.
The group is part of “No More Names: National Drive to Reduce Gun Violence,” a 100-day, cross country, anti-gun violence bus tour sponsored by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s pro-gun control organization, Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
Well, when they showed up at the University of Montana campus Thursday afternoon to begin delivering their message they were greeted by at least 30 gun-rights activists, some of whom were toting signs that said “Guns Save Lives” and “You can’t beat a girl who shoots.”
According to local news reports, there was some heckling going on during the demonstration as well as some face-to-face arguments, but ultimately both sides remained peaceful.
One of MAIG’s key speakers is Carlee Soto, the sister of Victoria Soto, one of the teachers who was slain in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. It is believed that before she was killed, Soto shielded several of her students from gunfire, saving their lives.
Soto spoke about her sister’s heroics, but was allegedly heckled during her speech.
“Unfortunately she and five kids and another aid in her classroom did not make it out, but because of my sister, 11 of her kids were able to escape that day,” said Soto, as someone from the crowd shouted, “Too bad she didn’t have a gun.”
Not acknowledging the remarks from the crowd, Soto continued to speak, talking about the heartbreak she’s had to live with since that tragic day.
“I have to live with that every day. Live with the fact that I’ll never be able to see my sister, talk to my sister ever again. My family is broken,” said Soto.
Meanwhile, Montana Shooting Sports Association President Gary Marbut responded to the demonstration, saying that the impetus behind the counter-protest was a reaction to Bloomberg’s pro-gun control agenda.
“Well, we want to demonstrate that the people of Montana, the law-abiding gun owners of Montana are not very pleased with New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s effort to foist gun control on us. I don’t like them re-arranging our culture and we don’t want them trying to deny our proper heritage,” Marbut told local CBS affiliate KPAX.
Marbut criticized universal background checks, arguing that responsible citizens would be “sent to prison” for gifting a firearm to their son or daughter “unless that transfer was first recorded in federal computers.”
And when the MAIG group read aloud the names of the most recent victims of gun violence, Marbut iterated what the heckler said during Soto’s speech.
“We heard them reading the names of people ostensibly 6,000 people who died because of gun violence. I submit those are 6,000 people who wish they’d had a gun to defend themselves,” said Marbut.
If one is truly unbiased and objective about the debate over gun control, he/she has to agree that Marbut makes a cogent point. Better to have and not need than to need and not have.
What are your thoughts?