Members of the Newtown Action Allianceâ€”formed after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementaryâ€”crowded, with members of the media, into a Capitol Hill conference room on Thursday for a powerful call on Congress, asking their representatives to pass legislation that would help prevent gun violence.
Jillian Soto, who spoke first, gave a personal plea to Congress. She recounted how her sister, Victoria Soto, was teaching at Sandy Hook on Dec. 14, 2012.
“At 9:35 a.m., an armed man walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School,” Soto said. Then she stopped and took a long pause, unable to continue for a moment. “â€”into Sandy Hook Elementary, and opened fireâ€”” She pauses again. “â€”opened fire and killed 26 people within the school.”
“Twenty of the people were 6- and 7-year-olds, and six educators,” she continued. “And one of those educators was my oldest sister.”
Today marks the six month anniversary of the shooting. Jillianâ€™s sister, Victoria, was killed while heroically attempting to protect the students under her care.
In front of the silent audience on Capitol Hill, Soto stood with her sister Carlee and brother Carlos and reminded Congress that, since that day six months ago,Â gun violence has claimed another 5,000 livesÂ in the United States. Yet, no law addressing the indiscriminate purchase of guns by dangerous individuals through widely-known loopholes has been enacted.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) echoed Soto’s sentiments in his own remarks, lamenting the inaction that has characterized this issue in Congress in spite of the fact that common-sense solutions, like comprehensive background checks, are overwhelmingly popular.
Reid expressed disbelief with how unresponsive obstructionist lawmakers have been to their constituents.
â€œIâ€™d be hard pressed to find another issue,” he said, “where ninety percent of the American people think itâ€™s the right thing to do.â€
Nevertheless, Reid was emphatic that efforts led by him and his colleagues to prevent gun violence through legislation would inevitably succeed, despite the number of Senators who successfully opposed a background check bill on April 17. In his remarks, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) called that day a “Day of Shame.â€
Reid assured the families that he wouldn’t give up the fight, a common refrain during the press conference.
Referring to the defeated Manchin-Toomey Amendment, Reid said: â€œTo the Republicans that voted against this, the writing is on the wall.â€
Reid, along with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA), said that while they are tirelessly working to win over opponents of the last bill, their efforts have been â€œfruitlessâ€ so far. In spite of this, the lawmakers in attendance were resolutely optimistic and displayed a confidence that representatives’ common humanity would eventually trump political posturing and the powerful influence of lobbying groups.
â€œWe lost the first vote,” Blumenthal said. “But we are going to win the last vote.â€
While opponents of such legislation may have been hoping that the issue would disappear following the Senate’s vote in April, many legislators and advocates from groups like the Newtown Action Alliance are clearly committed to ensuring that fewer American families will have to suffer these kinds of devastating losses.
â€œOur hearts are broken,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). “Our spirit is not.â€