By Shelby Sebens | Northwest Watchdog
SALEM – Kodey Kinder handed his 18-month-old daughter a long, orange plastic gun before she waddled through a crowd, making a beeline for a dog she wanted to pet.
The toddler weaved her way through a crowd of adults toting AK-47s, handguns and other weapons slung around their shoulders and belted to their hips.
Activists on Friday packed the open space across the Capitol to rally for gun rights. Many carried their weapons openly, as is allowed by Oregon law. The Capitol was open and signs on the doors reminded gun owners they could only bring their weapons inside if they have a conceal carry permit.
Most stayed outside, listening to speakers, drinking coffee from a small vendor cart, pushing children in strollers and waving signs at drivers. From signs that read: “Keep your laws off my guns” to “Free people own guns,” their message was clear.
“A right that I’ve been living with is about to be taken away from me,” said Kinder of Pacific City, who said he grew up with guns and owns several himself.
Gun activists came from all over Oregon, afraid both of proposed state and federal legislation. They waved signs and drivers honked in support.
Oregon lawmakers will consider proposals this session to ban or limit assault rifles, limit clips to no more than 10 rounds and expand background checks.
Kinder, who advocates on OpenCarry.org, said he wants to change the stigma society carries about gun owners and gun-rights activists.
“We’re educated and proficient with our weapons,” he said.
Kinder advocates for educating gun owners from the start, much like you teach a teenager to drive a car. He said gun owners should be required to take classes and know the weapons they intend to use.
He argues restricting gun use will not solve the problem.
“Disarming the innocent isn’t going to protect the innocent,” he said.
He pointed to man carrying a large, somewhat menacing looking gun at the rally. It was an AK-47. He said people often attribute that gun to the “bad guys” because it’s often used in the movies. But Kinder, a former Marine Corps marksman, said banning the number of rounds a clip or magazine can hold, or prohibiting so-called assault weapons will not stop killings.
“They’re looking at this the wrong way,” he said. “It’s not the weapons, it’s society.”
The gun debate is ramping up nationwide as Congress and several states look to tighten gun control in the wake of the massacre in Connecticut and the mall shooting in Oregon.
A few gun-control advocates stood outside the Capitol, holding signs that read “All the arms we need are for hugging, not killing.” One Million Moms for Gun Control plans to hold a rally in support of commonsense gun regulations at 10 a.m. Saturday at Portland City Hall.
Despite the large number of weapons on display during the rally,the atmosphere was calm and police appeared at ease as the crowd filled with people from all walks of life. A group of leather-clad men riding motorcycles revved their engines as they drove in front of the Capitol before parking near the rally. A small boy carried a star-shaped American flag balloon as he held an adult’s hand walking through the event.
“I think you’ll find it’s pretty low key, a good group of people,” said Sgt. Jon Hardy of the Salem Police Department.
He said the police department was working with the Oregon State Police to provide patrols in and around the Capitol, a common step for large rallies. He said he didn’t expect any issues.
One cop on a bike stopped to chat with a friend who spoke at the rally.
The rally, organized as a grassroots effort, was more a party for guns than an angry protest.
“We’ve got a lot of responsible gun owners. What we need is responsible lawmakers,” said Kevin Starrett, executive director of the Oregon Firearm Federation.