As an elementary school choir sang inside the Capitol rotunda on Friday, a group of men and women clad in military fatigues, carrying walkie talkies and AR-15s, gathered just outside.
“We live in a society where we give lazy kids who come in eighth place trophies,” shouted one man, who left before giving his name. “Alright? It’s not a gun problem, it’s a mental problem.”
Christian Yingling wore a patch on his camouflage jacket declaring him part of the Pennsylvania Lightfoot Militia.
He’s from Westmoreland County, and on most days, works as a machinist.
Yingling said the group is trying to counterpoint all the gun control rallies and school walkouts that have happened nationwide in the wake of the Florida school shooting that killed 17.
“While people’s intentions may be good, I just feel they’re a bit misguided on the direction of things,” Yingling said. “Going after an object isn’t going to stop the rage that these kids are experiencing.”
The Lightfoot Militia is one of several in Pennsylvania; they’re frequently seen at right wing events in and around Pennsylvania.
They came out in force the last time President Donald Trump visited Harrisburg last summer, and also went to Charlottesville, Virginia for a white supremacist rally that ultimately turned violent.
Yingling said he’s not far-right or a libertarian—but a constitutional conservative.
“Politicians are supposed to listen to their constituents,” he said. “Pennsylvania has long been known as a gun-friendly state.”
Pennsylvania lawmakers have introduced a number of gun control bills in the wake of the Florida shooting—including expanded background checks and bans on large-capacity magazines.
None have gotten much traction in the GOP-controlled legislature.