Campaigners to hold rallies on February 23 – a date that bears a similarity to the .223 cartridge – in protest at Obama's gun reforms
Gun rights activists are planning a nationwide "day of resistance" on 23 February, a date that bears a typographical similarity to .223 assault weapon cartridges used in the Sandy Hook and Aurora shootings.
Organisers said they chose the date – whose common short form in the US is 2/23 – as a "clever way" to attract "the gun crowd" to the event, but denied it would be seen as insensitive.
A series of rallies by Tea Party activists and pro-gun campaigners will be held across the US in response to the 23 executive orders introduced by President Obama that organisers say are "unconstitutional".
A .223 Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle was used in the Sandy Hook shootings, while a AR-15 using .223 cartridges was also used in the Aurora killings, prompting calls for a ban on assault weapons.
Dustin Stockton, one of the event organisers, denied the date had been chosen to capitalise on the recent shootings. "This is not something that is aimed at that at all. It's not a reaction to those events specifically at all," he said. "Everybody feels terrible for those families, but this is really a message to Washington, and is separate from those events.
"It wasn't intended in any way to connect with any weapons used by any crazy people." Asked if people might make that connection, he said: "I see how people will try to make the connection to shootings committed by crazy people. Not that there is an actual connection, though.
"The gun-grabbing crowd is going to be critical of this no matter what we call it. If we concern ourselves with trying to please everyone, we'll never be able to take any action."
Stockton said it was simply a way of attracting gun owners. "It's just kind of a clever way to incorporate and brand, to really attract the second amendment crowd and the gun crowd, because they'll all recognise that .223 is the 22 caliber," organiser Dustin Stockton told the Guardian. (The .22 caliber bullet is the most common ammunition in the world. It differs marginally in diameter but is considerably less powerful than the .223 caliber bullet.)
The day of resistance website features an American flag covered with the shadows of protesters holding guns, including assault rifles, aloft. Stockton runs the conservative website TheTeaParty.net along with 20-full-time staff, and said the protests could be bigger than the wave of Tea Party protests that swept across the US following Obama's 2008 election win.
"We're actually seeing an entirely new crowd of people who weren't politically active at all," Stockton said. "All of a sudden they hear the debate move to guns. We're seeing a lot of people who are outdoorsmen, who probably didn't vote in the last election, [or] in the last two elections.
"From the response that we've been getting we believe this is actually going to be larger than the Tea Party wave in 2009. We have this whole new group who are involved, and the second amendment is really a unifying issue for a lot of Americans, Republicans, independents and even moderate Democrats."
Tiffiny Rueger, from the conservative pro-gun Women Warriors PAC, told the Guardian that "these horrific massacres are not done by a gun".
"They are crimes of an individual who chose a gun as their weapon. People who kill will kill with a gun, a car, a knife or anything else they create. Enacting more bans on guns will not stop bad people – it will leave good people unprotected. If bans on things were successful, there would not be drug users."
The marketing of the event would appear to be another public relations own goal for pro-gun campaigners. On Monday, Neil Heslin, the father of six-year-old Sandy Hook victim Jessie, was reportedly heckled by second amendment supporters as he spoke at a local hearing on gun control.
Heslin, holding a picture of his son as he spoke at the Connecticut state capitol in Hartford, said he did not understand why anyone needed to own an assault weapon, prompting a cry of "second amendment" from the crowd.
Earlier this month, the National Rifle Association was criticised by Republicans and Democrats after posting a video advert featuring Obama's children. The NRA had previously been lambasted after launching a free iPhone shooting game a month after the Sandy Hook killings.
[Image via Creative Commons]