Gun rights rally outside Pa. Capitol postponed over safety concerns, organizer says

Gun rights advocates gather for an annual rally at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Monday, May 6, 2019. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

Gun rights advocates gather for an annual rally at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Monday, May 6, 2019. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

A gun rights rally scheduled to take place in Harrisburg on Monday has been indefinitely postponed after a credible threat was made, one of the organizers said Thursday.

“We couldn’t take that risk,” said Kim Stolfer, president of Firearms Owners Against Crime, a Pennsylvania-based group that opposes new gun restrictions.

State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) announced that the event was postponed in an email sent at 4:40 p.m. Wednesday.

Metcalfe said the decision to postpone the event was based “on new information we received earlier today” and was made in “the best interest of the rally’s attendees, speakers and our men and women in blue who protect and serve.”

Stolfer provided additional details, saying he received an email Wednesday morning from someone he didn’t know who said he was aware of a threat being shared online.

“Individuals were going to portray themselves as Second Amendment activists,” Stolfer said, describing the threat. “They were going to mix with the crowd and then they were going to start killing people. And the effort was to denigrate and cause a loss of prestige among legislators by misuse of firearms and to destroy our reputation.”

Stolfer declined to provide a copy of the email, saying he wanted guidance from law enforcement officials. Stolfer said after he received the email, he contacted Metcalfe who then contacted law enforcement.

Stolfer said he spoke with Pennsylvania Capitol Police on Wednesday. Troy Thompson, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of General Services, which oversees Capitol Police, didn’t immediately have details when contacted by a reporter.

Stolfer said about 1,500 to 2,000 people were expected to attend. The rally moved inside the Capitol a few years ago, Stolfer said, because of bad weather one year.

The annual event draws large crowds each year. Protesters can’t bring guns inside the Capitol, so those who bring them must check firearms with security or choose to remain outside.

This year’s event was scheduled to take place outside because of ongoing coronavirus restrictions at the state Capitol, so rally goers who had a license to carry concealed firearms could have legally had a gun during the entire event.

The rally would also have come after a week of protests in Harrisburg in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. On Wednesday, Gov. Tom Wolf participated in a peaceful march through the city’s streets. Over the weekend, however, a peaceful protest turned violent after police said a white woman broke the windshield of a police vehicle and someone else threw a brick at officers.

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