SALEM, Ore. (AP) Hundreds of demonstrators, many armed with high-powered rifles, descended on the Oregon Capitol on Friday in response to calls for stiffer gun restrictions in the wake of recent mass shootings.
Protesters said they wanted to show state lawmakers that they're peaceful, law-abiding gun owners and will fight new gun-control laws.
"We're out there, we're going to fight, and we're not going to lay down and take it," said Arin Forrest, a 33-year-old Portland man who clutched an American flag, an AR-15 rifle slung over his shoulder. "If they're going to take our rights, they need to look us in the eye and tell us why."
Under Oregon law, it's legal to openly carry a weapon in public, and people with concealed handgun licenses can carry their weapons in the Capitol. Most of the demonstrators kept their protest across the street from the statehouse, but a handful brought their weapons indoors.
Craig Jones, 28, of Bend, explored the Capitol with two friends, all three carrying high-powered rifles.
"I felt it's important for us to voice our concerns as taxpayers and registered voters," Jones said, standing in a corridor between offices for senators. "If we want our representatives to represent us, we have to tell them what we want."
The state police had extra troopers on hand, and signs on the Capitol's revolving doors warned visitors that firearms are prohibited without a concealed-carry permit.
Protecting gun-ownership rights is critical to ensuring the government doesn't become tyrannical, said Andy Harris, 45, of Beaverton.
"Thankfully we haven't had to worry about that, but we don't know what the future will hold," said Harris, who carried a home-built AR-15 rifle over his shoulder and a Glock 19 pistol on his hip.
Some Democratic legislators have introduced various bills requiring background checks for private gun sales, banning certain rifles and high-capacity magazines or prohibiting firearms in schools. Democrats control the House and Senate, but legislative leaders have said gun-control measures would be a tough sell with Republicans and centrist Democrats whose support would be needed.
"It's ludicrous that it's being shoved down our throats that we don't have the right to protect ourselves," said Richard Hannan, of Gresham. "The government is out of control."
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.