HAMILTON - If anybody was looking to take a constitutional right, or anything else, away from the well-armed folks standing along Hamilton's main drag Wednesday, they might well have been in for a nasty fight.
Never mind the impressive arsenal at hand - there was everything from assorted pistols to hunting rifles to a bayoneted 1816 muzzle-loading musket to a PTR 91 .308 caliber assault rifle - a message was on display, brought with intent by the roughly fourscore who lined U.S. Highway 93.
The rally placards waved at passing vehicles declared this was a group ready to do battle for the right to own and carry a gun.
"Our rights are granted to us by God, not by any human being," said Duane Sipe of Hamilton, owner of the PTR 91. "And no one can take them away. They're called inalienable rights - the Declaration of Independence."
The day's rally, which was organized by the Celebrating Conservatism group, was intended as a keystone event for the group's "Celebration of Right to Bear Arms Week."
An ad the group ran on the Ravalli Republic's back page offered a host of names signed in support of a "2nd Amendment Declaration," which warned the government against efforts to "further tax, restrict or register firearms or otherwise impose on the right that shall not be infringed."
Mona Docteur, Celebrating Conservatism's treasurer, said 1,000 people, mostly from Ravalli County, had signed the declaration.
Though she could not point to any specific tax levied on guns, she said she was sure such taxes exist.
Docteur was also not aware of any recent federal laws restricting gun rights, but she insisted that any law regulating guns would be unconstitutional, pointing to what she called the nation's 33,000 unconstitutional state and federal gun laws currently on the books.
The message that people are within their rights to resist, even overthrow, unjust government should be understood by everyone, she added.
Docteur said the reason people have been turning out in droves to her group's meetings is because they are frustrated with their government.
"People have been quiet for a long time, sitting at home and yelling at the television or at the newspaper or at their computer, because they feel disenfranchised and disrespected and because they don't feel represented," Docteur said.
Most of those on the street in Hamilton on Wednesday appeared to agree.
Lee Reynolds of Conner said that given recent trends in government, he feels the need to exercise his Second Amendment rights more than ever.
"We're doing our First and Second Amendment rights today and that's what it's all about, isn't it?" Reynolds said. "We need to exercise (our rights) periodically. For our own good, we just need to carry on our life as free Americans."
Marie Karpati said she felt that the government was infringing on other rights as well.
"One of my amendments that I'm really concerned with is religion," Karpati said. "They took God out of the schools and they took God out of most businesses as well. ... I was arrested (in Denver) for praying on a sidewalk."
At the other end of this Hamilton sidewalk, across Main Street and down the line of gun-carrying, sign-wielding rallygoers, Sipe said he didn't mind the fact that now and again, among passers-by honking in support, he heard detractors.
"Even people who drive by and flip us the bird, like someone did a little while ago, they don't understand that we're defending their rights, too," Sipe said.
Ravalli Republic reporter Sepp Jannotta can be reached at 363-3300 or email@example.com.