Sandy Hook Shootings: Protest At Gun Lobby HQ

Protesters have marched on the headquarters of the US gun lobby as the clamour for tighter firearm controls grows in the wake of the Newtown school massacre.

As the first two funerals for young victims of the Sandy Hook shooting took place, 75 activists descended on the Washington DC headquarters of the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA).

The protesters chanted: "Shame on the NRA," and demanded the organisation drop its hardline stance and make way for new gun control laws.

"More than anyone else, the NRA is responsible for the more than 12,000 people murdered by guns every year in this country," said Josh Nelson, the campaign manager for the progressive Credo Action group that organised the protest.

"We call on the NRA's lobbyists to stand down and allow Congress to pass common-sense gun laws."

The activists' cause has been backed by two pro-gun US senators, who have come out in favour of reform after the murder of 20 children and six adults at the elementary school.

Democrats Mark Warner and Joe Manchin, who have so-called "A" ratings from the NRA, said the Newtown massacre has convinced them the time for change has come.

West Virginia's Senator Manchin told MSNBC it was time to "move beyond rhetoric" on gun control.

He said: "I don't know anyone in the sporting or hunting arena that goes out with an assault rifle. It's common sense."

Senator Warner said "the status quo isn't acceptable" and in a later interview called for "rational gun control".

Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy called for changes to the law during an emotional news conference, where he broke down while describing the ordeal of parents who lost their children at Sandy Hook.

He said: "You try to feel their pain, but you can't. You try to find some words that you hope will be adequate, knowing that they will be inadequate, and you see little coffins and your heart has to break."

He added: "I'm a big believer in hunting rights and a big believer in supporting the Second Amendment, but there's a reality that this stuff has gone too far and is too easy to own.

"Do I think Washington DC needs to get its act together and enact stricter gun control laws at the federal level? You bet I do."

New York's popular mayor Michael Bloomberg made an appearance flanked by relatives of shooting victims and demanded that President Barack Obama make good on his promise to tackle gun violence in the US.

On Sunday, Mr Obama told residents at a vigil in Newtown the US must do more to protect its children.

Since then, White House spokesman Jay Carney has said tighter gun control laws are part of the answer to violence in the US, but the president did not have a specific policy to announce.

Mr Obama is understood to support reinstating a ban on assault rifles that expired in 2004.

Since the shootings, the NRA has been silent.

Requests for comments have gone unanswered, and officials are turning down interview requests until they have more details.

The NRA's 1.7 million-strong Facebook group has disappeared, and the group's Twitter account - which is a favourite platform to communicate with supporters - has not sent a message since before the grim reality of Friday's shootings set in.

The massacre has prompted private capital group Cerberus Capital Management to sell its shareholding in Freedom Group, which manufactures the the Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle used. 

The Dick's Sporting Goods chain also announced it was suspending sales of modern rifles and removing all guns from display at stores near Newtown during "this time of national mourning".

But the industry remains powerful, directly employing more than 98,000 people and generating another 111,000 jobs in supplier and ancillary industries, according to the US firearms trade association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation .

It also says the firearms and ammunition industry was responsible for as much as \$31.84 billion in total economic activity in the country in 2012 and, along with its employees, paid \$2.07 billion in taxes.

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