STATES ON GUNS
Where the states stand on guns and violence as legislatures meet this year in the aftermath of mass killings. The District of Columbia, which already has strict gun laws, has no plans to further tighten them.
Considering gun restrictions
Considering loosening gun restrictions
Considering measures on school-safety
Considering measures on mental-health
Source: USA TODAY research
The recurring message from state capitals: Responsible gun owners should be left alone.
(Photo: Jim Cole, AP)
Protesters said they were opposed to stricter gun-control measures
1,000 people turned out for the rally in Hartford, 50 miles from Newtown
Gatherings took place just days after President Obama announced his gun proposals
Thousands of gun rights supporters gathered at state capitols around the country Saturday to rally against new laws to regulate on firearms proposed by President Obama in the wake of last month's school shooting in Connecticut.
The crowds included people of all ages, some waving flags and holding signs saying "Don't Tread on Me" and "Stand behind the Second Amendment."
A recurring message was that responsible gun owners should be left alone.
"The current administration wants to control every aspect of our lives," Alabama Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan said to the crowd at the state capitol in Montgomery. "We need to use our state motto — 'Dare to defend our rights.' "
The rallies were part of a grass-roots effort, called Guns Across America, initiated by Texas resident Eric Reed. The group's Facebook page listed plans for protests in 46 states.
Police in Connecticut said about 1,000 people showed up on the capitol grounds in Hartford, about 50 miles from the site of last month's mass shooting at Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary School. Demonstrators there urged state and federal authorities not to introduce new restrictions on gun ownership as task forces created by the Legislature and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy consider changes to state gun laws.
In Albany, N.Y., several thousand people aimed their protests at Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who this week signed legislation that puts a tighter ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Protesters chanted "Freedom," "U.S.A." and "Cuomo's Gotta Go." Some gun owners said they are being unfairly targeted by the new law.
James Wilson carries a "Come and take it" flag Saturday during a gun rights demonstration on the lawn of the Capitol in Montgomery, Ala. Dave Martin, AP
"I don't feel like I'm a criminal. In order to keep order, we need good guys with guns," said Heather Johnson of Kirkville, N.Y.
At the Iowa capitol in Des Moines, state Rep. Tom Shaw told the crowd that serving overseas in the Navy had taught him the importance of allowing average citizens to defend themselves against dictators.
"I saw the eyes of the oppressed ... screaming for freedom," Shaw said. "I'm going to make sure that never happens in America and never happens in Iowa."
Chris Chaney, 23, of Davenport, Iowa, said he's disgusted by what he sees as the use of children's deaths in the Connecticut school shooting to win political support for gun-control legislation.
"If we give up liberty in the name of security, we will have neither," Chaney said. "Everybody has a right to defend themselves against evil people and tyranny."
Nearly 100 gun advocates drove from across South Dakota to attend a rally under the state's capitol dome in Pierre, where speakers praised gun rights as the only defense against tyranny and crime.
"When you try to take away our right to bear guns, you're trying to tear our country down," said Jeff Monroe, a state senator who addressed the crowd.
There were no actual firearms visible at the rally, which was held inside the Capitol where only law enforcement officers are allowed to be armed.
But a rally in Frankfort, Ky., drew hundreds of participants, several shouldering firearms and wearing holsters, and Tea Party leader David Adams told the crowd, "Our government is out of control."
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., received a large round of applause for announcing this week that he wants to introduce legislation to overturn Obama's recent executive orders on firearms and for saying teachers should be armed at schools.
Authorities reported no problems at an rallies, which remained peaceful Saturday afternoon.
Contributing: Matt Okarmus of the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser, Joseph Spector of the Gannett Albany (N.Y.) Bureau, Jens Manuel Krogsatad of The Des Moines Register, David Montgomery of the (Sioux Falls, S.D.) Argus Leader, Tom Loftus or The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal, Terricha Bradley of the (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger; The Associated Press