Bucks gun-rights rally draws 150 to Doylestown

At the rally, Bill O'Neill of Holland tells the crowd: "The torch of liberty burns bright against tyranny today in Doylestown."
At the rally, Bill O'Neill of Holland tells the crowd: "The torch of liberty burns bright against tyranny today in Doylestown." (AUBREY WHELAN / Staff)
Posted: March 04, 2013

For more than an hour, they stood on the corner of Court and Main Streets in downtown Doylestown: young men and elderly women, small-business owners and parents surrounded by children, a local candidate for sheriff, and several men carrying AR-15 rifles.

Some waved signs: "Subversive Liar! We Don't Trust U," above a photo of President Obama and a communist hammer and sickle. "Support My Right to Protect My Family at Home."

All told, about 150 people gathered on the street corner Saturday morning - all in town for a brief Second Amendment rally organized by Concerned Gun Owners of Bucks County, a fledgling gun-rights group founded earlier this year by a handful of locals.

Their mission, they say, is twofold: protect the Second Amendment, and, in the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., encourage school districts to develop safety protocols that include installing armed guards at schools.

Members say their meetings at the Warminster VFW hall - two so far - have been drawing hundreds.

Many are alarmed by gun-control proposals issued by Obama earlier this year, which include asking Congress to ban assault weapons like the AR-15 rifle and to require universal background checks for firearms sales. But most said they did not believe the government was coming to take their guns.

"I feel pretty safe in the state of Pennsylvania," said David Sager, a member of the group, "but there are issues at the federal level that we need to stay on top of."

Speakers at Saturday's rally did not shy away from the grandiose. Many said they felt that fears about guns had been exacerbated by the Sandy Hook shootings. Others expressed skepticism with official accounts of the incident.

Holland resident Bill O'Neill, standing on a military-style truck bed and dressed in an American-flag jacket, told those gathered that they were "the heroes of the first revolution." He said that "the torch of liberty burns bright against tyranny today in Doylestown," before encouraging attendees to sign a petition for county sheriff candidate Tom Lingenfelter, who was also on hand at the rally.

Current Bucks County Sheriff Ed Donnelly was on the street corner, too, to "let people here know that I defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Pennsylvania."

Still, he said, fears about the government's seizing weapons are unfounded.

"I think people are just afraid," he said.

Some said they believed proposed bans on assault weapons were the first step toward even stricter gun laws. Many showed up at Saturday's rally carrying firearms - with more than a few sporting AR-15 rifles, the same gun used in the Sandy Hook shooting in December. Eric Ives, a veteran Marine sergeant who now runs a gun-training company, brought a loaded handgun and an AR-15 with a loaded magazine, but no rounds in the chamber.

"This is stuff we wear to work on a daily basis," he said. "I've seen some citizens with firearms who were more professional than law enforcement."


Contact Aubrey Whelan

at 610-313-8112 or awhelan@philly.com, or follow on Twitter @aubreyjwhelan.

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