PORTAGE | Six friends and co-workers stood along Willowcreek Road on Saturday as cars whizzed past, drivers honking their horns.
One of the men held an American flag, which whipped in the wind, while another held a placard with the hand-written words, “Guns Don’t Kill People, but Gun Control Does.”
“It’s National Gun Appreciation Day,” said Jeff Perez, one of the demonstrators. “All around the country people are marching on state capitals. We couldn’t go there, so we’re here doing what we can.”
Perez said the men organized the rally at the last minute, but wanted to raise awareness and urge Americans to protect rights provided in the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution.
“This is all about Americans that are peaceful, that we are gun owners,” Perez said. “Whether you use firearms to hunt, whether you use firearms for recreational shooting, or whether you use firearms for protection, we appreciate those acts.”
Perez said that states with the most restrictive gun laws have the highest rates of crime, including Illinois, New York and California.
“Our freedom is not up for grabs,” said Perez, who first had the idea for the rally.
Tony Smith, of Valparaiso, said reactions from passing motorists were “mostly positive.”
“This isn’t a 'right' thing or a 'left' thing, this is an American thing,” Smith said. “We cannot support any sort of (firearms) ban.”
Terry Smith, Tony Smith's brother, said he feels a proposed firearms ban that has resulted from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings is “selective outrage.”
“To use a national tragedy for political gain is shameful. ... It’s a feel-good measure,” Terry Smith said. “The silent majority isn’t going to stay silent for long.”
Perez said the men at the rally, some of whom wore camouflage jackets, are all gun owners and hunters, and they were not daunted by the small turnout.
“I feel fantastic that we did our part by showing up today,” Perez said. “We just wanted to be out here even if it was just us.”
Terry Smith vowed that the group would get larger and repeat Saturday’s event.
“We’ll do this again within another month,” he said. “We're going to keep it rolling, and we’re just going to roll with it.”