(WASHINGTON) — Near-freezing temperatures didn’t stop several thousand gun-control activists from bearing their pickets on Saturday. Carrying signs emblazoned with “Ban Assault Weapons Now” and the names of gun violence victims, the demonstration was organized as a response to the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. last month.
Walking in silence, the demonstrators trudged between Capitol Hill and the Washington Monument over a thin layer of melting snow. They were joined by politicians and some families of the Newtown victims.
March organizer Shannon Watts said the event was for the “families who lost the lights of their lives in Newtown, daughters and sons, wives and mothers, grandchildren, sisters and brothers gone in an unfathomable instant.”
“Let’s stand together and use our voices, use our votes to let legislators know that we won’t stand down until they enact common sense gun control laws that will keep our children out of the line of fire,” she told demonstrators.
Watts founded One Million Moms for Gun Control after the killing of 20 first graders and six adults at the Connecticut elementary school in December. In a profile with The New York Times Ms. Watts said her 12 year-old-son had suffered panic attacks after learning of last summer’s Aurora, Colo. theater shooting, leaving her at an impasse over how to talk to him about the latest tragedy.
Also among the speakers was a survivor of the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, Collin Goddard.
“We need to challenge any politician who thinks it’s easier to ask an elementary school teacher to stand up to a gunman with an AR-15 than it is to ask them to stand up to a gun lobbyist with a checkbook,” he said.
The demonstration comes amid a push by progressive lawmakers to enact stricter gun control measures as a response to the trend of recent mass killings, although any hypothetical bill would likely face strong opposition in Congress.
Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) was among the demonstrators on Saturday.
“The idea that people need high-capacity magazines that can fire 30, 50, 100 rounds has no place in a civilized society,” he said, adding “Between the time we’re gathered here right now and this time of day tomorrow, across America, 282 Americans will have been shot.”
The congressman was quoting statistics compiled by the Brady Campaign to Stop Gun Violence.
Last week President Obama proposed a sweeping overhaul of federal measures regulating gun ownership, including a universal background check system for sales, banning assault weapons, and curbing the amount of ammunition available in weapon clips.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll released Thursday found 53 percent of Americans viewed Obama’s gun control plan favorably, 41 percent unfavorably. The divisive subject was visible on Saturday, as a handful of gun-rights advocates also turned out on the National Mall to protest what they believe would be infringements on their Second Amendment liberties.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Stephen Collinson, CNN
Elise Labott, Kevin Liptak and Patrick Oppmann, CNN
Kathryn Vasel, CNN
Gregory Krieg, CNN