Hundreds rally in defense of gun ownership

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HARRISBURG -- A crowd of several hundred converged outside the state Capitol Saturday to take part in one of the rallies against gun control measures that were scheduled across the country.

Attendees at the "Guns Across America" event here were bearing homemade signs defending gun ownership and firearms ranging from holstered handguns to long guns.

The events were coordinated after the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Speakers here called for opposition to new gun-control efforts under debate since that shooting occurred.

"We're facing the gravest threat to the Second Amendment that we've ever faced since the Bill of Rights was ratified," said Maria Heil, a National Rifle Association board member from York County, Pa. "The political and media elites had their gun-control plans ready to go. They were just waiting for a crisis."

She urged the crowd to get involved in the debate over gun regulation and to educate friends and neighbors with opposing or uncertain views on the issue.

"This is about being able to defend ourselves from the evil in this world, whatever shape it takes," Ms. Heil said.

Clad in an NRA hat and fleece jacket, pastor George Cook, of the Nehemiah Center in Bangor, Pa., asked the crowd how many were carrying a firearm. He told the many attendees who raised their hands that he had "never felt safer" in his life.

"We are free today because we are armed Americans," he said.

Those interviewed afterward said they believe current state and federal laws should be enforced rather than expanded, and that citizens should be allowed their full constitutional rights to protect themselves.

"Every time there's some kind of disaster where people are shot, there's a big drive to get rid of guns, and that's not going to make any difference," said Sue Zaykoski, a secretary who drove down with her husband from the Wilkes-Barre area. "The bad guy, the criminal, will always find a way to do bad things, always."

Another set of rallies is expected in Harrisburg on Wednesday, when both the Pennsylvania Firearm Owners Association and CeaseFirePA, a group advocating for further gun-control measures, will be holding events.

state

Harrisburg bureau chief Laura Olson: lolson@post-gazette.com or 1-717-787-4254.


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