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Thousands rally against stricter gun control in US

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Thousands of gun advocates gathered peacefully Saturday at state capitals around the U.S. 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 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, Wash., Phoenix, Salem, Ore., and Salt Lake City came with holstered handguns or rifles on their backs. At the Kentucky Capitol in Frankfort, attendees gave a special round of applause for "the ladies that are packin'."

Activists promoted the "Guns Across America" rallies primarily through social media. They were being held just after 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 pink-hued 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 Rep. Steve Toth, referencing last month's elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn.

Toth, a first-term Republican lawmaker from The Woodlands outside Houston, has introduced legislation banning within Texas any future federal limits on assault weapons or high-capacity magazines, though such a measure would violate the U.S. Constitution.

Rallies at statehouses nationwide were organized by Eric Reed, an airline captain from the Houston area who in November started a group called "More Gun Control (equals) More Crime." Its Facebook page has been "liked" by more than 17,000 people.

Texas law has some restrictions on where concealed handgun license-holders can carry firearms, but they are allowed at most places, including the Capitol. But Reed said rally-goers shouldn't expose their weapons: "I don't want anyone to get arrested."

A man who identified himself only as "Texas Mob Father" carried a camouflaged assault rifle strapped to his back during the Austin rally, but he was believed to be the only one to display a gun. Radio personality Alan LaFrance told the crowd he brought a Glock 19, but he kept it out of sight.

At the New York state Capitol in Albany, about 2,000 people turned out for a chilly rally, where they chanted "We the People," ''USA," and "Freedom." Many carried American flags and "Don't Tread On Me" banners. The event took place four days after Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the nation's 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."

About 1,500 people showed up in Olympia, Wash. Former NFL tight end Clint Didier, who unsuccessfully ran for the GOP Senate nomination in the 2010 election, urged the crowd to prepare "for the worst possible predicament" by stocking up on food, guns, ammunition, communication devices and medicines, The Olympian newspaper reported.

In Connecticut, where task forces created by the Legislature and Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy are considering changes to gun laws, police said about 1,000 people showed up on the Capitol grounds. One demonstrator at the rally in Maine, Joe Getchell of Pittsfield, said every law-abiding citizen has a right to bear arms.

In Minnesota, where more than 500 people showed up at the Capitol in St. Paul, Republican state Rep. 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, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin, among other states.

Back in Texas, Houston resident Robert Thompson attended the rally with his wife and children, ages 12, 5 and 4. Many in the family wore T-shirts reading: "The Second Amendment Protects the First."

"What we are facing now is an assault weapons ban, but if they do this, what will do they do next?" Thompson asked.

William Lawson drove more than four hours from Wichita Falls and held up a sign reading "Modern Musket" over the image of an assault rifle and the words, "An American Tradition since 1776."

"I'm not some wild-eyed person who wants to fight in the streets," Lawson said. "This is a country of laws. But I want to protect our Constitution."

Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson conceded that the Second Amendment sometimes leads to killings, but he told the crowd that the First Amendment can be just as dangerous. Patterson said news coverage of those responsible for mass shootings can spark copy-cat shootings.

"All of us here, together, are right about our liberty," Patterson said. "And we will not back down."

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Associated Press writers Bob Christie in Phoenix, Ian Pickus in Albany, N.Y., Emery P. Dalesio, Raleigh, N.C., and Debbi Morello in Hartford, Conn., contributed to this report.


 

5 hurt in shootings at gun shows in Ohio, Ind., NC

MEDINA, Ohio (AP) — Accidental shootings at gun shows in North Carolina, Indiana and Ohio left five people injured Saturday, the same day that thousands of gun advocates gathered peacefully at state capitals around the U.S. to rally against stricter firearm limits.

At the Dixie Gun and Knife Show in Raleigh, a 12-gauge shotgun discharged as its owner unzipped its case for a law enforcement officer to check at a security entrance, injuring three people, state Agriculture Department spokesman Brian Long said.

Two bystanders were hit by shotgun pellets and taken to a hospital. A retired deputy sheriff suffered a slight hand injury.

The shotgun's owner, 36-year-old Gary Lynn Wilson, brought the weapon to the show to find a private buyer, Long said. Sheriff Donnie Harrison said that it was too early to know whether Wilson might be charged but that it appeared to be an accident.

The North Carolina show, which is held at the state fairgrounds, is a quarterly event that usually draws thousands of people. The two-day show shut down early Saturday but will reopen Sunday.

In Indianapolis, police said a 54-year-old man was injured when he inadvertently shot himself while leaving a gun show.

Emory L. Cozee was loading his .45-caliber semi-automatic when he shot himself in the hand as he was leaving the Indy 1500 Gun and Knife show at the state fairgrounds, state police said. Loaded personal weapons aren't allowed inside the show.

Cozee, of Indianapolis, was hospitalized for treatment. Police say the shooting was accidental and no charges will be filed.

And in Ohio, a gun dealer in Medina was checking out a semi-automatic handgun he had bought Saturday when he accidentally pulled the trigger, injuring his friend, police said. The gun's magazine had been removed from the firearm, but one round remained in the chamber, police said.

Police Chief Pat Berarducci said it appears the bullet ricocheted off the floor and struck the friend in the arm and leg. The man was taken by helicopter to a hospital 30 miles north in Cleveland, Berarducci said. His condition wasn't immediately known.

The gun rallies held Saturday coincide with President Barack Obama's unveiling of a sweeping package of federal gun-control proposals in the wake of a Connecticut elementary school shooting that killed 20 first-graders and six educators last month.

 

 

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