By Edith Honan
DANBURY, Conn. Jan 15 Gun-control advocates,
including the mothers of two victims of mass shootings, gathered
at a Wal-Mart store near Newtown, Connecticut, on Tuesday to
call on the country's largest retailer to stop selling assault
About 50 people - many calling themselves proud gun owners
and loyal Wal-Mart customers - presented a petition at a
Wal-Mart in Danbury that is 8 miles ( 13 km) f rom the Newtown
elementary school where a gunman opened fire one month ago,
killing 20 first graders and six educators.
"Wal-Mart has a choice," said Adam Bink of the Courage
Campaign, one of the groups organizing the rally. "Wal-Mart
doesn't sell pornography because they feel it's inappropriate
for communities. We believe assault weapons aren't appropriate
for communities because they make our communities unsafe."
The petition, signed by nearly 300,000 people, was presented
in Wal-Mart's parking lot to store manager John Ruggieri, who
wore a green ribbon honoring the Newtown victims.
Wal-Mart, which sells grocery items, appliances and clothing
in addition to sporting goods, is the country's largest gun
retailer. The Danbury location sells only toy guns.
"Over the years, we have been very purposeful about striking
the right balance between serving our customers that are hunters
and sportsmen and ensuring that we sell firearms in the most
responsible manner possible," a Wal-Mart Stores Inc
<WM T.N>spok esman said in a statement.
Assault rifles are sold only at locations with a high
concentration of hunters and sportsmen, the spokesman said.
But protesters challenged the idea that assault rifles,
which one called "military-style people killers," belonged in
the hands of ordinary citizens, and called on Wal-Mart to honor
a 2004 pledge to stop sales of the weapons.
"I am thoroughly for the Second Amendment," said Herb Crate,
a 72-year-old Danbury resident who said he had a license to
carry a gun for 33 years. "But if they think their right to have
assault weapons with large clips is more important than the
right of people to send their children to school and know
they'll come back safely... I think the NRA is absolutely insane
with their position."
The National Rifle Association, the country's leading gun
rights group, has opposed nearly all efforts that would curb
access to guns, including a proposed ban on assault weapons.
Inside the store, Bob Johnson, a resident of Brewster who
said he owns several guns but no automatic weapons, said he
could support common-sense gun control.
But he said he was concerned that many of the proposed
changes would serve only to make responsible gun owners jump
through more hoops and would have no impact on safety.
"We can never protect ourselves from the people who flip
out," he said.
BAND OF BROTHERS
Pam Simon, who was wounded in a mass shooting in Tucson,
Arizona, two years ago that left her former boss, Congresswoman
Gabrielle Giffords, critically wounded, linked arms with the
mothers of two shooting victims before presenting the petition.
She said the shared grief and anger meant she had formed a
sort of "band of brothers" with the women - Roxanna Green, who
lost her 9-year-old daughter in the Tucson shooting, and Lori
Haas, whose daughter was wounded in the 2007 shooting at
"Obviously, none of us want to be a member of the club,"
said Green, who had traveled to Connecticut to help console the
Newtown parents and will travel next to Washington to urge
lawmakers to support gun control measures.
The White House said on Tuesday that President Barack Obama
would unveil his gun legislation proposals on Wednesday,
including a push for an assault weapons ban and measures to
strengthen background checks for gun buyers. [I D:nL2N0AKAZ9]
Both Simon and Green bristled at the suggestion - made in
recent weeks by proponents of gun rights - that more guns would
make the country safer.
"No one can ever understand what it's like to feel a bullet
whiz into your body until you've experienced it yourself," said
Simon. "They have no idea how fast it happens.
"I absolutely can say that if I had had a fully-loaded
weapon in my hand I would not have fired off a shot. I was on
the ground so fast. Not even Wyatt Earp can do that," Simon