Farah Sheikh of New York, takes part in a candlelight vigil in Times Square, for the victims of the Sandy Hook School shooting, in New York, December 14, 2012. A heavily armed gunman opened fire on school children and staff at a Connecticut elementary school on Friday, killing at least 26 people, including 20 children, in the latest in a series of shooting rampages that have tormented the United States this year. (Photo : Reuters)
Residents from the tragedy-stricken city of Newtown, Conn. are joining a march on Washington, D.C. for gun control on Saturday with parents, religious leaders, survivors of gun violence and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, ABC News reported.
Thousands of participants are expected for the rally on the National Mall, including around 100 people from Newtown, and buses from New Jersey, New York, and Philadelphia, organizers said, with others flying in from Seattle, San Francisco, and even Alaska. The group is scheduled to march down Constitution Avenue toward the Washington Monument with a rally planned on monument grounds Saturday afternoon.
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Molly Smith, the artistic director of Washington's Arena Stage, organized the march with her partner; they were inspired by the December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary that left 20 children and seven adults dead, she said.
"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, the Associated Press reported. "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."
Smith has never organized a political march before, but she said she was compelled to fight for a change in gun control laws. The march's organizers support President Barack Obama's proposals for a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, universal background checks for gun sales, and also want lawmakers to require gun safety training for all buyers of firearms.
After Smith began organizing the rally, the group One Million Moms for Gun Control, the Washington National Cathedral and two other churches eventually signed on to co-sponsor the march. Since then, organizers raised more than $46,000 online to pay for the equipment and fees to stage the rally.
The event will feature speeches from lawmakers from the District of Columbia and Maryland, as well as actress Kathleen Turner, Marian Wright Edelman of the Children's Defense Fund and Colin Goddard, a survivor of the Virginia Tech massacre.
Smith said she also supports a comprehensive investigation into America's mental health and violence in video games and films, however, she highlighted the fact that the mass killings at Virginia Tech and Aurora, Colo. and Newtown, Conn. all started 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."
For its part, the National Rifle Association has signaled it would remain in fierce opposition to any attempt to pass stricter gun control laws. On the NRA's website a statement argues Congress should spend less time "curtailing the Constitution" and more time "prosecuting criminals or fixing our broken mental health system."
"The American people know gun bans don't work and we are confident Congress will reject Senator Feinstein's wrong-headed approach," the NRA statement said.