American flags mixed with Revolutionary War banners that warned, “Don’t Tread on Me.” Dire predictions of tyranny spurred cries of defiance from 1,000 people on Boston Common. And the overarching message, delivered by a parade of speakers Wednesday to a receptive audience, was that gun control will subvert the US Constitution and open the door to a police state.
“When they ask us for ‘reasonable restrictions,’ what are we going to say?” asked Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners’ Action League.
“No!” the crowd roared.
Speakers described gun-control lawmakers as wolves who prey on law-abiding lambs with firearms. Legislation to regulate guns was derided as a cynical political maneuver to capitalize on the tragedy at Newtown, Conn. And the specter of mass confiscation of weapons was raised over and over on a chilly afternoon.
“They continue to push their antifreedom and anti-American agenda,’’ said Shaun Sweeney, a leader of It’s Time 2A, a gun-rights group. “It’s time to remind them who’s in charge: we, the people. This is America, and we will not be ruled by a tyrannical government. We will be free, and we will be heard.”
“The wolves in Massachusetts are salivating,” said Ying Li, a US citizen and Chinese immigrant who participated in the deadly Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.
The Second Amendment, he told the crowd, is not for hunting or sport but to guarantee legal protection for “righteous killing” in self-defense. “When they send their enforcers to remove your instruments of freedom,” he said of a police state, “they want you to not only be outnumbered but unarmed.”
After the hour-long rally, many in the crowd walked to the State House, where Governor Deval Patrick and legislators have proposed restrictions including capacity limits for ammunition magazines, a limit on monthly gun purchases, and a mandate that gun owners buy liability insurance.
Greg Wolodkin, 46, of Sutton, shook his head when asked at the rally whether new regulations are needed in the wake of mass shootings at Newtown and elsewhere.
“It feels like taking away cars from sober people to drop drunk driving,” Wolodkin said.
Nearby, Arthur Saarinen, 61, held a 15-foot pole topped by a Revolutionary-era flag over a second banner depicting an assault rifle. Inscribed under the rifle were the words: “Come and take it.”
“If you look at history, every autocratic or totalitarian government has always gone through this process of trying to disarm its populace,” said Saarinen, a Lexington resident and graphic artist at MIT.
Dozens of hand-written placards dotted the crowd, including signs that read: “Gun control is treason to our Constitution,” “We will never comply,” and “Cowan, Warren, Traitors of the US,” a reference to US Senators Elizabeth Warren and William “Mo” Cowan.
Li said “one of the proudest moments for me as a father” was the day last year when his young son first shot a training rifle at a target. After he spoke Wednesday, Li held up the target, riddled with bullet holes within a human outline, many in the head.
“I treasure this,” Li said.
At 6 years old, Li recalled, his son assured him he would use the rifle to protect his mother and sister when Li was traveling for business.
Brian MacQuarrie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.