'Honor Your Oath' rally takes aim at lawmakers
Hunter Cogswell, 11, of Concord brought an AR-15 and a big flag reading "Come and Take It" to the Honor Your Oath rally held at the State House on Saturday. (Shawne K. Wickham/Union Leader)
"Don't fool around with the Second Amendment," warned Jack Kimball, chairman of Granite State Patriots Liberty PAC, which hosted the event.
"We are now at a tipping point in our country," he said. "If we don't take action and save our Republic, it won't exist anymore.
"The time for timidity is over. The time for action is now."
The flashpoint that unified the crowd was the March 27 vote in the House for House Bill 135, which would repeal the so-called "Stand your ground" law the Legislature passed just last year. The repeal bill passed 189-184.
State Rep. John Hikel, R-Goffstown, told the crowd of about 300 he has filed a redress-of-grievance complaint against his 189 fellow lawmakers who voted for House Bill 135, charging them with "breach of oath of office" and "conspiracy against rights."
Hikel said it's not a partisan issue. "I want everybody in here to respect the Constitution and respect the people that voted them into office," he said.
Hikel said he also filed his complaint with the U.S. Attorney's Office.
State Rep. Daniel Itse, R-Fremont, urged those in attendance to sign the petitions for redress of grievance against those who voted for the repeal bill, which is currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Itse said the measure - which he labeled "Run and Hide" - is unconstitutional. "Therefore, we, the Legislature, have no legitimate power to require you to surrender your right of self-defense."
Organizers said the event, which happened to fall on the birthdate of Thomas Jefferson, was not a "gun rally."
But that didn't stop 11-year-old Hunter Cogswell of Concord from bringing an AR-15 and a big white flag with black lettering: "Come and Take It."
The boy said he was there to "stand up for gun rights."
"I believe in gun rights. It's our constitutional right," he said, adding the gun was real but "not loaded."
Emcee Jeff Chidester, a local radio talk show host, jokingly welcomed "all you racist, hateful tea-baggers to this event."
Itse read a litany of instances in which lawmakers, judges and the governor would violate their oaths of office, from improper taxes to misapplied court rulings. But officials who have done so remain in office, he said, "because the Legislature lacks the collective will to impeach them."
Itse said the state and federal Constitutions also hold the people accountable. "We're not the government," the seven-term lawmaker told the crowd. "You are. We're the administrators. We're the hirelings.
"You have a duty to know your constitutions. You have a duty to make sure that your candidates know the constitutions. You have a duty to make sure that the members of government obey the constitutions."
Yellow "Don't Tread on Me" flags were nearly as plentiful as the Stars and Stripes at Saturday's rally.
The band Girls, Guns and Glory was playing country music, and volunteers manned booths for pro-life and pro-Israel groups.
In response to the rally and petitions against the 189 lawmakers, Harrell Kirstein, communications director for the New Hampshire Democratic Party, said Saturday, "This chilling behavior is exactly what voters rejected last fall."
He also said U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., opposed "stand your ground" legislation when she was attorney general.
"Will she condemn these costly, wasteful and intimidating antics for what they are - a shameful embarrassment for the state of New Hampshire - or is she afraid to stand up to the extremists in her own party?" Kirstein asked.
Ayotte could not be reached for comment Saturday night.
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