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EMPTY SHOES SPEAK SILENTLY AGAINST GUNS

There were baseball spikes. There were babies' first white walkers. There were businessmen's black leather wing tips and women's formal high-heel pumps.

The shoes sat empty Tuesday, row on row, more than 40,000 pairs arranged around the Reflecting Pool at the base of the Capitol, mute reminders of the tens of thousands of Americans killed every year by guns.They were part of a "silent march," a demonstration whose organizers, promoting stronger gun control, hope to act as a counterweight to the National Rifle Association.

"I am angry, I will not be silenced, and I will not go away," said Carol Ann Taylor, whose 19-year-old son, Willie, was killed in Los Angeles last year when two men fired 34 shots from AK-47 assault rifles into a crowd of youths.

Taylor, who had brought Willie's favorite yellow suede shoes, held them up before a gathering of perhaps a thousand people. "Here are Willie's shoes," she said, her voice breaking. "They are empty. We should have the right as human beings not to be killed by guns."

The idea of using shoes to make real the human toll wrought by gunfire originated with a small group from New York City led by Katina Mantis Johnstone.

Johnstone's husband, David, an editor with Macmillan, was shot to death by three youths in San Francisco in 1992 while he walked back to his hotel through the fashionable Nob Hill section.

Since her husband's killing, Johnstone says, she has tried to understand why Americans do not react more strongly to the large number of people killed by guns.

In 1991, the last year for which statistics are available, 38,317 people in the United States died by gunfire in murders, suicides or accidents, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta. By comparison, 58,000 American soldiers died in the Vietnam War.

Trying to raise support for gun control, Johnstone says, she and other proponents decided shoes as a symbol "would cut across all ages, all sexes, all races."