Thousands march for gun control in Washington

By BRETT ZONGKER | Associated Press Published:

WASHINGTON -- Thousands of people, many holding signs with names of gun violence victims and messages such as "Ban Assault Weapons Now," joined a rally for gun control on Saturday, marching from the Capitol to the Washington Monument.

Leading the crowd were marchers with "We Are Sandy Hook" signs, paying tribute to victims of the December school shooting in Newtown, Conn. Washington Mayor Vincent Gray and other city officials marched alongside them. The crowd stretched for at least two blocks along Constitution Avenue.

Participants held signs reading "Gun Control Now," "Stop NRA" and "What Would Jesus Pack?" among other messages. Other signs were simple and white, with the names of victims of gun violence.

About 100 residents from Newtown, where a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six teachers, traveled to Washington together, organizers said.

Participant Kara Baekey from nearby Norwalk, Conn., said that when she heard about the Newtown shooting, she immediately thought of her two young children. She said she decided she must take action, and that's why she traveled to Washington for the march.

"I wanted to make sure this never happens at my kids' school or any other school," Baekey said. "It just can't happen again."

Once the crowd arrived at the monument, speakers called for a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition and for universal background checks on gun sales.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the crowd it's not about taking away Second Amendment gun rights, but about gun safety and saving lives. He said he and President Barack Obama would do everything they could to enact gun control policies.

"This is about trying to create a climate in which our children can grow up free of fear," Duncan said. "This march is a starting point; it is not an ending point ... We must act, we must act, we must act."

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.'s non-voting representative in Congress, said the gun lobby can be stopped, and the crowd chanted back, "Yes, we can."

"We are all culpable if we do nothing now," Norton said

James Agenbroad, 78, of Garrett Park, Md., carried a handwritten sign on cardboard that read "Repeal the 2nd Amendment." He called it the only way to stop mass killings because he thinks the Supreme Court will strike down any other restrictions on guns.

"You can repeal it," he said. "We repealed prohibition."

Molly Smith, the artistic director of Washington's Arena Stage, and her partner organized the march. Organizers said that in addition to the 100 people from Newtown, buses of participants traveled from New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia. Others flew in from Seattle, San Francisco and Alaska, they said.

While she's never organized a political march before, Smith said she was compelled to press for a change in the law. The march organizers support Obama's call for gun control measures. They also want lawmakers to require gun safety training for all buyers of firearms.

"With the drum roll, the consistency of the mass murders and the shock of it, it is always something that is moving and devastating to me. And then, it's as if I move on," Smith said. "And in this moment, I can't move on. I can't move on.

"I think it's because it was children, babies," she said. "I was horrified by it."

After the Connecticut shootings, Smith began organizing on Facebook. The group One Million Moms for Gun Control, the Washington National Cathedral and two other churches eventually signed on to co-sponsor the march. Organizers have raised more than $50,000 online to pay for equipment and fees to stage the rally, Smith said.

Lawmakers from the District of Columbia and Maryland rallied the crowd, along with Marian Wright Edelman of the Children's Defense Fund and Colin Goddard, a survivor from the Virginia Tech massacre.

Goddard said he was shot four times at Virginia Tech and is motivated to keep fighting for gun control because what happened to him keeps happening -- and nothing's been done to stop it.

"We are Americans," he said, drawing big cheers. "We have overcome difficulties when we realize we are better than this."

Smith said she supports a comprehensive look at mental health and violence in video games and films. But she said the mass killings at Virginia Tech and Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., all began with guns.

"The issue is guns. The Second Amendment gives us the right to own guns, but it's not the right to own any gun," she said. "These are assault weapons, made for killing people."

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March on Washington for Gun Control: http://www.guncontrolmarch.com/

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Follow Brett Zongker at https://twitter.com/DCArtBeat

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  • I must disagree that cars are registered only for revenue. Sure, its a benefit the govt enjoys but registration is used by the police for all sorts of reason. There is a value to why things are registerd to people and why that trail of ownership is necessary. The same should be true for weapons and I don't see why any legal gun owners would object. Plus, all I'm saying is that with ammo, info should be taken and then if for some reason, authorities want to track who is buying a lot of ammo or specific types of ammo, etc. the ability should be there for them. Its for everyones protection, not for govt control of people. It just seems like paranoia to me when people get upset about having to be regulated in some capacity for what they consider "their rights". Everyone seems to want to demand rights but fight having any responsibilities placed on those rights. As far as criminals still getting weapons, sure it can happen. Yet tighter monitoring would make it more difficult and probably more cost prohibitive. For instance, if I want to sell my gun to someone and the registration has to be transfered to someone authorized through a national background check to be allowed to buy it, I wouldnt be selling it to just anyone. As it is now, I would have no idea whether the person I'm selling it to has a background history of criminal behavior. If I had to transfer the registration legally or be held accountable for that weapon if it turned up at a crime scene, I'm betting most law abiding citizens wouldn't be selling them to just anyone. It's kind of like why I lock my doors at home, to keep honest people honest and deter some criminals. Yet I know that if someone really wants to break in, they'll find a way to do it but the locks make it a little more difficult. Its just common sense and a balance of rights AND responsibilities.

