Gun foes, supporters blast away at each other
Protests and counterprotests prompt police call, legal threats, fundraisers.
FIREARM FOES from the Philly-based CeaseFire PA have a simple answer for the gun-rights activists who have increasingly targeted them for protest: Bring it!
Gun owners have shown up to CeaseFire PA rallies and events in bigger and louder groups, videotaping the goings-on and counterprotesting, said Shira Goodman, the group's executive director. Last month, Pittsburgh-area gun-rights activists visited CeaseFire PA's Center City office, prompting flustered staffers to call police.
But CeaseFire is turning the criticism into cash: Goodman started a "Beat Back the Bullies" fund and is using her opponents to drum up support for her cause. They've raised almost $5,000 so far.
"I hate asking you for money. But these bullies are trying to silence us. We need the resources to continue our important work," Goodman blogged to supporters last week in a post titled "We Might Need a Restraining Order."
Reached by phone yesterday, she added, "If they want to intimidate and bully, we will not back down."
Kim Stolfer, the activist who visited Goodman's office on March 26, agreed yesterday that he and other gun-rights supporters have stepped up their CeaseFire PA protests - but only because lawmakers have complained about the anti-gun lobby.
He insisted that he didn't intend to intimidate or bully, and was polite and professional when he stopped by CeaseFire PA's office after visiting gun supporters regionally as president and chairman of Pittsburgh-based Firearms Owners Against Crime.
But CeaseFire PA staffers got "blustery" with him, demanded that he leave and refused his request for tax paperwork they are legally required to provide upon request, he said. (Goodman said staffers mailed it the next day.)
An activist accompanying him videotaped the encounter, but Stolfer declined to release the tape on his lawyer's advice, saying they're mulling legal action. A police spokeswoman confirmed police were called to CeaseFire's office that afternoon but issued no citations.
Tensions have simmered between the groups for years in a state where urban lawmakers have repeatedly, unsuccessfully, tried to toughen gun laws. Last May, dueling pro- and anti-gun protests in a Morrisville, Bucks County, park prompted Little League teams to cancel their pre-Mother's Day games there.
Stolfer said he plans to investigate CeaseFire PA's financials. His group and other gun supporters will gather in Harrisburg next Tuesday for their annual Second Amendment rally.
Goodman said she'll consider hiring security for future events if critics' protests escalate. CeaseFire PA's next gun violence prevention rally will be May 10 in LOVE Park.