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Waving signs and cheering loudly, hundreds of Second Amendment supporters gathered on the south lawn of the Alabama Capitol on Saturday to voice their opinions about gun control.
Several speakers addressed the audience, explaining how proposed gun control legislation would restrict their rights. A recurring message of the day was that responsible gun owners should be left alone.
"The current administration wants to control every aspect of our lives," Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan said to the crowd. "We need to use our state motto -- 'dare to defend our rights.'"
Rallies at statehouses nationwide were organized by Eric Reed, an airline captain from the Houston area who in November started a group called "More Gun Control (equals) More Crime." Its Facebook page has been "liked" by more than 17,000 people, according to the Associated Press. The rallies were held days after President Barack Obama unveiled a sweeping package of federal gun-control proposals.
As word of the "Guns Across America" effort spread across social media, Bianca and Stephen Burton of Birmingham decided to organize an event in Alabama.
"We are overwhelmed with all the support," Bianca Burton said. "These are just genuine, good Alabama people who love their country."
She said although the event was about supporting the Second Amendment, it also was an opportunity to counter misinformation on a national level. Attendee Tracy Sanders of Elmore County echoed that sentiment.
"The general consensus from most of the people out here is that it's a conspiracy to eliminate firearms because the coverage is one-sided," Sanders said. "We just want to get the facts out there."
Michael Hart, who hosts a radio talk show out of Birmingham, served as emcee for the event, introducing each speaker while captivating the crowd. Hart didn't shy away from the title of conservative, receiving applause after stating his political affiliation.
For Chris Robinson, who is originally from North Carolina but currently stationed at Maxwell Air Force Base, the day wasn't about politics but about having his voice heard in an engaging conversation.
"We want to use this forum to show we don't all agree," Robinson said. "Our elected leadership needs to listen to what their constituents have to say. Those that oppose us are louder with their opinions, and they're entitled to them. We just want to show our support for the elected officials who respectfully disagree. There doesn't need to be any mud-slinging. There needs to be an educational debate."
People at the rally were given the opportunity to sign petitions, which will be sent to their U.S. senators. The rally was sponsored by state Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale.