Gun-rights Protesters Stand Awkward Ground

The counter-rally protesting Mayor Bloomberg's involvement in the Colorado gun-control debate petered to just a few participants, including Tina Griffiths pictured here, as the Aurora remembrance rally progressed. Photo by Andrea Tudhope.

Though she doesn’t own a gun herself, Denver-resident Tina Griffiths is an avid gun-rights supporter, avid enough to come out to protest the national No More Names gun-control and remembrance rally in Aurora today, the anniversary of the Aurora theater shooting.

“Somebody gave me this shirt,” Griffiths says, looking down at her “I Will Not Comply” T-shirt. The shirt came from Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO), the organization behind the short-lived, poorly attended counter rally protesting No More Names, a project of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Although the counter-rally was organized by RMGO, protestors didn’t know where to find Executive Director Dudley Brown, who appeared not to have attended the event.

Counter-rally protesters mostly dispersed after No More Name's Aurora remembrance rally began. Photo by Tessa Cheek.

Beside Griffiths a florescent yellow sign reading “YOU CAN’T HAVE CO’S GUNS” leaned against the first of three fences separating her from the platform where survivors of gun violence were telling their stories and reading the names of their dead.

“You know, these victims need all the support they can get,” said Griffiths quietly. “I want to support their cause as far as remembering. We don’t agree on our philosophy, but we can all agree to support people who have suffered.”

Some 20 folks decked out in NRA, “Recall Giron,” and “I Will Not Comply” shirts peppered the parking lot at the beginning of the rally. Sen Angela Giron was one of the Democratic state lawmakers who supported gun control legislation that passed this year in response to the shootings. But a half hour into the event, Griffiths was one of only a handful of people lingering in the fenced-off “Spectator Area.” It was a windy day in Cherry Creek State Park and most of the survivors’ words are inaudible at this distance.

“It makes me want to cry,” says Griffiths, “We can’t participate, we have to stand 500 feet away.”

Griffiths was eager to make clear that she was not there to protest those hurt by gun violence.

“When we have Mayor Bloomberg’s folks come out and stir up trouble, that’s not helpful. It just makes things more divisive,” Griffiths said, referring to Bloomberg’s involvement in Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which operates the No More Names project — a 100-day, 25-state tour which began on June 14 in Newtown, Connecticut.

“You know, they are entitled to voice their opinions,” said Carlee Soto, who lost her sister in the Newtown Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting last December and spoke at the No More Names Rally. “It’s just that, in this case, our voice is louder.”

“I know they’re angry right now with us,” says Griffiths watching survivors take the podium. “I wish we could just sit down together, talk together, and figure this out. Gun control versus gun safety, it’s not either/or. This is just sad. Everyone feels threatened and that’s how you get a lot of this,” she gestures to herself, to the signs around her, “and a lot of that.” She looks across fences to the cameras and faces on the other side.

Griffiths observes the No More Names Aurora remembrance event from the spectator area. Photo by Tessa Cheek.

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About the Author

Tessa Cheek

She writes and makes photos about communities. Her book, Great Wall Style, a monograph-profile-lyric essay, is out from Images Publishing. | 720-440-2527 | @tessacheek

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