US students lead huge anti-gun rallies

Students lead huge anti-gun rallies in US, call on politicians to increase restrictions on firearm sales

WASHINGTON Chanting "never again", hundreds of thousands of young Americans and their supporters answered a call to action from survivors of last month's Florida high school massacre and rallied across the United States on Saturday to demand tighter gun laws.

In some of the biggest US youth demonstrations in decades, protesters called on lawmakers and President Donald Trump to confront the issue.

Voter registration activists fanned out in the crowds, signing up thousands of new voters.

At the largest March For Our Lives protest, demonstrators jammed Washington's Pennsylvania Avenue where they listened to speeches from survivors of the Feb 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

There were sobs as one teenage survivor, Emma Gonzalez, read the names of the 17 victims.

She then stood, mute, tears running down her cheeks as she stared out over the crowd for a silence that lasted six minutes and 20 seconds - the time it took for the gunman to slaughter her friends.

The massive March For Our Lives rallies were aimed at breaking legislative gridlock that has long stymied efforts to increase restrictions on firearms sales in a nation where mass shootings have become frighteningly common.

"Politicians, either represent the people or get out. Stand with us or beware, the voters are coming," Cameron Kasky, a 17-year-old junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, told the crowd.

Youthful marchers filled streets in cities including Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, San Diego and St. Louis.

More than 800 demonstrations were scheduled in the US and overseas, according to coordinators, with events as far afield as London, Mauritius, Stockholm and Sydney.

Underlining sharp differences among the American public over the issue, supporters of gun rights were also out in US cities, albeit in smaller numbers.

Organisers of the anti-gun rallies want Congress to ban the sale of assault weapons, such as the one used in the Florida rampage, and to tighten background checks for gun buyers.

On the other side of the debate, gun rights advocates cite constitutional guarantees of the right to bear arms.

"All they are doing is asking the government to take their liberty away without due process," Mr Brandon Howard, a 42-year-old Trump supporter, said of the protesters in the capital.

He had a sign saying: "Keep your hands off my guns."