More guns means a safer society, dinner guests say

Hundreds turn out to affirm their commitment to unrestricted gun rights amid post-Parkland outcry

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  • Military veterans Rich Morholt and Tom Heying in the anteroom prior to the dinner (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)

  • The Rev. Hyung Jin Moon, Sean Moon speaks to the media (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)

  • (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)

  • Tom (“Chief”) Burke (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)

  • Victor More, a church member (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)

  • (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)

  • Welcoming remarks for the dinner were given by Edward O’Grady, master of ceremonies for the evening (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)

  • John Paul (“Jack”) Harris came from Scranton (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)

  • Dang Moonsook, one of a large delegation that came from Korea to attend the dinner (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)

  • Keynote speaker Larry Pratt speaks to the media (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)

  • The Rev. Hyung Jin Moon and his wife, Yeon Ah Lee Moon, dispense smiles and hugs as the reception line moves forward (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)

By Frances Ruth Harris

— No guns were in sight at Saturday night's "Thank You President Trump" dinner, hosted by the The World Peace and Unification Sanctuary Church at the Best Western in Matamoras. But guns were central to the evening's proceedings, which raised nearly $8,000 to the Gun Owners of America, a foundation that fights for unrestricted gun rights.

In the hallways, party-goers discussed how the Best Western manager put the kibosh on the planned raffle of an AR-15 assault rifle, the same type used to slaughter 17 high school students in Florida on Valentine's Day, 26 parishioners in a Texas church last November, and 58 people at a concert in Las Vegas last October — three of the ten deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history clustered in only five months. This latest incident has roiled the politics around gun rights, leading Best Western, among other companies, to cut off partnerships with the National Rifle Association to offer discounts and benefits to its members.

Despite the muted gun presence, support for gun rights remained strong among the group. Among the assembled, the only recourse was more guns to take out mass shooters because they can do harm.

"We're telling legislators if you don't support getting rid of gun-free zones, the blood of those children is on your hands," guest speaker Larry Pratt, head of Gun Owners of America, told the crowd. "Don't talk about the children."

Pratt said he would tell survivors of mass shootings, and those mourning family and friends, to arm themselves.

A press conference before the dinner had the Rev. Hyung Jin Moon, also known as Sean Moon, of the The World Peace and Unification Sanctuary Church citing Biblical passages that he said supports the rights of people to keep and bear arms. Once there were only muskets, he said, but now that more effective weapons are available, we must use them. The pastor's brother, Justin Moon, owns Kahr Arms, a gun manufacturer with a warehouse and retail outlet in Greeley.

Pastor Moon was critical of companies that cut ties with the NRA, saying it diminishes citizens' rights.

Pratt said he hopes to bring a bill to President Trump's desk making it possible for gunowners to bring their guns from one state to another, even those states that have adopted gun control measures.

"It's an issue that people aren't trained and armed and able to stand up and defend other people," the Rev. Moon said. "So for us, it's not only a second amendment right. For us it's a human right."

Moon had slammed the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit organization that tracks extremist groups, for putting his church on their "Hatewatch." The center calls the church "anti LGBT."

'It's important to be here'A VIP reception immediately followed the press conference. People who paid $100, twice the ticket price, had a private meeting with Pratt before the dinner. Those attending the only the dinner were admitted to the dining hall at 6 p.m.

316 people were on the guest list posted in the anteroom leading into the dining hall. Pike County Commissioner Richard Caridi came to the dinner. Military veterans Rich Morholt and Tom Heying, a member of the American Legion in Milford and a member of VETSTOCK, chatted in the anteroom.

Tom "Chief" Burke, another veteran and a member of The Sanctuary Church, arrived early, as did church member Victor More. "The pastor is blessed," said Burke.

Everyone from the church and Kahr Arms knew "the chief"; many were happy to see him and gave him hugs. Burke was scheduled to introduce Pastor Moon Sean Moon at a church ceremony on Feb. 28 that will bless couples bringing AR-15s or receipts for this type of gun.

John Paul Harris came from his hometown of Scranton. He wrote the song "America and Peace" and the book "Beyond My Wildest Dreams." He said he sings at veterans' events and that he owns 15 guns.

"When I go to church, that's where I'm at on Sunday morning," Harris said. "It's important to be here. I want to meet Larry Pratt. I want to support him for gun owners and the NRA." He said, Every place the gun laws are the strictest, the crime rate is the highest."

Editor's note: The blessing ceremony on Wednesday, as this paper goes to press, attracted the national media and lots of protesters. Check for updates.

Related story"Local church to hold four-day celebration of assault rifles":

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