Drawing a crowd of hundreds that spilled onto Beacon Street on Saturday afternoon, firearms advocates waved Revolutionary-era flags, hark back to historic battlefields, and quoted founding fathers as they decried legislation filed last week by Governor Deval Patrick that would place limits on certain firearms transactions and high-capacity cartridges.
“The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed!” yelled Yang Li, 42, an engineer from Canton who was the first speaker at the ‘Guns Across America Rally’ in front of the State House, drawing up to 700 people. The rally was conceived through social media that spawned similar noontime rallies in other cities across the country, according to organizers.
Boston’s two-hour demonstration was peaceful. The crowd was composed of newly licensed to longtime gun owners, as well as hunters, hobbyists, instructors, and gun club officials. A common message was struck in about a dozen speeches: that the right to bear arms is under siege like never before and that an armed, law-abiding populous is a human right that is necessary to suppress tyranny.
“The Second Amendment is the protection against a tyrannical government,” said Li, who in 1989 stood up to the Chinese government in Tiananmen Square, where hundreds of protesters were killed. He became a naturalized US citizen in 2007 and a “proud gun owner” a year later.
Mike C. Follo, 38, a gun owner for most of his life, started hunting at the age of 12. He is the lead firearms instructor at Down Zero Training, a firearms school based in Shrewsbury.
“Now is our time to stand, for our future and for future generations,” he said, drawing applause from the crowd.
Follo said the tragic school shooting at Newtown, Conn., has caused a backlash against gun ownership that is unwarranted.
“It’s time when the infringement . . . [is] getting to a level where we have to stand up now, there is no more sitting on the sidelines and hoping for someone else to stand up for you. There was a tragic event that happened, two events, and it triggers a big backlash against law-abiding people. They try to take my gun every time somebody does something stupid with a gun.”
Follo said the school’s enrollment has dramatically increased recently.
“People want to get things before they are banned,” he said.
Patrick filed his “Act to Strengthen and Enhance Firearms Laws in the Commonwealth” on Wednesday. While it doesn’t ban any weapon, gun rights advocates say a key provision on loading capacity would “effectively” ban semiautomatic firearms.
Patrick’s proposal would cap at seven the number of rounds a magazine can carry, down from the current 10.
The legislation would also limit gun buyers to one firearm purchase per month and create four new firearms crimes, including commission of a violent misdemeanor while in possession of a firearm, which could result in a 10-year prison sentence.
Jesse Mermell,a spokeswoman for Patrick, said the recent tragedies “have shown the need for these common sense reforms, which respect the rights of responsible gun owners while also providing reasonable regulations to protect public safety.”
But Follo disagreed with the proposed magazine limits, repeatedly calling it “stupid.” He dismissed the legislation, saying it would have no effect on preventing gun violence.
“Not one of the things in it would have stopped one of those tragedies,” he said.
Many people who showed up at the rally also criticized similar legislation filed Friday by Natick state Representative David Linsky, a Democrat, titled “An Act to Reduce Gun Violence and Protect the Citizens of the Commonwealth.”
Both petitions will be referred to a legislative committee and a public hearing will be scheduled.
“I honestly believe there’s not one or even a small number of solutions to reducing gun violence,” Linsky said in a phone interview Saturday. “I accept the fact that we’re going to have guns in society.”
His proposal would give law enforcement more discretion to approve or deny gun licenses and he is pushing for a requirement that military-style weapons be stored at gun clubs or shooting ranges.
“The strong majority of people in the Commonwealth are in favor of more gun control. Only about 8 percent of the [state’s] population are licensed gun owners,” he said. “The people at the rally and those sending me angry e-mails from all over the state aren’t representative of the people across the state or country or most of the licensed gun owners. They aren’t offering solutions, they are knee-jerk opposition.”
Ross Schacher, director at-large of the Northborough-based Gun Owners’ Action League, which counts its members at about 14,000, said Patrick’s and Linsky’s proposals “very simply will not work.”
“We simply have to tell all of our legislators that we will not stand for this anymore,” he said.