DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Two groups with opposing views on gun rights and gun control held rallies Saturday outside of Dallas City Hall. Students, community members and families impacted by gun violence gathered in the morning to advocate for gun control legislation, and, following that rally, there was a demonstration by people in support of gun rights.
These rallies happened about a mile away from the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center. This is also a day after President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the event.
The rally in support of gun rights began just as the student-organized one in favor of tighter gun control laws ended. Police said the rallies were held at different times to ensure there would be no clashes between both sides.
Hundreds of people packed into the Dallas City Hall plaza to hear inspiring messages and heartbreaking stories from supporters of more gun control laws. One of the speakers was a survivor of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting in 2012. He called it “the worst day of his life.”
The crowd watched as Manuel Oliver, the father of Parkland, Florida school shooting victim Joaquin Oliver, created a mural and placed flowers on it to honor the 17 people killed at Stoneman Douglas High School.
The student-led rally ended at around 12 p.m., and pro-gun supporters, many who were armed, showed up to voice their message. Many at the demonstration expressed they also want schools to be protected but in a way that works.
“I’m really sorry for their loss, and I understand where they get their positions from… based off these circumstances. But at the same time, not everyone who has a gun is a bad guy,” said Ryan Scogin.
Manuel Oliver said he’d like to find common ground with the pro-gun supporters.
“I understand that another group… they believe something different than what we believe. I am open to talking to them,” said Oliver.
Despite the opposing views at the rallies, many shared similar concerns of how to protect their communities and their children.
“We have armed guards in our banks, in our jewelry stores protecting our money. Why don’t we have armed guards protecting our children? Which are far more precious,” said Jason Van Dyke.
Other pro-gun supporters like 82-year-old Pat Williford wanted to show how proud they are to be armed.
“I just have one. It’s a six shootin’ pistol,” said Williford. “I’m conservative and want to keep my guns.”
Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall was also on hand to keep an eye on things around the area of the rallies.
“In law enforcement, this is a normal day. The chief should be here. This is where my officers are. It’s a Saturday, and we’re called to make sure the city of Dallas is safe,” said Chief Hall.
Although there was a brief argument between a few people with opposing views, the rallies, overall, remained peaceful.