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January 19. 2013 2:26PM

Hundreds gather for pro-life and pro-gun rights rallies in Concord


Gun rights supporters gather outside of the statehouse in Concord on Saturday. (Tom Roy/New Hampshire Union Leader)


Pro life supporters attend their annual rally outside of the statehouse in Concord on Saturday. (Tom Roy/New Hampshire Union Leader)

CONCORD - Hundreds of people gathered at the State House on Saturday for back-to-back rallies on the issues of abortion and gun rights.

A Guns Across America rally, which was part of a nationwide effort, immediately followed the annual New Hampshire Right To Life's annual March For Life rally.

State Rep. David Murotake of Nashua said he came to Concord with a friend, Air Force veteran Anthony Nino. Murotake was carrying a pro-life sign, Nino a sign supporting gun rights.

"We're staying here for both rallies," Murotake said. "I think it was probably an inadvertent, coincidental back-to-back rallies. It'll be an interesting test of both the first and second amendments."

"Most people that believe in one or the other believe in both," said Kathy Peterson of Nashua, who said she came for the Right To Life rally.

At the pro-life rally, hundreds sang religious songs and prayed before marching from the State House, behind the Concord Feminist Health Center and to St. John the Evangelist Church. Several mentioned that 2013 will mark the 40th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

"While today is a very inspiring day, it's also a bittersweet day for people, you know, to have to come out here and say that killing innocent babies is just, you know, something that we're still working to try to overturn Roe v. Wade," said Ashley Pratt, executive director of Cornerstone Action and Cornerstone Policy Research, a New Hampshire-based conservative group once headed by former gubernatorial candidate Kevin Smith, who also attended the rally.

Many who attended the gun rights rally brought a firearm or two. One of them was Nick Myers of Raymond, who brought his Ruger 10/22 Takedown rifle.

"I'm here because I believe in the Second Amendment and the Constitution as a whole, in fact," Myers said. "I don't want the government to trample on our freedoms."

State Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, led the rally and urged attendees to contact state legislators to oppose H.R. 135, a bill that would repeal the state's stand-your-ground laws, which allows people who feel in danger to use deadly force to defend themselves, and to write to national and state representatives in support of gun rights.

"We need to say enough is enough and we will not take this no more," he said. "We must not give up one inch of our freedom."

Many at the gun rights rally bristled at media portrayals of so-called "assault weapons" or "assault rifles," including the AR-15 rifle, which reportedly was one of the guns carried by Adam Lanza when he killed 20 children and several adults during shootings at his mother's home and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last month.

In response to the shootings, President Barack Obama, who was the subject of much derision at Saturday's rally, proposed a sweeping series of gun control measures, including background checks, reinstatement of an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, more funds for school resource officers and limits on magazine capacity.

Many at the rally said the media and gun control advocates made up the terms and that they would only be applicable to describe automatic versions used by police or the military and not personal, semiautomatic weapons such as the AR-15.

"When you write about this, I hope you get that right," Nino told a reporter.

The terms are used by some gun retailers and manufacturers. For example, the main page of the retailer proguns.com says the site is "your online store for AR-15 assault rifles."

tbuckland@unionleader.com


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