Over the weekend, a group of right-wingers held a rally at the Wisconsin Capitol to stand up and speak out for Second Amendment rights. At least a couple gun rights groups organized the event. Not that anyone is trying to take away the right to bear arms, but with the recent elections of Democrats Tony Evers to the governorship and Josh Kaul to the Attorney General’s office, the ralliers were afraid of reports that both men want to pass red flag gun laws and universal background checks. Red flag gun laws allow a court to temporarily take away firearms from someone who a judge decides is a possible threat to themselves or others. Currently all gun sales from licensed dealers require background checks, but private purchases, such as those at gun shows or between individuals, do not. Universal background checks would require background checks on all gun sales. These are two things they are afraid of right now.
Because of the involvement of Three Percent United Patriots in particular, left-leaning groups in Madison decided to hold a United Against Fascism counter protest across the street from the permitted rally. The Three Percenters have been defined as an anti-government militia group and have said they will defend their right to bear arms with armed resistance against any attempts to take away that right. Some of their members nationwide have been arrested for various plots. They were noticed by the general population when they provided security for the alt-right Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, in which a woman, Heather Heyer, was killed by one of the right-wingers when he drove a car into her.
When I got there I saw a handful of the gun rights advocates gathered on the Capitol steps and a large group of counter-protesters gathered across the street, as well as a fairly large police presence. There were somewhere between three dozen gun rights activists and about 250 on the other side. Many, if not most, of the gun rights activists were displaying handguns and other weaponry, which can be intimidating, but the strange thing was I did not feel intimidated at all. When I was taking pictures of one of them, it struck me when he looked at me that he was just a scared boy, that while they display guns to intimidate and scare others, they are the ones who are afraid.
It is because of fear that they were there. They fear their government, they fear their beloved weapons being taken away, they fear their fellow citizens who are tired of mass shootings and constant gun violence, they fear the left, they fear that someone is going to hurt them, so they carry these weapons not just to intimidate others, but to protect themselves from all of the horrible threats against them and their lifestyle. To me, it seems sad to live one’s life in that much fear. Wearing camouflage clothing and military gear while carrying guns may make them feel personally safer, but it can’t take away the underlying fear.