As the 11th anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting approaches, Connecticut lawmakers on Thursday urged the families of shooting victims to press on with their fight for stricter gun laws.
What You Need To Know
- As the 11th anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting approaches, Connecticut lawmakers on Thursday urged the families of shooting victims to press on with their fight for stricter gun laws
- Members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation held a news conference in Washington on Thursday, a day after the Newtown Action Alliance Foundation held its annual national vigil for victims of gun violence in the nation’s capital
- Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said that while it has been exhausting for families to continue to push for new gun laws, “the cumulative impact of all of that is that the politics have fundamentally changed over the course of the last 10 years"
- On Wednesday, Senate Democrats requested unanimous consent to pass bills banning semi-automatic weapons and requiring universal background checks for firearm purchases, but Republican lawmakers blocked their efforts
Members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation held a news conference in Washington on Thursday, a day after the Newtown Action Alliance Foundation held its annual national vigil for victims of gun violence in the nation’s capital.
Just hours before the planned vigil, a gunman killed three people at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, before dying in a shootout with police, authorities said.
Dec. 14 is the anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Conn., in which 27 people — including 20 children — were fatally shot.
“I just have a very simple message to everybody here, all the heroes who are watching, those survivors who won't give up, won’t go away, won’t abandon this effort: You are making a difference,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said as he was flanked by relatives of gun violence victims holding photos of their loved ones.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said that while it has been exhausting for families to continue to push for new gun laws, “the cumulative impact of all of that is that the politics have fundamentally changed over the course of the last 10 years.”
“No, we have not passed a universal background checks bill,” he said. “No, we still need to pass an assault weapons ban. But we are finally at this critical moment where the anti-gun-violence movement has more power than the gun lobby, where we win more frequently than they stopped us from winning.”
Lawmakers pointed to the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act passed last year in the wake of an elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and a supermarket shooting in Buffalo, New York. It was the first major federal gun legislation approved in 28 years.
Murphy said it’s evident the law is working. It expanded background checks for gun buyers under 21, provided state funding for red flag laws and closed the so-called “boyfriend loophole” in a law barring some people convicted of domestic violence from purchasing a firearm, among other actions.
“Yes, the mass shootings have not abated, but gun violence in America cities is down 12% since we passed that law, proving this idea that, if you change the laws of the nation, you save lives, that if you continue to change the laws of the nation, you save even more lives,” Murphy said. “None of this is theoretical any longer.”
But Democrats on Capitol Hill and gun reform advocates still have a wishlist of other laws they want to see passed.
On Wednesday, Senate Democrats requested unanimous consent to pass bills banning semi-automatic weapons and requiring universal background checks for firearm purchases, but Republican lawmakers blocked their efforts.
Blumenthal said Thursday that the number of shooting deaths in the United States is a result of the “absence of action to stop gun violence.”
“These measures are common sense, and the failure to adopt them makes Congress complicit,” he said.
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., argued Wednesday that a semi-automatic weapons ban would conflict with the Second Amendment.
“Americans have a constitutional right to own a firearm,” Barrasso said, according to The Hill. “ … Democrats are demanding that the American people give up their liberty.”
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said the background check bill had “problems with it,” using the example of a father wanting to pass a gun down to his son.
While the vigil and news conference were tied to the Sandy Hook anniversary, they paid tribute to victims of all U.S. mass shootings.
At the news conference, Sam Schwartz, whose cousin Alex Schachter was killed in the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, called for a ban on semi-automatic weapons and urged people who want tougher gun laws to vote out Republicans.
“The gunman [in Parkland], who I will add obtained his weapon legally, simply walked into the school armed with an AR-15 and massacred 17 people. And that took 3 ½ minutes,” Schwartz said.
Schwartz also noted that the gunman in the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, shot 102 people, killing 49, in about five minutes.
“You don't even need me to tell you what kind of gun was used in Pulse because the number of deaths just gives it away,” he said. “Only an assault weapon causes this much destruction in so little time.”
Kristen Song has been pushing for a law requiring the safe storage of firearms in homes with minors. The stalled bill, called “Ethan’s Law,” is named after her son, who died in 2018 at 15 years old after accidentally shooting himself with a gun that had been left in a cardboard box at a friend’s house in Connecticut.
She read an essay she wrote a month after Ethan died, in which she described the anguish she felt, including suicidal thoughts.
“What’s so heartbreaking is that Ethan’s death was 100% preventable,” she said. “If that gun owner had taken seconds, just seconds, to lock up his three handguns, my son would be alive today. I would not be serving a life sentence, and he would not be serving a death sentence.”
And Judy Richardson told the story of her 25-year-old daughter, Darien, who was shot in her bed by an intruder in 2010 in Maine. The investigation into the death went cold when police traced the gun back to a man who had sold it at a gun show, where background checks are not required, but couldn’t say to whom.
“We have two systems currently,” Richardson said. “If you're a federally licensed dealer, you have to conduct, and the people that buy have to pass, a background check. But if people know that they can’t pass a background check, what do they do? They go to private sales.”