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Dueling Visions Of Guns In America Dominate Weekend Discourse

Guns turned in as part of a gun buyback program in Bridgeport, Conn. - Dec. 22, 2012 (credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Guns turned in as part of a gun buyback program in Bridgeport, Conn. – Dec. 22, 2012 (credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Dueling visions of guns in America were heard across the country this weekend – from rallies in favor of the right to bear arms to churches focusing on how to prevent gun violence.

As CBS 2’s Steve Langford reported, the heated debate is symptomatic of the deepening impact of the massacre in Newtown, Conn.

At First Corinthian Baptist Church, at 1912 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. in Harlem, the Senior Pastor Rev. Michael Walrond Sr. noted that Sunday is “Gun Violence Prevention Day.” All too many families who attend the church have suffered directly and personally from gun violence.

“I’m proud to say New York State has passed some of the strictest gun laws recently by our government,” Walrond said.

At the Sunday service, Walrond read from comments about guns that were posted by his congregation on the way into church.

“Somebody said something they said raise the price of bullets,” he said to applause.

But the pastor also preaches individual and community responsibility for the victims of violence.

“I will not let one more child die on my watch!” he said.

Yet, as the preacher prepared to invite all those impacted by gunfire toward the stage, in a stark illustration of the death toll that members have seen, the church ordered cameras to stop rolling.

Outside, some churches shared their pain.

“I have a nephew in a wheelchair right now that was shot, and he’s paralyzed,” said Harlem resident Patricia Burns Ellis.

“I have a stepbrother who was a police officer, and he was killed,” said Lynette Choice of Chelsea.

“My wife’s nephew, his wife, her brother was just murdered,” added Harlem resident Dave Ennis.

But all across America, this weekend in particular, it was a matter of First Amendment meets Second as the move toward gun control also sparked more pro-gun rallies.

One of those rallies was in Albany.

“I’m going to defend my right to bear arms until eternity,” said Donna Greco.

That came as a prominent Republican lawmaker denounced President Barack Obama’s gun control plans.

“This is not designed to actually solve the problem of violent crime,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “This is designed to assuage liberal partisans.”

Still, there was optimism about solving the epidemic of gun violence, even from young voices.

“Yes, if we come together,” one little girl said.

Last week, President Obama challenged the powerful gun lobby to “do the right thing” and end gun violence in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

Obama on Wednesday also unveiled a $500 million package of executive actions and legislative proposals aimed at reducing gun violence. The package includes a call on Congress to ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and it would close loopholes in the gun sale background check system.

background checks, appointing a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and directing the Centers for Disease Control to research gun violence.

The president’s long list of executive orders also includes:

  • Ordering tougher penalties for people who lie on background checks and requiring federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
  • Ending limits that make it more difficult for the government to research gun violence, such as gathering data on guns that fall into criminal hands.
  • Requiring federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
  • Giving schools flexibility to use federal grant money to improve school safety, such as by hiring school resource officers.
  • Giving communities grants to institute programs to keep guns away from people who shouldn’t have them.

Also last week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the toughest gun control law in the nation.

Under current state law, assault weapons are defined by having two “military rifle” features spelled out in the law. The proposal reduces that to one feature and include the popular pistol grip.

It also forces gun owners to renew their licenses every five years, stiffens penalties for using a gun in the commission of a crime and for bringing a gun on school property.

Where do you stand on the debate? Leave your comments below…

(TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)