The Second Amendment, Gary Harpster said, is different from the others in the Bill of Rights.
“It’s not designed to give you a right to do one thing or another,” Harpster said Saturday at a pro-gun rally in the rotunda of South Dakota’s Capitol. “It’s designed to protect the other nine rights.”
A succession of speakers told a crowd of nearly 100 at the event that an armed populace is the only sure defense against tyranny, invasion and criminals.
They also urged vigilance against gun control advocates, who were termed “anti-rights people” for whom removing the right to bear arms was only the first freedom they wanted to attack.
State Sen. Jeff Monroe, R-Pierre, said people who try to take away the right to bear weapons are no different than people who try to take away the right to speak freely.
“When you try to take away our right to bear guns, you’re trying to tear our country down,” Monroe said.
Most participants in the rally drove hours to attend, identifying themselves as residents of Sioux Falls or the Black Hills.
Two of South Dakota’s representatives in Congress, Sen. John Thune and Rep. Kristi Noem, sent statements to be read at the rally. Both said gun control proposals by President Barack Obama wouldn’t help prevent mass shootings such as the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
“I do not support reinstatement of the assault weapons ban in large part because the previous ban did not result in a significant reduction of gun violence,” Noem said in her statement.
A well-armed populace is a better defense against crime and violence, speakers said.
“If we want to make our communities a safer place … the easiest way to do that is to have an armed populace,” said Paul Lathrop of Sioux Falls.
To protect schools, Lathrop said, the state should “arm a few teachers.”
“The one thing that would have stopped (Sandy Hook) is the repeal of the federal Gun-Free School Zones Act,” he said.
There were no actual firearms visible at the rally because only law enforcement officers are allowed to be armed inside the Capitol building.
There were also no counter-protesters at the noon rally, which was scheduled to coincide with similar rallies at state capitols around the country.
The South Dakota event closed with a plea for gun safety from the participants “to not give the anti-gun people ammunition.”