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Gadsden flag not a red flag at gun club

Can the Ashland Gun Club fly a Gadsden flag on its property?

— George, via phone

There is no specific clause prohibiting flags or signage outlined in the lease the Ashland Gun & Archery Club maintains with the city of Ashland, according to City Manager Pro Tem Adam Hanks.

“There is no particular history or story behind the Gadsden flag at the Ashland Gun & Archery Club. It just represents a historic and patriotic symbol of the American Revolution, displayed in support of independence and all of the freedoms enshrined in the U.S. Constitution including the Second Amendment,” said club board member Gary Peterson.

Like many examples of political iconography, the flag’s meaning is up for debate.

The coiled rattlesnake, bright yellow background and words “Don’t Tread On Me” have been used to symbolize a variety of movements and ideologies since Christopher Gadsden, a colonel in the Continental Army, allegedly gifted the flag to a naval commander to crown his fleet in the 1750s during the American Revolutionary War.

Over time, the flag came to signify anti-government sentiment and extremism for some, including Ku Klux Klan leaders in the 1960s and Earth First! in the 1970s. Tea Party meetings in the 2000s sometimes featured the flag, and late-2000s internet memes latched on to the potential for bastardizing the message, inventing infinite branch-off meanings in the process. In 2020, some people used the flag to protest pandemic stay-at-home orders.

But throughout the flag’s history, many have resisted the claiming of the flag by any one group or political persuasion, according to an article published in High Country News. The article followed the flag from Portland streets where it waved next to Nazi salutes, to the homes of people who were raised respecting the flag as a symbol of historic civil liberties.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.