Gun-rights group planning Whidbey gathering

A controversial gun-rights group will be holding an open meeting Saturday at Greenbank Farm.

Patriot Prayer, based out of Vancouver, Wash., will host an event called “Enforce the 2nd Amendment: Island County” from 3 to 5 p.m. at the barn on the farm.

The group’s founder, Joey Gibson, said it’s one of many he has been holding across Washington state in response to the gun control initiative that passed last November.

During the meeting, Gibson and other speakers will be urging Whidbey residents to push elected officials to sign an ordinance that prohibits public figures and public funds from going toward “enforcing unconstitutional laws.”

“It’s going to be focusing on the Second Amendment,” Gibson said.

South Whidbey High School senior Aryeh Rohde will also speak on behalf of another gun-rights group Washington 3 Percenters and Washington Libertarian Party.

Rohde said this will be the third event he’s done with Gibson.

The groups are not designated as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. However, the controversy derives from past events held by the group that white nationalist or alt-right groups such as the Proud Boys have attended and incited violence, according to the civil rights center.

Gibson said the notable Portland protests, in which most cases of violence occurred, are not the standard. He also said the Proud Boys group doesn’t attend his events anymore.

“We do rallies all over the state of Washington with no problems,” he said.

There has been concern over the event raised on social media and the Island County Sheriff’s’s Office was contacted. Sheriff Rick Felici said Monday he’d been made aware and he and his staff were in the process of “gathering facts” and determining what they should do.

Gibson said he encourages people who disagree with him and the group’s beliefs to come and talk, as long as it’s in a respectful manner.

Chris Michalopoulos, executive director of the Port of Coupeville, said he’s aware of the controversy around the group and notified surrounding tenants, the sheriff’s office and county commissioners about the event. Despite potential concerns, he was legally obligated to accept the application, he said.

Rohde, who is Jewish, said neither Patriot Prayer nor Washington 3 percenters is associated with white supremacists.

“It’d be a little strange for a white supremacist group to let a young Jewish person speak at their event,” he said.

The initiative the groups are against, I-1639, implemented increased background checks, storage requirements, waiting periods and increased the minimum age to buy a semiautomatic assault-style gun to 21. The age requirements took effect Jan. 1 and the rest of the measure’s provisions are set to take effect on July 1.

Just over 55 percent of Island County residents voted in favor of the initiative in the November general election.

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