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Pro-Gun Activists Protest Proposed Firearm Legislation Outside City-County Building

Gun rights activists, some carrying firearms and yellow "Don't Tread On Me" signs, gathered outside of the City-County Building for a pro-gun rights rally Monday afternoon.

*This story will continue to be updated as new information is available. 

The rally was organized by Justin Dillon of Erie, Pa., in response to efforts by Pittsburgh City Council to enact gun control legislation. The legislation was introduced in City Council in mid-December, nearly two months after the fatal shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill, leaving 11 dead.

Brenda Clapper, of Altoona, was among the demonstrators.

Credit Lucy Perkins / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
Brenda Clapper, of Altoona, holds a sign in support of the Second Amendment while taking part in a demonstration outside of the City-County Building in downtown Pittsburgh.

"We come here mostly because of [Pittsburgh Mayor Bill] Peduto, what he's trying to pull," she said. "We're all obviously for the Second Amendment, and we're here to fight for what's right."

Clapper was among those openly carrying a handgun but said advocacy involved "standing up for what you believe in. Not physically fighting, not whipping out your pistol. Just getting the point across verbally."

"I feel anger and threatened" by the city's proposed law, she said. "It's in our Constitution. We can't let them do that. You just can't." 

Speaking to demonstrators during the rally, organizer Dillon said he's passing his values onto his 9-year-old son, who he hopes will continue to fight in support of the Second Amendment.

One theme of the demonstration was the argument often used by firearm advocates that "guns don't kill people, people kill people." The idea was reflected in a speech by Kelly Ann Pidgeon who told the crowd "a gun is an object ... the problem is the culture of violence." 

Pidgeon also argued that guns are part of feminism and an "equalizer" for women against larger, stronger men.

While the event started with a pro-Second Amendment tone, it eventually shifted to focus more narrowly on Mayor Bill Peduto.

Kaitlin Bennett, who made headlines after posing with an AR-10 rifle for her graduation photos on Kent State University's campus, spoke at the rally and said Peduto should be ashamed for using the Tree of Life massacre as a lead to push gun control legislation. Bennett also called Peduto "Mayor potato head."

The city's proposed three-bill package would bar certain kinds of ammunition, firearms and accessories, while also establishing a process for barring someone from having guns if family members or law enforcement deems them a risk. 

"This mayor ... is breaking the law," said state Rep. Aaron Bernstine (R-Beaver, Butler, Lawrence counties) at the rally, referring to a Pennsylvania law that precludes municipalities from regulating firearms in any way.

Dillon suggested some kind of legal battle if the mayor and City Council pass the legislation.

Councilor Corey O’Connor has said that Council hopes to pass the group of bills by Feb.14, on the one year anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

However, even if the proposed legislation is passed at the city level, there would still be legal questions due to the state law that Bernstine cited.

WESA reporters Kathleen J. Davis, Lucy Perkins, Ariel Worthy and Chris Potter contributed to this report.