This past Thursday, three Flathead Valley organizations — Liberty Fellowship, Frontier Guns & Ammo and Hosanna Health Care — marked the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord, also known as Patriots’ Day, with a gun rights rally at the Flathead County Fairgrounds.
“Our Second Amendment liberties have never been under attack to the degree they are now since our country was founded,” Liberty Fellowship Pastor Chuck Baldwin told the Daily Inter Lake before the event.
Voicing concern about the prospect of gun-control measures in next year’s legislative session, he said that “we feel it’s very important that we elect pro-Second Amendment candidates from the Valley that are not going to succumb to more gun-control legislation in the session next year.”
The bulk of the two-hour event was devoted to letting elected officials and candidates for state and local office voice their support for gun rights.
Jordan White, former Flathead County Undersheriff and now a candidate for Sheriff, was first in the lineup.
“I was taught early on to love God, guns and freedom, in that order,” he said to brief applause, then discussing his focus on “connecting the needs of the people with the hearts of the community.”
The focus then turned to the state legislature. Rep. Seth Berglee, R-Bridger, rose to discuss the bill he sponsored in last year’s legislative session. Entitled the Montana School Safety Act, it would have permitted the concealed carry of handguns by school employees on school grounds. It was voted down in the House, 57 to 43.
“When I’m looking at a school situation, there’s really two types of people...that I think should carry guns, or could carry guns,” he said.
“There’s the type of people that are very well-trained,” and would be prepared to respond to an active shooter. But he argued that there are also people “who don’t need to understand tactics, they don’t really even need to understand how to shoot all that well. All they have to do is have a gun in their hand.”
Many of the other speakers were running against an incumbent who had voted against Berglee’s bill.
Jerry O’Neil, a former state legislator now running against Rep. Zac Perry, D-Hungry Horse in House District 03, discussed efforts for laws and a Constitutional amendment restricting the influence of money in politics. He voiced concern that these would restrict the freedom of assembly.
“We need to get off of our hind ends and we need to work for the people in our legislature,” he told the audience. “Please find a candidate you can support.”
Cindy Dyson, running as a Libertarian against Rep. David Fern, D-Whitefish, in House District 5, echoed Berglee’s support for armed school security. “I know that in any large gathering in Whitefish, in the Flathead...there are usually a few people who have chosen to carry a gun...This has always made me feel safer.”
“Almost anywhere we gather,” she continued, “there will be a few people who are armed – almost anywhere, except our schools, our gun-free zones.”
Robert Welzel, a retired Marine challenging Rep. Frank Garner, R-Kalispell, in a primary race for House District 7, made his case with historical examples and military metaphors.
“We know that we have not yet become subjects of totalitarian tyranny.” he said to applause. “Everybody here knows why...It’s because we still have our guns!”
“I submit to you that the battlefield we can and should choose is in the legislatures of the states,” he continued, calling on the audience to “join me in defeating the political elites.”
Mark Wicks, a Republican candidate for the Montana Public Service Commission’s District 1, also raised the specter of totalitarianism.
“I do not feel the need to live through a purge, a genocide or an ethnic cleansing or any other mass slaughter to understand what the Jews say when they mean ‘Never again!’”
He then warned that gun-control measures would neutralize gun-owners’ ability to defend themselves against government aggression.
The last speaker was former state legislator Rick Jore. “I want the Second Amendment to be upheld,” he told the audience, “...but in no less fashion I want the rest of the Constitution to be upheld by those who have taken an oath to uphold it, and I think we’ve got to be honest enough to ask ourselves if we’ve been consistent in that advocacy.”
He proceeded to argue that a number of federal programs, including Social Security and public lands, were unconstitutional.
Baldwin then called up the other candidates to introduce themselves. They included: Sid Daoud, Libertarian candidate for House District 8; Ronalee Skees, Republican candidate for Flathead County’s District 3 Commissioner; Keith Stahlberg, Republican candidate for Sheriff; David Dunn, Republican candidate for House District 9; Shawn Guymon, Libertarian Candidate for House District 3; William Managhan, a nonpartisan candidate for Flathead County Justice of the Peace; Jordan White, Republican candidate for Sheriff; Rep. Carl Glimm, R-Kila, running for re-election in House District 6; Rep. Mark Noland, R-Bigfork, running for re-election in House District 10.
After introductions by the candidates, Baldwin gave a closing speech in which he reiterated Montana’s role as a “vanguard” of the Second Amendment.
Reporter Patrick Reilly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 758-4407.