Hundreds of people have gathered in state capitals across the US days after President Barack Obama unveiled a sweeping package of federal gun-control proposals.
About 2,000 people, many carrying American flags and “Don’t Tread On Me” banners, turned out for the chilly outdoor rally at the New York state capitol in Albany on Saturday, while an estimated 600 people turned out for speeches in Austin, Texas.
Police in Connecticut said about 1,000 people showed up on the capitol grounds in Hartford, about 80km 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 state legislature and Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy considered changes to state gun laws.
Steven McLaughlin, a Republican assemblyman, told the crowd in Albany that New York’s new law was an “abuse of power” by the governor.
The rallies were being organised by a group called Guns Across America that was launched by Texas airline pilot Eric Reed.
Reed, 38, said after he heard Obama talk about gun control on the day of the Sandy Hook massacre in December, he had thought that gun owners should send a strong message to lawmakers in Washington.
As the pro-gun rallies were being held, accidental gunfire at three gun shows around the US on Saturday left five injured, authorities said.
Three people were injured in Raleigh, North Carolina, at the Dixie Gun and Knife Show at the state fairgrounds, a quarterly event that usually draws thousands of people. State agriculture department spokesman Brian Long said a
12-gauge shotgun discharged as its owner unzipped its case for a law enforcement officer to check at a security entrance.
Two bystanders were hit by shotgun pellets and taken to a hospital. A retired deputy sheriff suffered a slight hand injury.
Long said the shotgun’s owner, 36-year-old Gary Lynn Wilson, brought the weapon to the show to find a private buyer. Sheriff Donnie Harrison said it was too early to know whether Wilson might be charged.
In Indiana, police said a 54-year-old Indianapolis man was injured when he accidentally shot himself while leaving a gun show.
State Police said Emory L. Cozee was loading his .45 calibre semi-automatic when he shot himself in the hand as he was leaving the Indy 1500 Gun and Knife show at the state fairgrounds. Loaded personal weapons are not allowed inside the show.
Cozee was hospitalised for treatment. Police say the shooting was accidental and no charges will be filed.
Authorities in Ohio said a gun dealer in Medina was checking out a semi-automatic handgun he had bought when he accidentally pulled the trigger, injuring his friend. 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 struck the floor and the man was wounded in the arm and leg. Berarducci said the man was taken by helicopter to a Cleveland hospital. His condition was not immediately known.
The US debate over gun control flared in mid-December when a man killed 20 first graders and six adults in a matter of minutes at an elementary school in Newtown using an assault rifle.
In the wake of the mass killing, Obama and gun control advocates have begun a push to ban assault weapons.
A number of other states have taken up gun legislation, with New York state leading with one of the strictest gun control laws in the country.
Obama also called for a ban on high-capacity magazines and more stringent background checks for gun purchasers.
Gun control advocates say American civilians have no justifiable need for assault weapons or high-capacity magazines, and it is being said more background checks will help keep guns out of the hands of criminals.