Atlanta's U.S. Rep. John Lewis rallies the crowd at a protest in Woodruff Park. The protest was organized by gun control advocates, who held it blocks away from the National Rifle Association's annual convention in downtown Atlanta.
Photo: Kristina Torres/Hyosub Shin/AJC
Photo: Kristina Torres/Hyosub Shin/AJC

John Lewis rallies gun control advocates as NRA convention continues Saturday in Atlanta

UPDATE: Atlanta’s U.S. Rep. John Lewis urged a cheering crowd to “be brave, be bold,” in pushing for gun control, while declining to say President Donald Trump’s name out loud while referencing the president’s visit Friday to the NRA conference.

“I must say to the NRA that you are not welcome here in the 5th district, you are not welcome here in Atlanta,” Lewis said. “We need to make our cities, our states, our neighborhoods free of gun violence.”

“The man who came yesterday and spoke, it was the first time since Ronald Reagan that (a president) would come to speak to the NRA,” Lewis said. “Sometime you have to get angry, you have to have a sense of righteous indignation. Well, I have it, I’m fired up.”

ORIGINAL POST: More than 200 gun control advocates have begun a rally Saturday in Woodruff Park, trying to offer a counterpoint to the National Rifle Association’s annual convention that was meeting blocks away.

The protest was smaller than organizers had expected, but those who attended said it did not dim their passion. It was the second NRA-related protest in as many days at the park, where on Friday about 300 people staged a “die-in” before marching to the convention site.

Among those here is Marietta mom Lucia McBath, who lost her son five years ago when the 17 year old was shot and killed in the parking lot of a Florida convenience store during a 2012 argument over loud music. 

“I’m here along with all these other moms to let the NRA know we’re not going to stand for this extremist agenda around the country,” McBath said. “And we’re not going away. The fear mongering, the untruths -- we’re definitely going to let them know we’re not going to stand for it. We’re not going to let them keep pushing it, especially in this state I live in in Georgia.”

McBath said that while her son’s death was devastating, it also galvanized her into action. She now works with Everytown for Gun Safety, a national gun-control group that’s active in Georgia and organized Saturday’s rally, and is a member of the Everytown Survivor Network traveling the country speaking on the issue.

The NRA, a powerful political advocate for gun rights, has also been a formidable opponent of gun control laws and has advocated for policies that include national reciprocity among states for people who have a weapons carry license.

More than 80,000 people were expected to attend the convention, which is the NRA’s showcase event for the year and also features hundreds of exhibitors. 

President Donald Trump spoke at the convention Friday, the first time since Ronald Reagan that a sitting president has attended the gathering.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.