A gun rights activist from Ohio plans to lead a march through downtown St. Louis on Saturday afternoon. The walk through the heart of the downtown area will start at 1 PM local time and consist of other open carry enthusiasts. Smith has asked those joining him on Saturday to bring long rifles or pistols. He’s asking that those walking either have the long rifles slung or the pistols holstered. Smith is also requesting that those participating not bring ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ flags, other political paraphernalia, camouflage or anything else that will make the group look like a militia.
Per Smith’s Facebook page, he has 159 saying they will attend with 90 maybes. That number will likely fluctuate by the start of the march, so it is hard to say how many will actually show up. The plan is to walk from the Gateway Mall down to the Arch and then back to the mall. It appears this is not an organized event with any permits from the city. Therefore, Smith is urging the participants to follow basic traffic laws and stay on the sidewalks. In fact, he is encouraging them to take their time on the walk so as to draw as much attention as possible. Smith claims that the march is to raise awareness of gun rights.
Recently, Missouri passed Amendment 5, which states that citizens have an unalienable right to bear arms. Like other red states, Missouri decided to appease gun owners and energize conservative voters by placing an unnecessary gun rights bill on the ballot. This law is apparently in place to fight any potential federal gun control laws that may be passed in the future. Essentially, it is just a way for gun rights ‘activists’ to claim that they have another roadblock in place in case the liberals come calling for their guns. However, while it supposedly strengthens the state’s gun laws, the language is so vague that one really can’t say what it truly means.
In Smith’s case, he wants to see just how strong the Missouri law really is. He told the Riverfront Times earlier in the week that his interpretation was that he did not need to have a Missouri conceal and carry permit to walk through St. Louis openly carrying his firearm. As Smith doesn’t have a Missouri CCW, he’s willing to be arrested so he can apparently expose the “intentional indifference” to Missouri’s strong gun laws by different municipalities. You can read Smith’s latest update on the walk here.
When looking at those who’ve responded that they are attending, you see a very homogeneous guest list. With a few exceptions, those who plan on attending are white. Ask yourself this question? If this were an organized march of activists and protesters from Ferguson who planned on walking through the downtown area strapped with AR-15s and Glocks, what kind of reaction do you think they’d get? Heck, less than 100 mostly black protesters chanting ‘Hands up! Don’t shoot’ can’t go anywhere in the St. Louis area without attracting dozens of cops in riot gear and a helicopter overhead. If they were all walking and chanting while carrying assault rifles, local residents would be requesting martial law to be enforced and the area to be locked down by the National Guard.
One also has to wonder if Smith and his cohorts are hoping to have some kind of confrontation with Ferguson protesters. It is obvious he is looking for as much attention as possible as he’s been making the local media rounds in advance of the Saturday march. Is there a hope that he can garner additional exposure and attract more (likely white) supporters to the cause by getting into an altercation with a mostly African-American group. It is not clear yet if there will be any counter-protests on the scene, whether by Ferguson protesters or gun control activists.
ETA: This march for gun rights and awareness will take place in the shadow of the nation’s 87th school shooting since the Sandy Hook tragedy. Washington high school student Jaylen Fryberg wounded four students and killed another one before turning the gun on himself Friday morning.
Justin Baragona is the Managing Editor at Politicus Sports as well as Senior Editor at PoliticusUSA. He was a political writer for 411Mania.com before joining PoliticusUSA. Politically, Justin considers himself a liberal but also a realist and pragmatist. Currently, Justin lives in St. Louis, MO and is married. Besides writing, he also runs his own business after spending a number of years in the corporate world. You can follow Justin on Twitter either with his personal handle (@justinbaragona) or the Sports site’s (@PoliticusSports).