From Texas to New York to Utah, students continue to hold rallies and town halls calling for new gun regulations after repeated mass shootings. It is a political movement sparked by the massacre of 17 people at a Florida high school in February.
Now, an owner of a Utah online gun marketplace has taken the company’s military-style armored vehicle on the road, following these students and holding counter-rallies. That includes urging its members to attend a March for Our Lives town hall in Salt Lake County this weekend, which is led by some of the Parkland, Fla., victims.
Bryan Melchior, a co-owner of the Utah Gun Exchange, is now on the Gulf Coast in Florida, staging to attend town halls organized by the Parkland teenagers. So far the pro-gun group at these events has been limited to Melchior and his seven traveling companions, though they urge supporters to attend any event intended to push for new gun restrictions.
Their road trip hasn’t exactly been incident free.
Police stopped Melchior and the group in New York and Chicago while an officer in Georgia just wanted to check out the military-style armored vehicle. It is usually topped with a replica machine gun that is propane-powered so it sounds like the real thing, but doesn’t shoot bullets.
The vehicle, essentially a rolling armored billboard, is a familiar sight at the Utah Capitol and has become the trademark of the Utah Gun Exchange.
Melchior believes his encounters with police in New York and Chicago have been a violation of his civil rights.
“The hostile environment created toward gun advocates in the Northeast is not unlike the hostile environments a black man would have experienced in the South hundreds of years ago,” he said Tuesday.