Thousands of gun advocates 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.
A man who identified himself only as “Texas Mob Father” carried a camouflaged assault rifle strapped to his back during the Austin rally, but he was believed to be the only one to display a gun.
Radio personality Alan LaFrance told the crowd he brought a Glock 19, but kept it out of sight.
At the New York state capitol in Albany, about 2,000 people turned out for a chilly rally, where they chanted “We the People”, “USA” and “Freedom”. Many carried American flags and “Don’t Tread On Me” banners. The event took place four days after Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo signed the nation’s toughest assault weapon and magazine restrictions.
Republican Assemblyman Steven McLaughlin said the new law was “abuse of power” by the governor and some in the crowd carried “Impeach Cuomo” signs. Protester Robert Candea called the restrictions “an outrage against humanity”.
In Connecticut, where task forces created by the Legislature and Democratic governor Dannel Malloy are considering changes to gun laws, police said about 1,000 people arrived on the capitol grounds. One demonstrator at the rally in Maine, Joe Getchell of Pittsfield, said every law-abiding citizen had a right to bear arms.
Capitol rallies also took place in Michigan, Montana, Wisconsin, Missouri and North Carolina, among other states.
Back in Texas, Houston resident Robert Thompson attended the rally with his wife and children, aged 12, five and four. Many in the family wore T-shirts reading: “The Second Amendment Protects the First”.
“What we are facing now is an assault weapons ban, but if they do this, what will do they do next?” Mr Thompson said.
William Lawson drove more than four hours from Wichita Falls and held up a sign reading “Modern Musket” over the image of an assault rifle and the words, “An American Tradition since 1776”.
“I’m not some wild-eyed person who wants to fight in the streets,” he said. “This is a country of laws. But I want to protect our constitution.”
Texas land commissioner Jerry Patterson conceded that the Second Amendment sometimes led to killings, but told the crowd that the First Amendment – which protects basic freedoms – could be just as dangerous, saying news coverage of those responsible for mass shootings could spark copycat attacks.
“All of us here, together, are right about our liberty,” he said. “And we will not back down.”