On March 24, hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren marched in cities across the United States and the world to demand an end to school violence. At least, that’s what the website said.
The reality, I found, was a quite different story. In fact, for anyone who attended hoping to focus on school safety, it was a colossal bait-and-switch.
Most of the people I saw at the “March For Our Lives” in downtown Washington, D.C.,were not children. Many were there with their parents, but they were certainly nowhere near the majority.
At 1 p.m. on the Saturday of the march, it was standing room only along Pennsylvania Ave., and even worse the closer I got to the U.S. Capitol. A forest of signs rose above the crowd, waving like willows in a windstorm. Many placards were slick, high-quality printed posters, others were hand-drawn. Some aimed at humor, and many went beyond the witty or even vulgar to being downright profane. Either way, the messaging was clear: It’s all about the guns, and guns have got to go.
The specifics of exactly how guns needed to go were less clear. Some signs called for a ban on “assault rifles.” Others advocated for a complete repeal of the Second Amendment.
What I found most troubling, however, were the large number of signs disparaging the NRA and its members. After all, the NRA represents a sizable segment of the U.S. population, far more than its 5 million dues-paying members. None of these people had anything at all to do with causing the tragedy at a Parkland, Fla., high school, or with any other mass killing in U.S. history. The 5 million housewives, plumbers, doctors, government workers, and blue-collar men and women who make up the NRA were just as horrified as everyone else at the massacre, yet the sheer volume of vitriol aimed at them has been beyond belief.
There were signs that said “The NRA is a Terrorist Organization!” Others just screamed “[expletive] the NRA!” (Several of these more profanity-laden signs were being carried by small children who probably could not yet read.)
This NRA-bashing intrigued me. What was it that these people hate so much about the nation’s oldest civil rights organization? What so offends them about a group of people who simply care enough to put their hard-earned money behind an organization with a mission to defend the God-given right to protect their families?
I wanted to get to the root of what motivated these people to hate the NRA so much, so I walked around the march for four hours, stopping people with signs and asking them to explain what their slogans meant. Their answers were enlightening, to say the least.
I wasn’t being confrontational. Quite the contrary, I was careful to let people vent their feelings without becoming argumentative. I didn’t hide the fact that I was with NRATV. And for their part, the people I spoke to were mostly civil with their responses. Mostly.
One woman, marching with her son, carried a sign that said, “Amend the Second.”
I stopped and asked what she meant by that. She wasn’t sure. Not only could she not enumerate what the Second Amendment currently says, she wasn’t sure how it should be amended. “We need to make sure that guns are not being used in violence,” she said. When I pressed her a little on how we might do that, she continued, “Gun owners will know how to do this responsibly. I’m not a gun owner and I don’t really understand what it means to own a gun.”
Well, at least she was honest. But it made me shake my head that she drove all the way to D.C. to march with a sign advocating the replacement of something she admittedly didn’t understand, with absolutely no idea how those ideas should be carried out.
Another group of women was carrying somewhat less inflammatory signs that said “Protect Children, Not Guns” (Who is protecting guns? I thought guns were supposed to protect people, but whatever) and “Not one more!” (Not one more inane platitude, if I had my way), along with one sign with so many words it would have taken two minutes to read it. It turned out these women were teachers. When I asked them to send a message to the NRA, one spoke up—by reading me her sign. “Protect Children, Not Guns!” she said. When I asked her to elaborate, she got an exasperated look and said, “You aren’t picking up what I’m saying!” And she walked away. Her friend stepped in and continued, “I’m a teacher. It’s not my job to come up with exact rules.”
I shrugged. “ok, so what would you say if they came up with a program where schools could call a number and someone would come out and do a security assessment of your campus and make recommendations about how to make that school safer?”
She got a puzzled look. “I mean, if you’re going to do that, that’s great.”
“ok,” I answered. “The NRA has a free program (National School Shield) to do just that.”
That made her defensive. “I shouldn’t have to call the NRA to help my school be safe. I shouldn’t have to worry about my school being safe because someone off the street shouldn’t be able to come in with an assault weapon and hurt my kids.”
“But they do.” I pointed out.
“Absolutely!” she shouted. “And that is not my problem! That is your problem!” Then she stomped off.
It went on like this for four hours. It was abundantly clear that nobody came to the march with actual solutions in mind. The march was little more than a frothing, boiling cauldron of ignorance and emotion.
At one point a woman ran up to me yelling, “Don’t talk to this man! He’s Chuck Holter with NRTV!”
She shoved her phone in my face, filming my reaction. I smiled and said, “Actually, I’m Chuck Holton, and it’s NRATV.”
Armed with this important information, she spun around and proceeded to follow me up the street shouting at the top of her lungs for people to ignore me. That, as you can imagine, made it all but impossible for anyone to do so. I repeatedly asked her if she would like to have a rational discussion, but she refused. I think she was enjoying the attention she was getting by telling everyone not to talk to me, as if she was performing a public service by warning people there was a dissenter in their midst. Apparently the First Amendment protections of a free press weren’t very important to her.
