One day after Vermont lawmakers approved sweeping gun control measures that include limits on the size of magazines, gun-rights supporters held a large protest outside the state Capitol in Montpelier.
And to boost enthusiasm, they handed out gifts: Hundreds of free rifle magazines, each capable of holding 30 rounds of ammunition.
The stunt on Saturday was a direct jab at the new legislation, which Vermont Gov. Phil Scott has said he will sign. The amendment to the present law raises the purchase age of guns to 21; bans bump stocks, which allow semi-automatic weapons to fire more rapidly; and limits rifle magazines to 10 rounds.
But Vermont residents will be permitted to keep larger-capacity magazines they already own, creating a sense of urgency among state gun owners looking to stock up before the bill becomes law.
"My fear is that legislators will pass knee-jerk legislation without any depth, any meaning, and it’s really not going to make Vermont any safer," Rob Curtis, one of the rally’s organizers, told CNN affiliate WCAX. Curtis is executive editor of Recoil, a firearms lifestyle magazine.
Curtis reached out to firearm accessory manufacturer Magpul Industries, which shipped 1,200 magazines overnight to Vermont for the rally — an operation they dubbed the "Green Mountain Airlift." The magazines are intended for AR-15 and M4 assault-style weapons.
Saturday’s protest came exactly a week after the March for Our Lives rallies around the country in support of stricter gun control laws. Those student-led March 24 events included a rally in Montpelier that drew several thousand people, according to the Burlington Free Press.
Many #NeverAgain activists, who mobilized after the February 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, are calling for a ban on the assault-style rifles for which the magazines are intended.
Not surprisingly, gun control advocates slammed Saturday’s magazine giveaway.
"Raising the purchase age and banning high-capacity magazines and bump stocks are bipartisan solutions that are anything but knee-jerk," said Kris Brown, co-president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
"And if Rob Curtis is concerned about this legislation making Vermont safer, we’d like to understand how handing out rifle magazines to anyone passing by on the street makes anyone any safer."
The Vermont Senate approved the contentious gun-control package on Friday after the House of Representatives passed it earlier. It needs to pass a legal review before it goes to Scott for his signature.
Vermont’s vote came as other states are weighing gun safety restrictions after 17 people were killed in the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
But some people at Saturday’s protest didn’t feel that stricter gun laws are the best way to keep students safe.
"I’m all for protecting the kids, but I don’t think this is the way to go about it," Barry Wadle told WCAX. He said he and his wife had been at the statehouse all week lobbying against new gun restrictions.
"I’m hoping this will wake up the silent majority of Vermonters and get them out to vote and protect their rights," he said.