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Utah Gun Advocates Hold Dueling March Ahead Of Student-Led Protest

Julia Ritchey
Father and son Eric and Trevor Steele hold signs at a pro-gun march on Saturday, March 24, ahead of the March For Our Lives demonstration.

On a day of nationwide student-led protests for gun control, many counter-demonstrations took place across the country as well, including Utah, where gun advocates held a rally called "March Before Our Lives."

"I'm here to protect my 2nd Amendment rights," said Rebecca Clegg of Roy, Utah, one of several hundred gun owners who drove down for the march. "Guns aren't the problem, so we shouldn't be giving them away." 

Organizers had originally wanted to walk directly in front of Salt Lake's March For Our Lives rally, but were blocked by the city’s permitting office. Instead, they marched about an hour ahead of schedule along the same route from West High School up to the Utah Capitol. Holding signs and waving flags, some carried firearms openly, while many more concealed carry. 

Credit Julia Ritchey / KUER
Bryan Melchior is co-owner of the Utah Gun Exchange, which organized Saturday's counter-demonstration. He said they wanted to march with the other rally but were excluded.

Bryan Melchior is co-owner of the classified ad website Utah Gun Exchange, which organized the rally. He said despite some skeptics, he believes both protests have a common goal.  

“We march for the safety, security and protection of the children,” he said. “And this is what we started doing the day after the tragedy in Florida when we came out and announced that we would provide free concealed firearm permit training to Utah educators.”

Melchior has dubbed their initiative "Educarry" and said many teachers have reached out to him wanting to "exercise their constitutional right." President Trump has also signaled a preference for arming teachers as a means of preventing school shootings. 

Eric Steele accompanied his son Trevor to the march. Trevor, a senior at Corner Canyon High School in Draper, wore a “Make America Great Again” hat and held a sign that read “Stop Using Naïve Kids As Gun Ban Props.”

“I for sure think that the portrayal of kids fighting for gun laws is naïve, because they are dumb enough to actually believe it,” he said. 

Both Trevor and his father support more teachers carrying concealed weapons, already permitted under Utah law. But Eric Steele said he strongly opposes any ban on AR-15s or high-capacity magazines.

“For one, you won’t be able to take them all off the streets," he said. "There’s tens of millions of 30-round, high-capacity magazines, and even if you do, you won’t achieve the objective."

Steele said everyone agrees that children should be safe in schools, there’s just disagreement over how best to do that.

Pro-gun march starting down 300 West. #utpol #uted — Julia Ritchey (@juliaritchey) March 24, 2018

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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