After March For Our Lives loses SLC venue, gun rights group again offers to host
(KUTV) — The Utah Gun Exchange, known for its "in-your-face" presence at gun rights rallies in Utah and across the country, again extended an invitation on Wednesday to March For Our Lives SLC to host a town hall with Parkland survivors, after the planned venue for the event fell through.
The company, owned in part by Bryan Melchior, is represented by its iconic BearCat armored vehicle, with a prop machine gun mounted on top. The group has been following the Parkland mass shooting survivors around the country for the last several weeks as the teens advocate for gun reform.
Melchior, a showman and avid marketer, says his style, and that machine gun, are all about getting attention.
“it's loud, it says, 'We're here,' it says, 'Don't ignore us,'” said Melchior.
It appears Megaplex Theaters could no longer ignore the growing tension surrounding a planned town hall on gun reform, organized by March For Our Lives SLC. The organization will host several of the high profile survivors of the Parkland mass shooting for a town hall event on Saturday. The theater company pulled the venue after news reports outlined how Utah Gun Exchange was traveling across the country following the survivors. In a statement, the theater chain said the tactics of the gun exchange and other gun rights advocates appeared “to be escalating into a potentially contentious situation where additional security will be required.”
Isaac Reese with March For Our Lives SLC said he isn’t sure why the theater pulled out, but said the Utah Gun Exchange's methods are seen as insensitive by many, particularly the presence of the BearCat and machine gun at most of the organization's events.
"Some people will debate them on that, so they should be able to handle the blowback from the general public,” Reese said.
In the past several weeks, however, that controversial machine gun has become a moot issue.
On June 24, while the gun exchange was parked near the parade route of an LGBTQ+ parade in New York City, several people called to complain. Police responded, arrested Melchior and confiscated the gun.
“The NYPD stole that,” Melchior said. On a video of the arrest taken by UGE staffers, one officer can be heard saying, “You drive around like this, of course you’re going to get called in New York City.”
As for March For Our Lives, they say they are still looking for an alternative venue, but no matter what happens, the event will go on. It is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Saturday.