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Thousands to march against gun violence in Washington

By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON |         Sat Jan 26, 2013 1:14pm EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Residents of Newtown, Connecticut, site of a mass school shooting that reignited the U.S. gun violence debate, will take part in a Washington march for gun control on Saturday with activists, politicians and actors.

Thousands of protesters were expected for the rally on the National Mall, part of about a dozen across the United States in favor of gun control, organizers said in a statement.

Demonstrators will gather at the Capitol Reflecting Pool and march down Constitution Avenue toward the Washington Monument at 11 a.m. A rally was scheduled to take place near the monument just before noon.

Molly Smith, artistic director of Washington’s Arena Stage, and her partner organized the march. They were motivated by the December 14 massacre that killed 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

Politicians from Maryland and the District of Columbia, including Washington Mayor Vincent Gray, were scheduled to speak. Actress Kathleen Turner, star of such movies as “Body Heat,” was among the scheduled speakers.

The march comes a week after gun rights supporters held rallies across the country to oppose firearms control.

The Newtown massacre has galvanized the U.S. debate on guns and spurred President Barack Obama to propose the most significant gun-control steps in decades.

Obama wants to revive a ban on military-style assault weapons, a proposal that faces a tough battle in Congress. He also wants to put in place mandatory background checks for all gun buyers, a step viewed as having a better chance of success.

Gun ownership rights are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. They are closely guarded by gun advocates, such as the National Rifle Association.

About 11,100 Americans died in gun-related killings in 2011, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were 19,766 suicides by firearms in 2011, the CDC said.

The Washington rally is co-sponsored by One Million Moms for Gun Control, which is organizing about a dozen similar events in cities that include San Francisco and Austin, Texas.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson)

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