Tom Horne will drive almost any distance to show his support for the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. On Saturday, he made his way from Asheville with his family to join dozens of others in Hillsborough for a rally in support of the Second Amendment.
Horne, a burly man with a long, scraggly beard, said he’s a member of the Carolina Defenders, a North Carolina patriot group. Online he goes by Patriot Tom. He has gone to numerous Second Amendment rallies and said coming to the Hillsborough rally was important. He said he fears outside influence is eroding the rights of North Carolinians.
“I’ve been to rallies all over the place and here in North Carolina,” Horne said “It kind of hits home to me because I worry about people coming in and burying our rights. It’s starting to seems like more people are coming in from out of state and want to change things. I’m gonna teach my kids to stand up for these rights that are so valuable. Most people don’t know what the Constitution is, or what the First and Second amendments are, much less what they mean.”
The Hillsborough rally was organized locally by Daniel Johnson and Ashley Campbell. Chatter online had them expecting a crowd of more than 200. It actually drew slightly more than 100 people to the back steps of the old Orange County Courthouse.
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“I think the threat of rain might have kept some people away,” Johnson said. “But I am still pleased with the turnout. It’s the first time we’ve done this, and we could do it again.”
Johnson was inspired to hold the rally after a poll on the Facebook group Orange County Local last spring sparked a debate about gun rights.
Organizers invited a variety of people to talk, including state and congressional candidates. They also had speakers from Grass Roots North Carolina on the agenda.
“I think people do want to have a debate,” Johnson said. “They do want to talk, but when they try to do it on Facebook, it tends to get more polarized. You can’t read body language and tone of voice, which is lost over typed words. I feel that people being so polarized online is shutting down communication. I think if we can have more open dialogues that we can fix what’s actually wrong with this country.”
The featured speaker was Mark Robinson of Greensboro, who gained notoriety in April with an impassioned speech to the Greensboro City Council about the need for the Second Amendment. His speech went viral online among gun-rights supporters.
“I think it’s time for us to stand up for what we believe,” Robinson said. “We don’t mean anybody any harm. Certainly, we don’t mean any violence or anything like that. We’re not against anybody. We’re just pro-constitution, and we feel like the Second Amendment is vulnerable because there are so many people speaking up against it.”
Robinson said he didn’t expect the response his Greensboro speech received.
“I feel so blessed that so many people saw the speech I gave at the Greensboro City Council,” Robinson said. “The one thing they say is, ‘I feel that’s exactly how I feel. I just was afraid to say it.’ I want people to not be afraid to say what they want to say because I feel people want to speak up. And I do feel a groundswell every day I go on all social media, and I go on YouTube. I’ve seen videos of people who have stepped up and gone to the city council meetings speaking up, making their voices heard. I am pleased to see it.”
Jeffrey Brenneman of Hillsborough said he came out to the rally because he feels the Second Amendment is under attack.
“There’s some strong words that have been said about the Second Amendment and about the people needing to speak up,” Brenneman said. “I back what Mark Robinson said 100 percent. I didn’t know he was a big gun advocate until today, and I liked what he had to say.”
The rally drew only a few counter protesters, but there were numerous anti-gun messages written in chalk on the sidewalks leading to the old courthouse. One listed the number of victims who died in mass shootings in recent years. Another asked if a gun was worth a life.