PHOENIX (AP) -- Joining rallies at statehouses across the country, hundreds of gun owners and Second Amendment advocates descended upon Arizona's Capitol on Saturday in support of gun rights amid federal proposals aimed at new strict gun controls.
Around 500 protesters, some carrying rifles and holstered handguns, waved signs that said "We respect gun rights" and "Defend your constitution before it is too weak to defend." One man dressed as a Revolutionary War Minuteman carried an antique 1800s-style long rifle, with sign saying "Tyrants Beware - 1776."
Eric Cashman, a 50-year-old self-described political activist from Phoenix, said he was at the Phoenix rally to counter what he called an effort by progressives to disarm the population. He said he was opposed to President Barack Obama's effort to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, saying it would be a first step toward disarming American citizens.
"We're out here because this country had some very wise founding fathers and they knew they were being oppressed when they were a British colony," Cashman said. "Had they not had their firearms ... to stand up against the British, we'd still be a British colony and we wouldn't have the freedoms that we've enjoyed all these years."
The group Guns Across America organized the rally as part of "Gun Appreciation Day" across the country. Phoenix's rally was one of many slated to take place nationwide thanks to a loosely organized campaign via social media sponsors by the Washington D.C.-based group Political Media.
Cashman noted that the rally was peaceful and there were no arrests. The weapons on display actually made it a safe event, he said.
"Had Gabrielle Giffords been doing her speech in this crowd, she'd be perfectly healthy today," Cashman said, referring to the former congresswoman who was wounded by a gunman who killed six people at a Tucson supermarket.
Jonathan Schmadeke, 36, of Goodyear, was carrying an AR-15-style assault weapon with a high-capacity magazine, because he said, "It's my right."
Unlike many others at the rally, Schmadeke said he understood the arguments that some new gun restrictions were needed.
"I can see where they're coming from, absolutely," he said. "I'm a hunter, a target shooter and I enjoy personal protection, but 30 rounds might be too much.
"But then again, if you have vehicle that can go 200 mph and the speed limit's 65, why have that car?"