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UPDATED: Utah Gun Exchange counter-protesting Parkland students

Update: March For Our Lives SLC organizers announced on Wednesday afternoon that Megaplex Theaters had canceled their event, saying that the event “appears to be escalating into a potentially contentious situation.”

SALT LAKE CITY — Members of a Utah-based online gun marketplace are touring the country, holding counter-protests in support of gun rights.

The Utah Gun Exchange is targeting events put on the gun control group March For Our Lives. The student-led March For Our Lives organized in the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in February.

The gun exchange members hope to provide a counterpoint.

“We showed up last night at an event near Tampa. We were the sole voice in support of the Second Amendment,” Utah Gun Exchange co-owner Bryan Melchior said during an interview on Utah’s Morning News with Brian and Amanda.

Listen to the full interview:

The Utah Gun Exchange is traveling with a military-style armored vehicle. It’s marked with the company’s logo and has a fake machine gun mounted on top.

Melchoir and others are also encouraging Utahns to show up at a March For Our Lives rally planned in Utah this weekend.

Survivors of the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School are again helping organize the Utah rally, advocating for more strict controls on access to firearms in the United States.

Brian and Amanda asked Melchoir if the counter-protests are insensitive, considering some of the March For Our Lives participants are victims of a mass shooting that took 17 lives.

“These people are on the road on a mission to deprive us of our civil rights,” Melchoir said. “Please come talk to us.”

The Salt Lake City chapter of March For Our Lives had originally secured space for the rally at Salt Lake Community College’s Redwood campus on Saturday. Scheduling conflicts forced them to look for a new venue.

The Utah Gun Exchange offered their own space for a rally and a discussion, but March For Our Lives organizers instead booked a space at the Megaplex Theaters in South Jordan. They intend to hold a panel discussion from 6-7:30 p.m.

UPDATE: Megaplex Theaters will no longer host the town hall scheduled for this Saturday saying that “the full context wasn’t fully understood and now appears to be escalating into a potentially contentious situation where additional security will be required.” Megaplex is refunding all the deposits and helping the organizers to find an appropriate location for this event. 

In a post on the March for Our Lives Salt Lake City Facebook page they said they were heartbroken and blindsided by the turn of events, and even more so by the “inappropriate behavior and intimidation tactics by outside groups that led to these circumstances.”

On its website, the Utah Gun Exchange encouraged its members to attend the discussion in the hopes of finding “sensible solutions for the safety of our children and communities.” The post advised gun exchange members that firearms will not be allowed at the venue and bags will be checked at the door.