Emma González, David Hogg and Cameron Kasky became household names after they survived a mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen of their classmates and teachers were not so lucky. Their immediate calls for action took the country by storm, sparking coordinated school walkouts and March for Our Lives protests nationwide. They have taken their message on the road, along with several of their peers, to tour the country speaking out for common sense gun law reforms and to register voters ahead of the critical 2018 midterm election.
The Utah Gun Exchange, which describes itself as a “patriot marketplace,” is taunting these teens and their supporters by following them around in armored vehicle that has a giant replica machine gun, a replica that is complete with a propane-powered mechanism to create realistic-sounding machine gun fire. They are attempting to attend the teen town halls. Can you imagine traumatizing mass shooting survivors in this way? Well, buckle up because after police stops in New York and Chicago, Bryan Melchior, co-owner of the Utah Gun Exchange, claims that he’s the real victim here. From the Salt Lake Tribune:
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.
The company posted a video of an interaction between dozens of New York City police officers and attorneys who said the replica Browning machine gun violated a city ordinance around fake guns. While the gun had a pride flag attached to its barrel, it didn’t have other markings that are required to distinguish between real guns from fakes, police said in the video.
Melchior was arrested “in a very technical sense,” one NYPD official said in the video, which was taken during an LGBTQ Pride parade late last month.
Driving around New York City with a realistic-sounding replica machine gun, a city that has suffered the worst terrorist attack on American soil in history, a city that remains a top terrorist target. And he’s the victim. Where are these people radicalized?
This isn’t the first time the Utah Gun Exchange has taunted teens and families seeking gun law reforms. During the March for Our Lives protest in Salt Lake City this spring, they turned out with their guns. Elizabeth Love coordinated the Salt Lake event and told the Salt Lake City Tribune attendees were frustrated by their appearance.
“It was frustrating because there were a lot of kids, a lot of teenagers. Then there were all of these adult men who had guns. They had an armored vehicle with a gun mounted on it,” Love said. “We were protesting not being able to feel safe in school because of guns. It felt insensitive.”
As to the question of where these people were radicalized, in the video below, you can see Utah Gun Exchange co-owner Sam Robinson speaking directly to conspiracy nut job Alex Jones, telling Jones the Utah Gun Exchange was “answering the call” put out by Jones to counter the movement to reform gun laws. Alex Jones is an absolute cancer on this country. A cancer who Donald Trump reportedly personally called in the week after the November 2016 election to thank him for his support and for rallying his sick followers to Trump’s side. These are the armed extremists Trump has dangerously been cultivating for nearly three years now.
The Parkland mass shooting survivors deserve better. Thankfully, the Utah gun group has not drawn big, armed crowds to join their cause. If you are in Salt Lake City on July 14, consider joining these students at the Megaplex Theatres in South Jordan at 6 p.m.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.