Community Issues

Gun Rights and Anti-Gun Activists Call for Action at Downtown Rally

Sparkt was there when several hundred gun rights activists rallied outside city hall against Pittsburgh council's gun ban bill, while anti-gun demonstrators protested across the street.

Hundreds of activists, many of them openly carrying guns rallied in downtown Pittsburgh today against a bill proposed by Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and City Council that would ban semi-automatic rifles and certain ammunition and firearms accessories within city limits. Right now state law prohibits individual municipalities from regulating firearms.

Gun rights supporters rallied at the portico of the City-County Building, spilling out into the street. A smaller group of people who support gun control gathered across the street, joined by a small anti-gun brass band.

Here's what Spark's Mike Asti found when he talked to folks at the rally:

Erie-native Justin Dillon, founder of the advocacy group Open Carry Pennsylvania, organized the rally. He reminded supporters that in 2013 his group won a court battle against Erie's attempt to ban guns in that city's parks. "We won 7-0 at the State Supreme Court, so if the mayor and city council decide they want to pass this I'll see you in court," he vowed to the cheers of the crowd, who also carried flags and signs like"Yinz Can't Take It" with an outline of a semi-automatic rifle.

Across the street, "Cathy" who said she lives locally, told Sparkt she's upset Dillon's group would hold a pro-gun-rights rally in Pittsburgh so soon after the October 27 massacre at Tree of Life Synagogue. The shooting, which killed 11 people, prompted the mayor and council to introduce the gun legislation. "It's ridiculous that people have shown up from out of town telling us what to do," said Cathy.

Gun rights activist-gone-viral Kaitlin Bennett told the group she wished there were more young people at the rally. "It just boils my blood to think that people my age are advocating for something so detrimental," Bennett said. "To the gun-grabbers and 'Mayor Potato' do you even know what you're standing against?" Bennett got national attention when she posted pictures of herself on the Kent State University campus with an AR-10 and a mortar board reading "Come and take it."

State Rep. Aaron Bernstine, a Republican from Ellwood City, called the gun ban a "snowflake" idea. "We're gonna protect the constitution," Bernstine told the crowd. Bernstine urged rally-goers to contact the mayor, city council and their state lawmakers if they have something to say on the issue.

"Mister Mayor don't go after the constitution, go after the criminals!" PA Rep. Aaron Bernstine R-Ellwood City

No matter which side you're on you can weigh in,and Sparkt has made it easier to contact your lawmakers.

Click here to reach members of Pittsburgh City Council individually via e-mail or on social media.

Here's where you'll find the mailing address for the Mayor's Office or you can fill out one of the mayor's Feedback Forms .

Even though they don't have any influence over the city besides expressing their views, you can contact your state senator and state representative. First, find out which lawmaker represents you by clicking here . Then, once you know who represents you in the state legislature, find their e-mail or social media contact information for your state senator here and your state representative here.

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