Armed gun enthusiasts and local politicians gathered at Franklin Park Saturday to advocate for their Second Amendment rights..
The Spokane Conceal and Carry club and American Patriots III% – a reference to the number of Americans who fought in the American revolution – co-organized the action, initially a protest against Initiative 1639, a gun control measure that was taken off the ballot by a judge earlier this week.
The initiative, which would have raised the minimum age of purchase, as well as requiring safe storage and more stringent background checks for semi-automatic rifle buyers, was taken off the ballot after a Thurston County Superior Court judge said the font in which the initiative had been presented to voters was too small and the changes weren’t clearly marked.
The decision is being appealed.
Leader of APIII John Valle said the so-called Spokane ‘Liberty or Death’ rally was organized in coordination with the group Patriot Prayer, which held a rally of the same name in Seattle Saturday, drawing counterprotests but ending without conflict.
He said that, while APIII was working with Patriot Prayer, they don’t consider themselves affiliated. He emphasized that APIII is not an anti-government group or a militia, and does not support white nationalism or extremist views.
He added that the court’s decision to exclude I-1639 from the ballot may have reduced turnout for the rally, but that it was still important to show opposition as the initiative goes through the appeals process, or if a different version is introduced.
Several local lawmakers, including Spokane City Councilman Mike Fagan, 6th District candidate Jenny Graham, Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell and Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane, spoke at the event. A representative from the campaign for Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., spoke briefly and distributed signs.
Fagan spoke in favor of the campaign he is currently running with his father, Jack Fagan, and Tim Eyman to reduce car tabs to $30, and praised the attorneys who argued against I-1639 in court.
While addressing the attendees, Shea defended gun rights and free speech, and criticized the media, calling journalists – including those who covered the event – “dirty, godless, hateful people.”
Members the 63rd Lightfoot Militia also attended the event.