The past couple of months have brought numerous anti-gun demonstrations following the Feb. 14 shooting at a high school in Florida that left 17 people dead. Saturday afternoon, the other side pushed back.
Several hundred people gathered on Halifax Mall in downtown Raleigh for a pro-Second Amendment rally in favor of gun rights, listening to speakers.
Many carried signs or flags. One was Tara Brandeau, a young woman who came from Randleman to wave a black "Don't Tread on Me" flag with crossed pistols.
"My opinion is that the Second Amendment should be for everyone, to cover the First Amendment," she said, adding that guns are necessary for protection.
The Raleigh event was organized by groups including Americans for America, Three Percent Republic and the National Constitutional Coalition of Patriotic Americans. Jimmie Boyd, a Forsyth County man who was one of the organizers, said that similar "Support the Second Amendment Rally" events had been planned for all 50 state capitals.
"We wanted to do something positive for the Second Amendment," said Boyd. "It's one of the best amendments there is. The Second Amendment is our inalienable God-given right. It's also to allow us to protect ourselves against a tyrannical government."
At least some of the impetus for Saturday's rally was March for Our Lives, the March 24 pro-gun control event organized by some of the surviving students from the Feb. 14 shooting massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The main March for Our Lives event in Washington, D.C., drew hundreds of thousands of people to hear Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg and other Douglas students speak.
The Raleigh Second Amendment rally presented a student, too, 18-year-old Connor Groce from Clemmons. Appearing onstage in a black suit and red tie, he looked and sounded very much as if he was running for office.
"I'm tired of my generation being portrayed ... as advocates for taking away our rights," Groce said. He concluded his talk with a plea: "Support young conservatives."
There were lots of similar messages on T-shirts, signs and hats, some humorous. "If more sane people were armed, crazy people would get off fewer shots," read one sign. "Even Winnie the Pooh owned a personal defense shotgun," read another. And lots of shirts were emblazoned with "I plead the 2nd."
Since it took place on state property, guns were not allowed at the pro-gun rally. That did not sit well with many attendees, including Alan Hoyle, who said he is running for sheriff in North Carolina's Lincoln County as a "constitutional sheriff."
"We need to remove the treasonous people violating our rights with gun control by requiring permits," said Hoyle, gesturing toward the building where the North Carolina General Assembly meets. "Our rights are being violated."