By Nick Carey
CHICAGO, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Angered and afraid that President Barack Obama's proposals to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines are a ploy to strip them of their right to own weapons, pro-gun activists plan to rally across America on Saturday.
Using Facebook and other social media, a group called Guns Across America plans rallies in 49 states, mostly at state capitols and all at "high noon" local time.
"There is no question in my mind that if the federal government could get away with it they would keep passing gun laws until the Second Amendment has gone," said Eric Reed, an airline pilot in Texas who launched the group. "We as a people have to stand together on this."
The contentious debate over American gun rights was revived in December when a gunman used an assault weapon to kill 20 young school children in Newtown, Connecticut.
In the wake of the mass killing, Obama and gun control advocates have begun a push for an assault weapon ban. Gun control advocates say American civilians have no justifiable need for assault weapons or high-capacity magazines.
The reaction has been fierce from gun supporters such as the National Rifle Association, who have long argued that their right to bear arms is enshrined in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Reed, 38, said he had an epiphany on Dec. 14 after hearing President Obama talk about gun control on the day of the massacre at Sandy Hook.
"I thought if all American gun owners and freedom lovers could come out on the day, it would send a strong message to Washington," he said.
Reed will attend an event in Austin, Texas, whose speakers will include the head of the Waco Tea Party. He said the only state with no organizer for a rally is Alaska.
As of Friday afternoon, the national Facebook page for Guns Across America listed more than 18,000 people who have confirmed they would attend events.
Don Dobyns, 56, a former police office who is organizing an event outside Colorado's capitol building in Denver, said the last estimate he had was that 1,500 people would attend on Saturday.
"But now I don't have a clue because this has exploded," he said. "I can't even keep up with the emails and phone calls."
"A lot of people are afraid that this is nothing more than a power grab by the government."
In Idaho, Russell Thruston, 27, said that when he spotted the Guns Across America Facebook page two weeks ago, he "watched it for a few days."
"When no one volunteered to organize an event in Boise, I thought 'why not me?,'" said Thruston, an electrician, who added that 384 people so far had confirmed on the state event's Facebook page that they would attend. "Gun control is a very slippery slope that we need to avoid."
While Guns Across America has the hallmarks of a grassroots effort, Reed and other organizers say they are unpaid volunteers, a Washington-based Republican consulting firm called Political Media has launched Gun Appreciation Day.
The Washington-based group also uses social media, and its Facebook page includes a number of statewide events, plus rallies at smaller venues including the Montgomery County courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania. (Reporting By Nick Carey; Editing by Neil Stempleman)
1981: The Attempted Assassination Of President Ronald Reagan
on March 30, 1981, President Reagan and three others were shot and wounded in an assassination attempt by John Hinckley, Jr. outside the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. Reagan's press secretary, Jim Brady, was shot in the head.
1993: The Brady Handgun Violence Act
The Brady Handgun Violence Act of 1993, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, mandated that federally licensed dealers complete comprehensive background checks on individuals before selling them a gun. The legislation was named for James Brady, who was shot during an attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981.
1994: The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act
The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, instituted a ban on 19 kinds of assault weapons, including Uzis and AK-47s. The crime bill also banned the possession of magazines holding more than ten rounds of ammunition. (An exemption was made for weapons and magazines manufactured prior to the ban.)
2004: Law Banning Magazines Holding More Than Ten Rounds Of Ammunition Expires
In 2004, ten years after it first became law, Congress allowed a provision banning possession of magazines holding more than ten rounds of ammunition to expire through a sunset provision. Brady Campaign President Paul Helmke told HuffPost that the expiration of this provision meant that Rep. Gabby Giffords's alleged shooter was able to fire off 20-plus shots without reloading (under the former law he would have had only ten).
2007: The U.S. Court of Appeals For The District Of Columbia Rules In Favor Of Dick Heller
In 2007 The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled to allow Dick Heller, a licensed District police officer, to keep a handgun in his home in Washington, D.C. Following that ruling, the defendants petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.
2008: The NICS Improvement Amendments Act
Following the deadly shooting at Virginia Tech University, Congress passed legislation to require states provide data on mentally unsound individuals to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, with the aim of halting gun purchases by the mentally ill, and others prohibited from possessing firearms. The bill was signed into law by President George W. Bush in January of 2008.
2008: Supreme Court Strikes Down D.C. Handgun Ban As Unconstitutional
In June of 2008, the United States Supreme Court upheld the verdict of a lower court ruling the D.C. handgun ban unconstitutional in the landmark case <em>District of Columbia v. Heller</em>.
Gabrielle Giffords And Trayvon Martin Shootings
Gun control advocates had high hopes that reform efforts would have increased momentum in the wake of two tragic events that rocked the nation. In January of 2011, Jared Loughner opened fire at an event held by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), killing six and injuring 13, including the congresswoman. Resulting attempts to push gun control legislation <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">proved fruitless</a>, with neither proposal even succeeding in gaining a single GOP co-sponsor. More than a year after that shooting, Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/trayvon-martin" target="_hplink">gunned down</a> by George Zimmerman in an event that some believed would bring increased scrutiny on the nation's Stand Your Ground laws. While there has been increasing discussion over the nature of those statutes, lawmakers were <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">quick to concede</a> that they had little faith the event would effectively spur gun control legislation, thanks largely to the National Rifle Association's vast lobbying power. Read more <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">here</a>:
Colorado Movie Theater Shooting
In July of 2012, a heavily armed gunman <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/aurora-shooting-movie-theater-batman_n_1688547.html" target="_hplink">opened fire on theatergoers</a> attending a midnight premiere of the final film of the latest Batman trilogy, killing 12 and wounding scores more. The suspect, James Eagan Holmes, allegedly carried out the act with a number of handguns, as well as an AR-15 assault rifle with a 100-round drum magazine. Some lawmakers used the incident, which took place in a state with some of the laxest gun control laws, to bring forth legislation designed to place increased regulations on access to such weapons, but many observers, citing previous experience, were <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/batman-shooting_n_1690547.html" target="_hplink">hesitant to say</a> that they would be able to overcome the power of the National Rifle Association and Washington gun lobby.