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Carrying a gun—whether openly or concealed—is currently illegal in D.C. But that fact alone isn't stopping one gun rights activist from organizing a protest in the city in which participants will be encouraged to openly display their guns.
Talk radio host and Iraq war veteran Adam Kokesh is using social media to organize an open carry march from Virginia into D.C. on Independence Day, calling the protest a means to "put the government on notice that we will not be intimidated and cower in submission to tyranny." His proposed route would take marchers across the Memorial Bridge and towards the U.S. Capitol before circling around to the White House on the way back to Virginia.
"I've been a passionate defender of the right to self-defense since I've been involved in politics," said Kokesh, who served in Iraq in 2004 but later became an ardent critic of the war. He said that he doesn't worry about the legal repercussions of the protest, despite D.C.'s restriction on carrying guns outside of the home.
"It's illegal, but it's not unlawful," he said. "If the Second Amendment is still in effect, then what we're doing should unquestionably be allowed. I'm actually recommending that the response from law enforcement be to provide us with an escort. It may be provocative, but only because it's become the norm to cower before government."
A similar protest took place in 2010, though participants remained at Gravelly Point Park in Virginia, which is across the Potomac River from D.C.
In 2008 the Supreme Court ruled that D.C.'s ban on handguns was unconstitutional, and since then the Metropolitan Police Department has allowed residents to purchase and register handguns for use in their homes. Republican members of Congress have periodically attempted to lift the city's restriction on carrying guns outside the home, though without success.
In December 2012 David Gregory, host of NBC's "Meet the Press," came under police scrutiny when he held up an empty 30-round magazine, which are illegal in D.C., during a televised interview with National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre. Earlier this year D.C. Attorney General Irv Nathan declined to prosecute Gregory.
Kokesh said that he plans on meeting with law enforcement ahead of the event, but would not be seeking a permit for the march. (The Metropolitan Police Department did not respond to a request for comment.) The Facebook page advertising the event has over 2,000 RSVPs, though Kokesh wants to reach 10,000 by June 1 to ensure that at least 1,000 people show up in person for the protest.
"It's pretty exciting to see how it's developing," he said. "It's certainly taking off and going viral, and we're really excited to be able to provide something meaningful for people to do on Independence Day, when everyone else is going to be the least patriotic thing possible, which is sitting on their butts and not doing anything to improve the country."
UPDATE, 10:20 a.m.: On NewsChannel 8's "NewsTalk With Bruce DePuyt" this morning, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said that protesters with loaded firearms would be in violation of city laws and could be stopped from entering or face arrest if they do.
"There's a difference between civil disobedience, which I think this is being portrayed as, and actual violation of the law. There's two different things here. Civil disobedience, people come to D.C. to protest policies and government policy all the time—it's no problem. But when you cross into the District of Columbia with a firearm and you're not in compliance with the law, now you're talking about a criminal offense and there's going to be some action by police," she said.
"There's no permit that's been filed by the organizer, we have not made contact directly with the organizer, but we will, and we'll make sure that they understand that if they want to pass through the District of Columbia, as long as they're in compliance with the firearms laws for transportation of firearms through the District, we're all for it. But passing into the District of Columbia with loaded firearms is a violation of the law and we'll have to treat it as such."