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Gun owners hold rallies across US

Thousands of gun advocates have gathered at state capitals across the US to protest against stricter limits on firearms.

Some demonstrators carried rifles and pistols while others settled for waving handwritten signs or screaming themselves hoarse.

The size of crowds at each location varied, from dozens of people in South Dakota to 2,000 in New York. Large crowds also turned out in Connecticut, Tennessee and Texas.

Some demonstrators in Phoenix and Salem, Oregon, came with holstered handguns or rifles on their backs. At the Kentucky capitol in Frankfort, there was a special round of applause for "the ladies that are packin'".

Activists promoted the Guns Across America rallies primarily through social media. They were being held just after President Barack Obama unveiled a sweeping package of gun-control proposals.

The crowd swelled to more than 800 amid balmy temperatures on the steps of the pink-hued capitol in Austin, Texas, where speakers took the microphone under a giant Texas flag with "Independent" stamped across it. Home-made placards read "An Armed Society is a Polite Society" and "The Second Amendment Comes from God" - The Second Amendment to the US constitution guarantees the right to bear arms.

"The thing that so angers me, and I think so angers you, is that this president is using children as a human shield to advance a very liberal agenda that will do nothing to protect them," said state congressman Steve Toth, referring to last month's primary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

Mr Toth, a first-term Republican politician from The Woodlands, outside Houston, has introduced legislation banning within Texas any future government limits on assault weapons or high-capacity magazines, though such a measure would violate the US constitution.

Rallies at statehouses nationwide were organised by Eric Reed, an airline captain from the Houston area who in November started a group called More Gun Control (equals) More Crime. Its Facebook page has been "liked" by more than 17,000 people.

Texas law allows concealed handgun licence-holders to carry firearms anywhere, but Mr Reed said rally-goers should not show their weapons. "I don't want anyone to get arrested," he said.

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