Gun rights advocates marched on the National Mall Wednesday -- while "armed" with water pistols.
Gun rights advocates marched to the National Mall from Arlington while "armed" with water pistols before hosting a rally and a water fight Wednesday.
Organizers of the Toy Gun March said they were promoting responsible gun ownership and trying to place gun owners in a better light. Participants were asked to carry toy pistols with orange tips, water guns, nerf guns and "anything peaceful," the organizers posted on Facebook.
"And the Toy Gun Marchers are here to say that we believe in the second amendment right to bear arms, we believe in the Supreme Court decision, and we are here to say we come in peace," one organizer, Austin Petersen, told News4 during the march. Petersen is also editor of the Libertarian Republic.
"We are non-violent; we want to show people that we're respectful, and that we are responsible gun owners," he said.
The Toy Gun March was scheduled after a separate group's march with real guns, planned for Thursday, was canceled.
As a result, the U.S. Park Police issued a reminder that D.C. law prohibits carrying a rifle or shotgun within the city.
"Due to the fact that it is currently illegal to carry a loaded firearm into the District of Columbia, we liberty lovers have decided to tweak the nose of big government and show Obama what a clown he is for trying to restrict our natural rights," Toy Gun March organizers wrote on Facebook.
Before the march, the National Park Service planned to inspect realistic-looking guns to ensure that they were fake, organizers said, urging participants not to squirt the officers or aim their guns at them.
The small group gathered at 9 a.m. at the Memorial Bridge and made their way to the Washington Monument for a rally at 10:30 a.m.
"We're going to have a little free speech, a little fun," Petersen said in advance of the march. "A lot of kids are going to be here."
Events on the Mall, held through 2 p.m., also included face-painting, a water gun battle and a game of kickball. Attendees were able to refill their water guns from a 160-gallon tank.
The kid-oriented focus extended beyond face-painting: The group was also protesting harsh punishments that some schoolchildren have faced for having or playing with toy guns.
"We think that's wrong, because America is a gun culture," Petersen said, adding that a tongue-in-cheek contest would have competitors nibbling Pop Tarts into the shape of guns.
A 7-year-old Maryland boy was suspended from school earlier this year after a teacher said he bit a breakfast pastry into the shape of a gun.
The group also collected toys and money for Toys for Tots. At the conclusion of Wednesday's event, organizers presented a Toys for Tots representative with a $1,200 check and several boxes of donated toys.
And as fate would have it, the Toy Gun Marchers shared space on the bridge with another demonstration.
"I didn't even know about another march across the street," said anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan with a laugh. Sheehan was there finishing a cross-country bike ride on the Tour de Peace, advocating for an end to war.