Thousands of gun advocates gathered peacefully at state capitals around the US to rally against stricter limits on firearms, with demonstrators carrying rifles and pistols in some places while those elsewhere settled for waving hand-scrawled signs or screaming themselves hoarse.
The size of crowds yesterday at each location varied — from dozens of people in South Dakota to 2,000 in New York. Large crowds also turned out in Connecticut, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Washington State.
Some demonstrators in Olympia, Washington; Phoenix, Salem, Oregon and Salt Lake City came with holstered handguns or rifles on their backs.
Activists promoted the “Guns Across America” rallies primarily through social media. They were being held just after US President Barack Obama unveiled a sweeping package of federal gun control proposals.
The crowd swelled to more than 800 amid balmy temperatures on the steps of the capitol in Austin, where speakers took the microphone under a giant Texas flag with “Independent” stamped across it. Homemade placards read “An Armed Society is a Polite Society,” “The Second Amendment Comes from God” and “Hey King O, I’m keeping my guns and my religion.”
“The thing that so angers me, and I think so angers you, is that this president is using children as a human shield to advance a very liberal agenda that will do nothing to protect them,” said state Representative Steve Toth, referring to last month’s elementary-school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.
Toth, a first-term Republican lawmaker, has introduced legislation banning within Texas any future federal limits on assault weapons or high-capacity magazines, though such a measure would violate the US Constitution.
Rallies at statehouses nationwide were organized by Eric Reed, an airline captain from the Houston area who in November last tear started a group called “More Gun Control [equals] More Crime.”
At the New York state capitol in Albany, about 2,000 people turned out for a chilly rally, many carrying US flags and banners reading: “Don’t Tread On Me.”
The event took place four days after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the US’ toughest assault weapon and magazine restrictions.
Republican Assemblyman Steven McLaughlin said the new law was “abuse of power” by the governor. Some in the crowd carried “Impeach Cuomo” signs. Protester Robert Candea called the restrictions “an outrage against humanity.”
Among the approximately 1,500 protesters in Olympia, Washington, was former National Football Association tight-end Clint Didier, who told the crowd to prepare “for the worst possible predicament” by stocking up on food, guns, ammunition, communication devices and medicine, the Olympian reported.
In Connecticut, where task forces created by the state legislature and Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy are considering changes to gun laws, police said about 1,000 people showed up at the capitol.
In Minnesota, where more than 500 people showed up at the capitol building in St Paul, Republican state Representative Tony Cornish said he would push to allow teachers to carry guns in school without a principal or superintendent’s approval and to allow 21-year-olds to carry guns on college campuses.
Capitol rallies also took place in Colorado, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana and New Mexico, among other states.