Hundreds of activists rallied in Washington, D.C., in support of gun rights Monday, urging people to vote for candidates in the upcoming elections who will loosen firearm restrictions.
The rally in the nation's capital coincided with another rally in northern Virginia, where dozens of activists holstered handguns and slung unloaded rifles over their shoulders. The gun-toting protesters in Virginia were within the bounds of the law, and promised to keep the weapons unloaded.
Those in Washington, D.C., though, chose not to carry any firearms in compliance with the District's strict gun laws, even though many believe the rules are unconstitutional. The Supreme Court overturned part of the District's gun policy in 2008, when it struck down the city's handgun ban.
Among the activists in Washington Monday was James Everett, 71, a gun owner from Battle Creek, Mich., who said he came to the rally on a bus with nearly 40 others.
He echoed the speakers' message, saying he wants lawmakers to stop infringing on his right to bear arms.
Signs reading "Which part of 'shall not be infringed' confuses you?" and bright orange stickers saying "Guns save lives" dotted the crowd at the Washington Monument.
Across the Potomac River in Alexandria, former Alabama Minutemen leader Mike Vanderboegh told the crowd armed confrontation should be reserved only for instances of the government threatening people's lives.
However, he said it might be justified if people face arrest for refusing to buy insurance under the health care reform package recently passed by Congress.
"If I know I'm not going to get a fair trial in federal court ... I at least have the right to an unfair gunfight," Vanderboegh said.
As the group made its way from a staging area to Gravelly Point Park, gun control advocate Martina Leinz dismissed Vanderboegh as a bully.
"If they wanted to have dialogue, they don't need to bring a big weapon with them," she said of the protesters.
Organizers said it's the first armed rally in a national park since a law passed allowing people to carry firearms in national parks.
Ken Garvin of Newville, Pa., said he came because believes the government is overreaching. He stressed that the people attending the rally "are not a bunch of crazed thugs ... they're just people."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.