Gun rights backers gather at Capitol, part of ‘Americans for America’ rallies

An estimated 200 people took to the south steps of the state Capitol on Saturday as a part of a nationwide gun rights demonstration that organizers said was intended, in part, to rebut some of the arguments made at the recent March for Our Lives events.

The nationwide gatherings were promoted through social media by a group called the National Constitutional Coalition of Patriotic Americans. The rallies, which organizers intended to be held at all 50 state capitol buildings, were dubbed “Americans for America.”

The rallies come three weeks after more than 1 million gathered across the nation for March for Our Lives events, which were organized following the deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in February. Thousands turned out for the Sacramento demonstration.

Sacramento “Americans for America” event organizer Wendy Depaoli, 49, said she believes the Second Amendment is being threatened by a wave of recent support for gun control legislation.

“We had a huge shooting at a kids school, and that got national attention. People get scared and they start giving things up, and they don’t realize that’s a right that was guaranteed to us by our forefathers in the Constitution,” Depaoli said. “We don’t want that fear factor to trample on a document that was put in stone.”

Speakers at the rally included members of the State of Jefferson movement, a Pink Pistols representative and gubernatorial candidates from the Libertarian and Green parties, among others.

In particular, several members of the State of Jefferson movement were present at the Sacramento demonstration. A State of Jefferson flag was placed beside the speaker’s podium, opposite the American flag.

Depaoli said there is a strong connection between the State of Jefferson movement and gun rights advocates, as both groups are “Constitutionalists.”

“You’re never going to find more Constitutional people than the people that are for the State of Jefferson,” Depaoli said.

State of Jefferson movement member Greg Walsh of Auburn said his group wanted to “restore liberty to the state of California.”

“It says in the Second Amendment that it is not to be infringed upon,” Walsh said. “Well, it’s being infringed upon.”

Speaker Nicki Stallard, a spokesperson for the LGBT gun rights organization Pink Pistols, said the event was an important opportunity for gun rights advocates to come together, regardless of other differences.

“I’m a transgendered woman, so self-defense is extremely important. I’m in the demographic that has the highest rate of being victims of violent crime,” Stallard said. “I feel that the state of California is on its way to eliminating our right to self-defense.”

Stallard advocated for what she called a “responsibility movement.”

“Obviously in society we do have problems with gun-related violence. So while I promote rights, I promote responsibility,” Stallard said. “I would like to motivate the firearms community to take the lead to partner with people on things that we do agree on ... to reduce gun violence across our state.”