COEUR d’ALENE — While nearly 250 people showed up in force Monday to cheer on the Second Amendment and listen to speakers discuss their views on the history and future of gun rights in America, one notable voice was absent.
Rep. Matt Shea, the scheduled keynote speaker at a Coeur d’Alene rally organized by activist Charlene Baron at McEuen Park, was a no-show.
Shea, who has been asked to resign from the Washington Legislature by both Republican leadership and Democrats, was originally one of five scheduled speakers to attend the rally, alongside sheriff candidate Rick Whitehead, legislative candidate Tim Kastning, and Bonner County’s Danielle Aherns and Cornel Rasor.
A representative from Shea’s office said the Spokane Valley lawmaker had no comment. Baron said Shea was precluded from making an appearance because the Washington Legislature was in session.
The gathering was one of a network of rallies across the country to show solidarity for the Second Amendment, which has come under scrutiny in Virginia after a mass shooting prompted Gov. Ralph Northam to propose sweeping gun legislation.
On Monday, MLK Day, approximately 22,000 gun-rights advocates showed up in Virginia’s capital of Richmond to voice their opposition to their governor’s agenda. The Coeur d’Alene rally, meanwhile, began along the sidewalk where Sherman Avenue meets Northwest Boulevard at 11 a.m.
Evan Anderson, a 14-year-old from Dalton Gardens, said he and his mother went to the event to show their support for a state currently embroiled in debate over the limits of the Second Amendment.
“I’m here to show our great support for Virginia,” he said. “The Second Amendment means a lot to me. I think it’s well-known to many as disuseful, but it’s not. It’s a very important part of who we are.”
Elaine Price was among the rallygoers Monday. She said she braved the cold to ensure Idaho’s constitutional rights remain soundly in its citizens’ sights.
“It takes all of us to keep our rights,” she said. “If we’re complacent, then what’s happening in Virginia could happen here. If we’re complacent, it spreads like wildfire.”
The group then marched to Avista Pavilion in McEuen Park to listen to speakers advocate for the right to bear arms. Baron, who hails from Virginia, said she counted 241 rallygoers at the Pavillion. Armed with American flags and assault rifles, the crowd listened as impassioned 2nd Amendment supporters pontificated on prayer, patriotism and the Constitution.
“‘The ultimate measure of a man,’ Whitehead told the crowd, quoting Martin Luther King, Jr, “‘is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.’ I’m honored to stand here with you today. God bless you, God bless Virginia, and God bless the U.S.A.”
Alex Barron, a legislative candidate who was not originally scheduled to speak, was introduced as part of the lineup to a round of thunderous applause. In his speech he stressed the importance of maintaining the right to bear arms through political participation.
“You are the people,” Barron told the crowd. “There’s a lot of people who live around here, but there is a very small percentage of people who are active participants...We’ve got a lot of people here in this audience who are active in your politics.”
Afterwards, Barron said the crowd was refreshing.
“I really enjoy being with patriots,” the candidate said, “fighting the good fight. The organizers of the rally did a great job.”
Brent Regan, chair of the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee, closed the event by citing Japanese Admiral Isoruko Yamamoto, who has been long-quoted to express what has kept America safe.
“He said, ‘You cannot invade the mainland of the United States,’” Regan recalled. “‘There will be a rifle behind every blade of grass.”