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UPDATE: Murphy Billboard Taken Down After Weekend Support Rally

Lilly Knoepp
Supporters pose with owner of Cherokee Guns Doc Wacholz(left) in front of the store's billboard. Wacholz confirmed the billboard is coming down this week.

UPDATE:(2:30 p.m. Tuesday ) Cherokee Guns confirms that the billboard was taken down this morning. The store had more time on their contract with Allison Advertising, which owns the billboard, so they put up a new message. 

The billboard now reads: "First Amendment. Enough Said. Cherkoee Guns." 

Last week, a billboard in Murphy made national headlines after detractors called it racist.  It stayed up through the weekend, a weekend that saw two mass shootings in Texas and Ohio that left more than 30 people dead.   A day after those shootings, gun rights advocates gathered in support of the billboard and the gun shop which put it up.   

 At a gas station parking lot on Highway 64 a crowd of over 30 people gathered Sunday afternoon to show their support for the now infamous “4 Horsemen” billboard put up by Cherokee Guns. Many wore “Trump 2020” or “Don’t Tread On Me” T-shirts and carried American flags. During the rally, they chanted U-S-A and prayed for the victims of the shootings.

Store owner Doc Wacholz says he is still glad he put up the billboard. 

“Well it did it’s intended job. It drove traffic and it woke up a lot of people,” explains Wacholz, who plans to vote for President Trump. Sales at the gun store have gone up throughout this controversy. 

This gathering was planned before this weekend’s mass shootings.  The billboard depicts four Democratic congresswomen that President Trump told to “go back” to their countries. Critics call those comments -  and this billboard - racist. 

 Wacholz says the billboard will come down.   

Before Wacholz opened the gun shop he was a drummer in Savatage - the metal band that became the popular group Trans Syberian Orchestra. 

 “It is coming down just because of the amount of stress that it’s putting on a lot of people,” says Wacholz, also including billboard company Allison Advertising. 

 “We’re getting death threats at Cherokee Guns and even our president is getting death threats which is really ridiculous.”  

Deborah Sanders from Murphy says those threats are one of the reasons she came out to support the billboard 

 “There is no racism in there whatsoever and for death threats; That’s absolutely ridiculous. If that is what liberals are considering tolerance then shame on them,” says Sanders. 

 Elaine Buckley and her husband Pete drove up from Blairsville, Georgia to be a part of the gathering. Elaine thinks there were fewer supporters because of the mass shootings over the weekend but she isn’t worried about any potential violence:  

Credit Lilly Knoepp
Elaine Buckley is originally from upstate New York. She and her husband Pete have been living in Blairsville, Georgia for six years. She brought two firearms to the rally.

“I pack and carry every day. I’m locked and loaded.” 

“Do you have a gun on you right now?” asks BPR’s Lilly Knoepp. 

“I have two.” 

 Elaine shows me where she keeps the gun in her waistband. 

“I have a .38 here. And I have a .380 in my purse.”

 Elaine says she’s had a conceal and carry permit since the 1990s when her house in upstate New York was burglarized.

Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.
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