Ahead of Sandy Hook anniversary, survivors and advocates call for action on gun control in Washington, DC – Torrington Register Citizen


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Connecticut's congressional leaders and survivors of the 2012 shooting at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School called for federal action to stem the national epidemic of gun violence on Thursday, days before the ninth anniversary of the massacre.

Two former students at Sandy Hook at the time of the shooting, Maggie LaBanca and Camille Paradis, said the trauma of that event spurred them to advocate for tougher gun laws, but it has been to little avail.

“I left that day with unimaginable trauma and people I would never see again,” Paradis said. “For months and years after, every year, I am told never again. I am told we will never forget you, and yet it seems as if the government has, because I have watched it happen again and again and again.”

The rally of advocates and survivors in Washington, D.C. also comes after days of congressional haranguing over the latest American mass shooting, this time at a high school in Michigan.

Those debates have seen U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D- Conn, angrily cast blame on Republicans for “holding fealty to the gun lobby” on the Senate floor, while conceding that their opposition left Democrats with little chance at success for passing new reforms, such as an expansion of background checks for firearm purchases.

On Thursday, Murphy and three other members of the state’s congressional delegation appeared to have little optimism, even as they renewed their calls to hold a vote on background checks, a ban on military-style assault weapons and a law mandating the safe storage of firearms.

“I am angry and I am impatient,” said U.S. Rep. Jahanna Hayes, D-5th District. “I am at an incredibly difficult place that is very foreign to me. There are 535 people in Congress and one person in the White House who has the ability to do everything that we’re talking about here.”

Both lawmakers and advocates placed the blame squarely on Republicans and the Senate filibuster rule, which requires a 60-vote majority to pass nearly any piece of legislation, for Congress’ inability to take up gun control measures.

The filibuster rule was most recently used this month to block Murphy’s enhanced background check legislation which he and other lawmakers said Thursday enjoyed popular support among most Americans.

“If the people’s will cannot be executed through a vote in the United State’s Senate, then we cannot move legislation forward, we can't enact the will of the people,” said U.S. Rep. John Larson, D-1st District.

Republicans in Congress have proposed alternate legislation that would aim to increase federal prosecution of gun crimes and bolster the background check system while not expanding it, which Democrats have said does not go far enough to stop mass shootings and surging gun violence.

Advocates and gun violence survivors were blunt in their criticism of Congress’ response to gun violence in the nearly decade since Sandy Hook.

“The federal government has completely failed and we’re frustrated,” said Po Murray, the chair of Newtown Action Alliance. “We come here every year being more frustrated, it’s been nine years and no substantive action on gun laws.”

The perpetrator of the Sandy Hook shooting, Adam Lanza, used semi-automatic and bolt action rifles in the shooting that had been legally obtained by his mother. Lanza killed his mother and used her weapons to murder 26 others.

A year after the massacre, Connecticut lawmakers passed expanded background checks and a ban on the military-style semi-automatic rifles like the kind used in the shooting. LaBanca and lawmakers said similar action is still needed at the federal level.

“Nine years later, at 17 years old, I’m starting to understand that we have yet to make substantial progress at a national level,” LaBanca said. “Nine years later, at 17 years old, all I want is to feel safe.”

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