Photo courtesy of Sean Kitchen
American Guard Members attending Daryl Metcalfe’s pro-gun rally on April 30
Gun owners run the gamut in America. According to a 2017 Pew Research report, white people have the highest percentage of gun owners at 36 percent, but black citizens aren’t far behind with a 24 percent gun-ownership rate. Republican-leaning Americans are more likely to own guns (44 percent of them do); 20 percent of Democratic-leaning Americans also own guns.
But state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe
(R-Cranberry) may be learning that if you come out extremely pro-gun in today’s America, you may be inviting some pretty extreme individuals to celebrate with you. On April 30, Metcalfe hosted a pro-gun rally at the Pennsylvania Capitol building in Harrisburg titled “Rally to Protect Your Right to Keep and Bear Arms.”
Rally-goers filled the Capitol rotunda to listen to speakers like Metcalfe, state Rep. Eli Evankovich (R-Murrysville) and NRA news host Cam Edwards. Republican gubernatorial candidate and Richland resident Paul Mango
was also in attendance. But the rally was also attended by members of the American Guard, which the Anti-Defamation League has labeled a white supremacy group
According the the ADL, the American Guard formed in Indiana in 2016 and officially went “national” in February 2017 with the stated goal of “voluntary community protection, activism, and service based around the ideals of American Constitutional Nationalism and the preservation of western culture.” At least two members at the pro-gun rally in Harrisburg wore American Guard Pennsylvania t-shirts, as first reported by the progressive blog Raging Chicken Press
In 2016, Brien James rebranded his group, Vinlanders Social Club,
group with a violent past, as American Guard. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center
, James admitted on Facebook that “several of us are former white nationalists. We are not ashamed of the choices we have made in life. We learn from them and move forward.” The head of the Florida America Guard chapter has a swastika tattooed on his shoulder, according to SPLC. According to Indianapolis' RTV6 news station, the American Guard attended the "Unite the Right"
rally in Charlottesville, Va. in August 2017. At this rally, some marchers chanted phrases like "Jews will not replace us" and shouted
"Hitler did nothing wrong."
Since forming, American Guard officials have said the group is a “Constitutional Nationalist” organization and rejects racism. However, memes on their Facebook page showcase anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric. American Guard posted on Facebook about the Harrisburg rally and asked people to join its cause in Pennsylvania. Indiana County comedian Zach Hudak, who mocked local African-American comic Day Bracey with a black-face video
in October 2017, expressed interest on Facebook, and James and others replied with help on how to get involved.
A request for comment to Metcalfe’s office went unanswered.
This isn't the first time the white nationalist/white supremacist crowd has associated with Metcalfe. In 2015, Metcalfe invited Bob Vandervoort to testify on behalf of his "English Only"
legislation. Vandervoort was head of ProEnglish, which SPLC called a “nativist extremist group.” Former state Rep. Leslie Acosta called Vandervoort a "white supremacist." In 2015, Metcalfe defended
Vandervoort, saying white nationalism is not the same as white supremacy.
"One group believes this premise that the white or Caucasian race is superior to everyone else and the nationalists just want a white or Caucasian majority in the country," Metcalfe said in 2015.
The American Guard is also supportive of President Donald Trump, particularly his anti-immigrant stances, and the group could be gaining some entrance into Republican politics in Pennsylvania. Raging Chicken Press also reported on April 30 that “the Pennsylvania Republican Party was also seen canvassing for emails and contact information at that rally.”