By Carra Higgins
Several hundred people — including local, state and national leaders — showed their support for “God and Country” Saturday afternoon at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.
A host of speakers and songs drew some loud applause and standing ovations at times from the crowd, which Diana Wood, event organizer and owner of Flat Top Arms Inc., said she hoped left the Freedom Rally for God and Country with enthusiasm and motivation to make their voices heard in support of their beliefs and values of the Second Amendment and God. Wood wants those who attended Saturday’s rally and others who have the same beliefs to contact their elected representatives and not allow the majority to remain silent.
Wood said she got the idea for the rally while she was speaking to her son, who was stationed in Afghanistan at the time. She explained she and her son were discussing the rallies for the Second Amendment that were taking place across the country and decided to organize one for the Beckley area.
“It needed to be about God and country, too,” Wood said of the rally, which came to fruition in approximately one month.
Representatives from several organizations manned information tables and provided literature to attendees. Wood said she hopes groups that attended the rally, such as Friends of Coal, Mothers Against Prescription Drug Abuse, the National Rifle Association and right-to-life organizations, “link hands and be a loud voice.”
“I hope we start something that rockets across the nation,” Wood commented. “I believe God is in it.”
Among the elected officials who attended the Freedom Rally for God and Country was U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd District. Capito told the crowd that she “promises to protect against the erosion of Second Amendment rights” and that God and prayer are nearly everywhere in the U.S. — including Congress. She also voiced her support for coal by saying she wants the “freedom to use our own natural resources to power the country.”
Capito also encouraged the group to contact their elected representatives, from the local level to the president, to voice concerns and opinions.
“Don’t ever think that your single voice can’t be heard,” Capito said.
Also speaking to the rally crowd was John Sigler, past president of the NRA, who asked that people sign and send pre-written cards to U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., asking him to oppose all gun control proposals, including the “so-called ‘universal’ background checks.” The cards pre-addressed to Manchin that NRA representatives handed out also asked for lawmakers to “instead focus on improvements to our nation’s mental health system and enhancing school security.”
Sigler said the nation is currently engaged in a “cultural war” and those who are not “patriots” are trying to defeat God and the Second Amendment, but the actions can be stopped, particularly by contacting elected officials.
Raleigh County Sheriff Steve Tanner, who has previously been outspoken about supporting gun ownership rights, said to the crowd that individuals, not tools or society, need to be blamed for wrongful actions.
He added that individuals have a right and responsibility to defend themselves and their family, and any new gun laws should “support the good guys” and “not take away any of their rights.”
“Only the good guys will follow the rules,” Tanner commented.
Bishop David Griffis reminded the crowd that when he was in school, the day always began with a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. Now, schools do not do that, he said.
Other elected leaders who attended the rally included Delegate Margaret Anne Staggers, D-Fayette; Delegate Linda Sumner, R-Raleigh; and Raleigh County Commissioner Linda K. Epling.
Mike Canterbury, of Beckley, was one of the many people who attended the rally. He said he wanted to show his support for gun ownership rights and become more educated about the issues.
The rally was sponsored by Flat Top Arms Inc. and Cornerstone Financial Group.
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