Anyway, as I mentioned, actual, workable solutions were nowhere to be seen. The whole place was awash in pithy slogans, but getting a logical, reasoned argument was about as unlikely as the claim that a small group of bereaved high school students organized the event.
There were free lunches being handed out, tens of thousands of highly produced “grassroots” protest signs and stickers being given away, branded t-shirts, and big-ticket speakers and musicians entertaining the crowd. It was more like a cross between a Miley Cyrus concert and WWE SmackDown—lots of purple hair, weird costumes and fake anger for the cameras, and a mob cheering wildly for the spectacle.
In the past year or so, I have been to several of these kinds of protests and marches in D.C. and elsewhere. I was at the inauguration protests, where I was assaulted by hammer-wielding Antifa thugs for filming them smashing windows and burning cars.
I was at the Women’s March, where tens of thousands of angry people spent the day on the mall carrying signs berating the new president for allegedly degrading women, all the while sporting hats representing female genitalia. It was possibly the lewdest and most graphically inappropriate protest in history, and I have no doubt that many of the children present will be scarred for life.
I was at the NRA-to-DOJ protest, also organized by the well-funded Women’s March, which started with a plan to walk 18 miles to protest guns and which, in the end, was pretty underwhelming except for the nuclear-level hypocrisy of the march organizers hiring armed guards to protect them while they screamed for the rest of us to go unprotected. (This also happened at the D.C. March For Our Lives.)
Suffice it to say, I have been to enough of these events that I am starting to recognize the same people at many of them. The March For Our Lives was no different. There is no doubt these marches, especially in D.C., are carried out by the same loose confederation of leftist activist groups, with varying causes from so-called “reproductive freedom,” to LGBTQ rights groups, to Black Lives Matter. All are happily bankrolled by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s so-called Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action, George Soros and a half-dozen leftist Hollywood celebrities.
All these groups were out in force on March 24. You might doubt I actually recognized some of the same people among the sea of signs, but when a guy wears the same purple tutu and bunny ears to every protest, you tend to remember him.
I even talked to a woman carrying a huge sign that read “The NRA is a terrorist organization!” and asked her what she meant by that. She looked at the sign as if she hadn’t been aware what it said until I pointed it out. She seemed a bit flustered, so I continued, “Look, playing devil’s advocate here, the NRA is 5 million Americans who claim to be for gun safety and the Second Amendment. How is that a terrorist organization?”
“Well, the NRA gives so much money to our politicians that they vote how the NRA wants versus representing their constituents.”
Ignoring the obvious point that many of those constituents are surely NRA members, I said: “If that’s the case, what you’d have to show me is the politician who was against guns before he got a bunch of money from the NRA and then became for guns. Do you know of any examples of that?”
She didn’t. So she went on to spout the other talking points that were plastered on signs everywhere. Ban bump stocks. Raise the gun buying age to 21. On this I had to interrupt.
“OK, listen. My son is going through Army basic training right now. He’s 20. Either he is an adult, or he’s not. If he can be called up to fight and die for his country, if he can form legal contracts, get married and start a family, then he darn sure better be allowed to protect that family with a gun.”
“But he has to be 21 to buy a beer!” She countered.
I nodded. “But last time I checked, getting drunk on spring break isn’t a constitutional right.”
The longer we talked, the more she started to come around. She hadn’t realized that she agreed with the NRA’s position on enforcing existing laws, or passing the “fix NICS” law to make it harder for the mentally ill to pass a background check. She liked the NRA’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program, and thought NRA Carry Guard was a good idea, as well. When I offered to buy her an NRA membership, however, she declined and retreated into the crowd, carrying her sign. Sigh.
As the day wore on, the only thing thicker than the crowd was the hate being directed at the NRA and 50 or so counter-protesters who had staked out the center of Pennsylvania and 10th. The counter-protesters were part of 2A Maryland, a brave group of folks I have gotten to know well because they also attend these protests faithfully. They stood in a circle, holding flags and large signs that pointed out the hypocrisy that seemed lost on the protesters: that they were only able to hold this march calling for fewer guns because there were thousands of police and military securing the area … with guns.
Despite the screaming hordes of haters and masses of middle fingers surrounding them, the 2A guys made a powerful point. The only place a protest like this could happen is in a bubble of safety created and maintained by good men with guns standing ready to do righteous violence if necessary to protect the innocent. I tried to imagine how this protest might have gone, without that circle of security, in a place like communist China, Iran or Venezuela.
The entire purpose of the march was to call for fewer guns and fewer good men to wield them. Yet the irony was lost on the protesters.
Like the teachers I interviewed, these people just wanted schools to magically be safe, but had no interest in real, workable solutions that would actually make them safe. Feelings, not facts, were the order of the day.
It was abundantly clear that the far-left organizers of the march and the politicians who supported them do not trust their fellow Americans to wield their God-given rights. And anyone who won’t trust me to care for my own cannot be trusted themselves.
Chuck Holton is a veteran Army ranger and NRATV correspondent.