DENVER — Thousands of protestors in all 50 states rallied in favor of gun rights Saturday in a mass demonstration aimed at pushing back at President Obama's sweeping gun-control proposals.
"Guns Across America," billed as a grass roots, family-friendly event and advertised mainly on Facebook and other social-media sites, saw Second Amendment advocates gather at "high noon" in each participating state to send a message to federal and state lawmakers.
"All I want is my Second Amendment rights. I've earned them," said Don Dobyns, the Pueblo military veteran and ex-police officer who organized the Colorado event. "Nobody that hasn't even served has a right to take them away from us.
The demonstrations were held at state capitol buildings, where discussions of gun rights and restrictions are underway in many state legislatures. In Colorado, that meant the rally was held just 10 miles from the Century Aurora theater, where 12 people were killed by a gunman in July.
But speaker after speaker insisted that Mr. Obama's proposed restrictions, which include limiting magazine purchases and banning assault weapons, would not have prevented recent mass shootings like those at the Century Aurora or Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
"The [executive] orders do nothing to make us safer," said Robert Wareham, a Colorado attorney specializing in gun rights. "They placate special interest groups to keep them happy and motivated, but [they are] not going to do a single thing to keep us safer."
Jim Mapes, a Colorado resident who was arrested last year for bringing a firearm to a movie theater despite having a concealed-carry permit, said that at least two mass shooters used 10-round ammunition magazines, which would be permitted under the president's proposed ban on high-capacity magazines.
"Magazine limits don't do anything to stop those people when there's no forceful resistance," said Mr. Mapes, who saw the case against him dropped. "Magazine bans are worthless."
In Connecticut, about 1,000 protestors swarmed the capitol building in Hartford, about 50 miles from the site of the Sandy Hook shooting, to denounce tighter restrictions on access to firearms.
Connecticut Gov. Dannell Malloy has formed a task force charged with examining state laws in the aftermath of the shooting. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said in December that "the time is right" to discuss restrictions on firearms access and ownership.
Crowd sizes ranged from several dozen in South Dakota to about 2,000 in New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the toughest gun-control measure in the nation last week. Events were planned in 49 states.
The rallies were reportedly the brainchild of Eric Reed, a Texas airline pilot, who said he wanted to send "a very, very strong message to Congress and to our president that we the people are against any more gun control."
He said he was amazed by the reaction. "I think what's also uplifting and encouraging is the amount of support we're getting from Americans who are against any more gun control and who are trying to help save our Second Amendment," said Mr. Reed on "The Josh Tolley Channel." "There's definitely a lot more out there than I imagined when I started this."
Cars honked in support of demonstrators throughout the 90-minute rally in Denver, which was attended by more than 600 pro-gun advocates, according to state troopers. Recruiters for the National Rifle Association and Rocky Mountain Gun Owners were signing up members at the event, although they emphasized that they were not involved in organizing the rally.
Leland Levin, who carried a sign of Nazis shooting a Jew with the message, "Victim of Gun Control," said the proposed laws arise from "a sense of people wanting to do something good, but these wouldn't have stopped the Aurora shooting."
"Disarmament doesn't always lead to genocide and tyranny, but it's the first step," said Mr. Levin, a member of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership.
This article was based in part on wire-service reports.
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Valerie Richardson covers politics and the West from Denver. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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