Just days before the Senate begins debating new gun control measures proposed by President Barack Obama, thousands of people, many holding signs with the names of gun violence victims and messages such as "Ban Assault Weapons Now," joined a rally for gun control in the US
Leading the crowd on Sunday were marchers with "We Are Sandy Hook" signs, paying tribute to victims of the December elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Washington mayor Vincent Gray and other city officials marched alongside them.
The crowd stretched for at least two blocks along Constitution Avenue.
Participants held signs reading "Gun Control Now" and "What Would Jesus Pack?" among other messages. Other signs were simple and white, with the names of victims of gun violence.
About 100 residents from Newtown, where a gunman killed 20 students and six educators, travelled to Washington together, organisers said.
Participant Kara Baekey from nearby Norwalk, Connecticut, said that when she heard about the Newtown shooting, she immediately thought of her two young children. Baekey decided she must take action, and that's why she travelled to Washington for the march.
"I wanted to make sure this never happens at my kids' school or any other school," Baekey said. "It just can't happen again."
Once the crowd arrived at the monument, speakers expressed support for Obama's proposals for a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines and for universal background checks on gun sales.
Education secretary Arne Duncan told the crowd it's not about taking away gun rights guaranteed by the US Constitution's Second Amendment, but about gun safety and saving lives. He said he and President Barack Obama would do everything they could to enact gun control policies.
"This is about trying to create a climate in which our children can grow up free of fear," Duncan said. "This march is a starting point; it is not an ending point ... We must act, we must act, we must act."
But in the Senate, some of Obama's fellow Democrats may frustrate his efforts to enact the most sweeping gun control measures in decades. These Democrats from largely rural states with strong gun cultures view Obama's proposals warily and have not committed to supporting them.
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