Police in Fairfax County said they arrested 18 people Tuesday morning who were part of a planned, peaceful protest outside the headquarters of the National Rifle Association.
Some in the group had said they were angry after the tragedy at the Pulse nightclub in Florida that left 49 people dead. Activists on both sides of the gun debate had gathered Monday — and some spent the night — with lit candles and handmade signs.
“I don’t have an issue with guns, I have an issue with the wrong people having the guns,” said Nardyne Jefferies, whose 16-year-old daughter was fatally shot in 2010 with an AK-47 around the corner from her D.C. home. “The criminals basically have guns that are out-powering our police department. What sense does that make?”
Hours after the Senate failed to move forward four proposed gun safety measures Monday, people took to a Fairfax street in front of the organization’s main office, off Interstate 66.
Organizers announced the names of the 49 people who died in the shooting on June 12 in a gay nightclub in Orlando.
Police said those arrested had been warned. Following their arrest, they were escorted to a police cruiser, issued a summons and released. They also were charged with loitering on a highway, officials said.
Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink, a grass-roots organization that hosted the overnight peace vigil of about 100 people, said she hopes for change. “We’re not getting anywhere with our congresspeople,” said Benjamin, 63.
“The obstacle is right here — it’s the NRA,” Benjamin said. “This is the source of our problems. We can’t get sensible gun legislation because these people have so much money and lobby power. They’re destroying our democracy.”
For Jefferies, the loss of her daughter still keeps her awake at night. During an emotional speech, she showed people a picture of her daughter, Brishell Jones, after she was shot. At one point, Jefferies turned to her right and said: “There’s guys standing over there with their guns.”
“We’re not bothering them, and they’re not bothering us,” Jefferies said.
One of those guys was Paul Brockman. The self-employed 50-year-old from Elkridge, Md., wore an NRA baseball cap. He had a Sig Sauer P220 in a holster on his right hip and later carried a candle in his left hand.
Brockman and about 20 other NRA supporters said they “stand with Orlando” and carried signs with the names of those who were killed. They knew about the vigil and wanted to show both sides of the gun debate, Brockman said. They wanted to “remember the people who did not deserve to die” and sang “God Bless America.”
“We want to show the world that we mourn just like anyone else,” he said, turning toward the crowd at the vigil. “They’re blaming the instrument and not the person.”
Brockman said the Senate votes meant that liberty prevailed.
“There’s no gun laws either existing or proposed that would have stopped Orlando, San Bernardino [Calif.] — none of these,” he said. “We can ban evil, and it’s just not going to happen. Unfortunately evil is in the world.”
Dana Hedgpeth contributed to this report.