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They were unable to stop Connecticut’s General Assembly last year from passing sweeping gun control legislation, but gun rights advocates gathered Saturday at the state Capitol to let lawmakers know they will make their voices heard at the ballot box.

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A year and a day after Democratic Gov. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed legislation that banned the future purchase of assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, the Connecticut Citizens Defense League organized the rally to mark the day Malloy made “the Second Amendment a privilege and not a right.”

The rally, according to state Capitol police, attracted more than 3,000 from Connecticut and a handful of states, including Mississippi, Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York.

Scott Wilson, president of the CCDL, told the crowd that Malloy referred to “us all as the fringe of the fringe.” He said the governor told gun owners that they lost and should just get over it.

“I don’t know about you, but I am only not over it, I am madder than hell,” Wilson said to cheers from the crowd. “Gun control was the fig leaf that concealed their disastrous failures.”

He said they exploited the tragedy at Sandy Hook where a gunman took the lives of 20 children and six educators to push through their gun control agenda. This year there is no new legislation pending in Connecticut related to guns.

“Certain legislators are hiding from their vote last year and are probably grateful no talk of gun control has come up so far. Some of them are not just hiding, some of them are thumbing their noses at us while hiding in plain sight as they run for higher office,” Wilson said referring to Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney and Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, two Republican gubernatorial candidates.

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Bill Stevens of Newtown said he was heartbroken when he heard what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but “it wasn’t the AR-15 that killed 26 innocent people in my town. It was a mentally ill shooter who pulled the trigger and this law does nothing to address that.”

He went on to challenge McKinney to come over to his home and see how many bullets he has in his magazine.

“The German Shepherds will give you a nice warm welcome. Instead of chewing on deer bones, they can chew on a RINO,” Stevens said to cheers.

Stevens said he’s heard the argument from some Republicans that they need a moderate candidate to unseat Malloy and fix the economy. “Why trade our liberal enemy Dannel Malloy for an oath breaking RINO as governor? Someone who will vote our rights away but promises to fix the economy and lower our taxes.”

He said if the Republican Party expects us to “give up our unalienable right endowed by our Creator for lower taxes? I’m sorry but our rights are not for sale.”

He said it would be an added bonuses if they lowered taxes and improved the economy, but he’s voting for a Second Amendment candidate above every other issue.

Wilson said there are some in the political arena and the media who doubt the group’s ability to impact the 2014 election.

“Do not let these people define who we are or what we will do,” Wilson said. “If we are going to win we will have to do more than just voting. I am asking Second Amendment supporters to get out of their comfort zone and contribute a few dollars to a good candidate or two. That will not be enough. I am asking for people to volunteer on campaigns. That will not be enough.”

He asked the crowd to reach out to the Second Amendment candidates in their district to help get them elected. He said CCDL will endorse candidates who are members after the conventions next month.

Christine Stuart photo

Anna Kopperud, the NRA’s liaison to Connecticut, said the General Assembly passed a law “that transforms your God-given right into a government regulated privilege.”

But she said the scariest part of the new law is that Malloy “can force you to go down to your local city precinct with your guns, and force you to turn them in.”

She said she promises the NRA is going to continue to fight back by supporting candidates who support the Second Amendment or opposing those who don’t. She said they would also continue to fight them in court.

The NRA has helped the CCDL with its lawsuit against the state challenging the constitutionality of the 2013 law. However, the law was upheld by a federal court judge in January and the group has appealed the decision to the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Kopperud said she believes two important battles already have been won. Sen. President Donald Williams, whom she called “the godfather of gun bans” despite his vote against the assault weapons ban during his first-term, is not seeking re-election.

“And that’s because of you. And House Minority Leader Larry Cafero, one of the water boys for the gun banners, has been chased out of the governor’s race and is no longer running for re-election because of you,” Kopperud said to a cheering crowd. “They’re just the first two. We’re going to come after all of them with good old-fashion bare knuckle campaign brawling.”

Those who attended the rally included Republican gubernatorial candidates Tom Foley, Martha Dean, and Joe Visconti. None of them were allowed to speak at the event, but Foley and Dean have addressed the CCDL at their monthly meetings in Middletown.

For those who were unable to attend, the CCDL offered a livestream of the event, which tracked 4,012 views over the course of the afternoon.