  • The human mind needs to be changed, not more laws and regulations. This is a spiritual problem, not a physical one. Jeremiah 17:9 The heart(mind)is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it? Romans 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity(hostile)against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be . What would the nation be like if we just kept the commandments listed in Matthew 22:36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? V.37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. V.38 This is the first and great commandment. V.39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. All of mans laws cannot change the mind, or solve our problems. Only the Spirit of God can change our way of thinking. Unless we repent and ask forgiveness of our national sins, this country will continue to have grave troubles. Change human nature, not the 2nd Amendment- A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, "SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED". The Obama administration is giving F-16 fighter jet aircraft,and about 200 Abrams tanks to the Egyptians (Muslim Brotherhood). How about some worldwide gun control. Selling weapons of war to a country that just said the United States and Israel are Egypts enemies.

  • Factualinfo, Automobiles are registered as revenue path for the government plain and simple. How would you recommend we track ammunition, I practice quite often with my handguns to the tune of around 500 rounds a month, do I need to submit written notification to them for each round I fire. This also brings up questions about people who reload their own ammunition. The second amendment does not say the right to keep and bear arms as long as you tell us what you have. It says and I quote "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed" It's funny I hear all this talk about "common sense" gun control, common sense would dictate placing an indicator of ineligibilty to own or purchase a firearm on the personal identification. Much like the restriction on my drivers license that says I cannot drive without my glasses. But then that really would not solve the problem either because criminals do not obtain their weapons by legal means. This is a complex problem and it will not be solved by infringing on the rights of or complicating the lives of honest citizens.

  • Strange how, as the Government keeps making it better for children, there are fewer and fewer of them. And the futures of those who do survive "choice" are being consumed by excessive government spending.

  • In addition, I would like to add that wouldn't it be wise of parents to really take a hard look at the culture of violence they allow their kids to be exposed to every day. Kids minds are not fully matured until early to mid 20's. Yet parents allow these minds that are very easily impressioned to be subject to violence in video games and TV/Movies on a daily basis. How can parents think it has no effect. I'm not saying that the industry should be government regulated or anything (although it would be nice if they would use some personal discretion), it should be a parents job to step up and monitor what their kids are being exposed to. Most parents just fall back on the "all the kids are playing Call of Duty" excuse or some such thing and take no responsibility. Believe me, no parent thought that their kids would turn out to be the random mass murderer. You can't just assume that these violent games/TV/Movies won't effect your kid. It just happens to other kids with bad parents, right? To parents who let their kids participate in this culture of violence, I ask you, would you allow them to start watching **** at the same age you allow them to start watching/being part of violence in games/TV/Movies? Do you think their minds are too impressionable and the **** will have a long term effect on them? If so, why do you think violence would be okay for them to see/play then? Again, just use some common sense and realize that there is a middle ground to things. Plus, guess what, its okay to be the "uncool" parent who won't allow those things around their kids.

  • You're right, its sad there was coverage of the March for Life, especially since there were a lot of people from this area that attended. This whole gun issue is frustrating to those of us who are tired of the extremist on both sides of the issue. It's like there is no one who can see the middle ground. And agree on common sense compromise. Common sense would say that there should be a national registry and the NRA should be helping to lead this movement. Plus, if you own a weapon, it should have to be registered and if you sell it, you would have to transfer the registry. We do it with our cars, why wouldn't we require it of our weapons. The same with ammunitions. It needs to be tracked. If you can't get something like an over-the-counter medicine line Allegra-D without a drivers license and its controlled how often you can buy it, why would ammo be any different. That being said, there is no proof that banning any weapons would reduce gun violence. Banning is simply a knee-jerk reaction that is not backed by any fact and why impose on the second amendment just for a panacea effect. There are more deaths caused by drunk drivers every year than people who die from gun violence. So, I guess we need to ban automobiles to prevent them being used as weapons against innocent people and taking their lives. Now, doesn't that just sound ridiculous. Again, its just about employing some common sense in the approach to a problem and finding the middle ground. Hopefully, both sides will start to find ways to meet in the middle.

  • "The crowd stretched for at least two blocks along Constitution Avenue." And this is front page news? This tiny crowd was dwarfed just one day earlier by the huge March for Life, protesting abortion. And did the Record-Courier give the March for Life one ounce of coverage? No! Your pathetic bias for liberal causes is disgusting.