Raleigh, N.C. — A North Carolina gun rights group accidentally gifted a banner to the leader of the state Senate Thursday when two men dressed as rhinoceroses rolled it up and handed it over to his office.
The rhinos – suggesting that Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and other Republican senators may be RINOs, or "Republicans In Name Only" – were part of a lampooning put on by Grass Roots North Carolina. The group is seeking passage of House Bill 746, which would loosen concealed carry rules.
This bill passed the House in June, but it's sitting without action in the Senate Rules Committee.
The banner, held aloft outside the Legislative Building during a rally earlier in the day, read "NC SENATE R.I.N.O.s: GIVING GUN OWNERS 'THE HORN SINCE ...?" A group of people – two clad in full-body rhinoceros costumes and a third with a professional video camera and tripod – entered the building, asked directions to Berger's office, signed the guest book outside his office and announced they had a gift for the senator.
A staffer accepted the rolled-up banner as the camera rolled, and four General Assembly sergeants-at-arms and a State Capitol Police officer looked on. One rhino had a large nametag that said "Sen. Phil Berger?" The other's said "NC Senate GOP?"
Berger, R-Rockingham, is one of the more conservative members of the General Assembly, and he's led the Senate as it implemented tax cuts, regulatory reforms and other Republican priorities. His office said he has "always been and remains a strong and principled defender of 2nd Amendment rights, with a 100 percent A+ rating from the NRA."
GRNC has endorsed him in the past, though it also has expressed concern about the movement of favored legislation.
The rhinos left Berger's office quickly Thursday, with Sean Sorrentino, a GRNC volunteer leading the crew, saying they had no intention of causing a disturbance.
Protesters have occasionally blocked legislative offices in recent years, and the left-leaning "Moral Monday" protests led to hundreds of arrests as people sang outside the doors of the House and the Senate and refused to leave the Legislative Building.
Sorrentino's group headed back outside, where GRNC President Paul Valone awaited an update.
"You gave them our banner?" Valone asked.
Apparently, there had been a miscommunication. But no worries.
"It's $70," Valone said. "We can make another one."