Protesters take verbal shots at Nugent

PAUL FRANZ, Staff Writer - Sunday News - 04/26/2009

Heeding God’s Call group targets rock star’s gun message and flow of illegal weapons

"Hey, Obama, you might want to suck on these, you punk!" Ted Nugent screamed onstage, waving two assault rifles during a 2007 concert.

image

A Ted Nugent supporter engages protesters lined up across the street from the Elstonville Sportsmen's Association in Rapho Township. Nugent, a guitarist and NRA member, spoke to about 150 people Saturday about gun rights. (Jeff Ruppenthal/Sunday News)

Nugent, a well-known gun rights advocate, had his audience screaming in wild adulation.

Bryan Miller wasn't impressed.

"Nugent is a promoter of violence," said Miller, a Haddonfield, N.J, native whose brother died in a 1994 shooting.

"He believes guns are the way you settle conflict. That's immoral."

Sixteen protesters rallied against Nugent and gun violence Saturday afternoon across the street from the Elstonville Sportsmen's Association in Rapho Township, where Nugent spoke to about 150 people.

image

A protester holds a sign expressing outrage at straw purchases in which someone legally buys a gun and gives it to someone else. (Jeff Ruppenthal/Sunday News)

Gun violence changed Miller's life.

His brother, Michael Miller, an FBI special agent, was gunned down in a hail of 9mm bullets fired from an illegal Ingram MAC-11 automatic handgun.

The gunman, a triple-homicide suspect, randomly entered the office where Miller worked as a cold-case detective at the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Headquarters. The gunman opened fire, killing Michael Miller and two other FBI agents before taking his own life.

"It not only was horrific — it's still horrific," Bryan Miller said. "There's no such thing as closure. I still wake up and can't believe that it happened."

Unfurling a large white banner which read "Act to End Gun Violence," Miller, 58, said his brother's death made him give up a 25-year career in international business to work as the executive director for Ceasefire NJ, a group that lobbies for stricter gun laws in New Jersey.

Protesters who lined the western side of Pinch Road said Nugent's flamboyant defense of gun ownership sends the wrong message.

"He glorifies violence," said Fred Kauffman, of Philadelphia.

"Anti-gunners side with the rapist. It's a simple line drawn in the sand. Either you shoot the rapist or you let the rapist keep raping," Nugent told the crowd at the sportsmen's association.

An ardent member of the National Rifle Association, Nugent believes putting more guns into the hands of "law-abiding citizens" would reduce gun crime.

"There's an epidemic of gun violence in the United States," said Harold Penner, of Akron, but "[Nugent] thinks everyone should have a gun — guns only increase violence."

Most of those protesting Saturday agreed that basic hunting weapons should be legal.

Assault weapons and easily concealable handguns were another matter.

"I grew up hunting," Kauffman said. "I don't have a problem with hunting weapons. It's illegal gun traffic that concerns me the most."

The MAC-11 used to kill Special Agent Michael Miller was traced to a man in Kentucky who sold guns to convicted criminals.

Nugent would have none of it Saturday, telling supporters that "gun control is laughable."

Protestors Saturday held more nuanced views on gun control.

"When people are killed by guns in New Jersey, they're killed by guns that are trafficked from other states," Bryan Miller said. "The largest external source [of guns] in New Jersey is Pennsylvania, which has very lax gun laws."

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun control lobby founded by President Ronald Reagan's former press secretary, Jim Brady, rates New Jersey as having the second-strongest gun laws in the country next to California.

Brady, who was almost killed in a 1981 assassination attempt on Reagan and is now paralyzed, rates Pennsylvania as having the 10th most stringent gun laws in the country.

People of diverse faith traditions made up the small crowd Saturday.

Weapons such as handguns go from gun shops to the street corner too easily, said Kauffman, a representative of Heeding God's Call, a conference of Quaker, Mennonite and Brethren churches that protest gun violence.

"When Jesus said love your enemies, I think he probably meant don't kill them," said Joan Huston, of Elizabethtown. "I feel really sad when I hear God's name in connection with [gun rights]."

Paul Franz is a Sunday News staff writer. Contact him at pfranz@lnpnews.com or at 295-5063.