The mayor of St. Louis dismissed an open carry rally over the weekend intended to test new gun laws in Missouri.
About 30 demonstrators carrying handguns and rifles walked through downtown Saturday, but about 50 people showed up to express their opposition, reported St. Louis Public Radio.
Organizer Jeffry Smith, a firearms instructor from Ohio, set the date of the demonstration to coincide with a planned visit with his son, who attends St. Louis University.
“I’m well-armed here, but nothing’s happening — and why is nothing happening?” said Smith, who carried two hand guns and a long gun strapped to his chest. “Because I’m not doing anything with these guns, and neither are any of these people you see around you. So it’s not the gun that is the problem, it’s the individual.”
The opponents were mostly made up of members of Amnesty International, which was holding its Midwest conference during the weekend.
“I’m not against guns,” said Barb Stellar, of St. Louis. “I hunt, I shoot for sport, I skeet — but the right to carry is just an escalation of violence, and I think we need to put an end to it if we can before more of our children are killed.”
State legislators overrode Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a Senate bill to allow open carry of firearms statewide by individuals who hold a valid concealed-carry permit.
Smith and fellow organizer Richard Lofftus, of O’Fallon, Missouri, said they believe a gun-rights amendment passed by voters in August allows open carry for anyone who legally owns a gun.
“There are people here who would be willing to show a permit, and there are people here, like myself, who would not even be willing to say whether or not they have a permit,” Smith said.
Police watched the demonstration but did not check for concealed carry permits.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said he hoped legislators would clear up confusion about the law, reported the Riverfront Times, adding that the open carry demonstration showed the law went too far.
“What you saw on the streets of downtown St. Louis today was like a scene out of a bad Western,” Slay said. “We can dismiss the people who protested this morning as extremists who should not be taken seriously. I agree with that. But we have to take this law seriously.”
Slay said he would work to get the law repealed.
“In Deadwood (South Dakota), there was no law,” the mayor said. “In Missouri, it is the law. I don’t know which is worse, frankly.”
A member of Hands Up United and the Organization of Black Struggle pointed out that police reacted calmly to the armed demonstrators and compared the response to protests in nearby Ferguson.
“When we protest in a similar manner, without guns, they proceed with aggression and arrest,” said activist Tef Poe.
Watch this video report posted online by KMOV-TV: