Newtown families see hope for gun control
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[June 17, 2016]
By Joseph Ax
(Reuters) - Since his 7-year-old son,
Daniel, was gunned down in his elementary school in Newtown,
Connecticut, 3-1/2 years ago, Mark Barden has been an outspoken advocate
for gun control.
Time and again, he has watched with disappointment as Republican
lawmakers in the U.S. Senate blocked gun control measures, saying
they infringed on the right to bear arms guaranteed by the U.S.
Constitution. Congress has not passed major gun control legislation
But in the aftermath of Sunday's rampage in which a U.S.-born gunman
claiming allegiance to various Islamist militant groups killed 49
people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, Barden is encouraged
the Senate is moving toward a vote on two modest gun control laws
next week, even if they fail to pass.
"One of the hard lessons I've had to learn in this is that you have
to accept any forward motion as a victory," he said in a phone
interview. "Even if it's not a 'win,' in terms of legislation that's
passed, but if it's generating more conversation - it's agonizingly
slow, but the needle is moving."
Several family members who lost relatives in the December 2012
Newtown attack, in which a gunman killed 20 young children and six
staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School, said they were
cautiously optimistic the debate over gun control measures had
shifted following the Orlando massacre, the worst mass shooting in
modern U.S history.
Many have spent the years since the Newtown shooting pressing
Congress to restrict access to dangerous assault rifles of the type
used in mass shootings in Newtown, Orlando and San Bernardino,
On Thursday, the Senate moved close to a vote on two bills favored
by Democrats that would expand background checks for buyers and
block individuals on U.S. terrorism watch lists from purchasing
The movement came after U.S. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut and
fellow Democrats talked on the Senate floor for nearly 15 straight
hours to demand that Congress act on gun control.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said on
Wednesday he would meet with the powerful National Rifle Association
gun rights lobby to discuss prohibiting people on watch lists from
About 71 percent of Americans, including eight out of 10 Democrats
and nearly six out of 10 Republicans, favor at least moderate
regulations and restrictions on guns, according to a Reuters/Ipsos
poll conducted from Monday to Thursday. That was up from 60 percent
in late 2013 and late 2014.
[to top of second column]
Mark Barden, the father of Daniel Barden, is pictured during an
interview in the Sandy Hook Promise office in Newtown, Connecticut
December 6, 2013 . Daniel Barden was one of 20 children and six
adults killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in a shooting.
'CHANGE IS ALREADY HERE'
Some Newtown relatives said the mere fact the Senate took up the
legislation so quickly after the Orlando attack was a victory.
"It took us four months to get to this point after Sandy Hook," said
Erica Lafferty Smegielski, whose mother, Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung,
was the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School and died in the
attack. "It took us four days after Orlando. No matter the outcome,
the change is already here."
Nicole Hockley, whose 6-year-old son, Dylan, was killed at Sandy
Hook, said she believed common-sense gun control was "inevitable"
given the growing sense of outrage among Americans following a
string of mass shootings. But she acknowledged that progress would
be slow and that even the bills currently under consideration were
"Sandy Hook was the start of this change," she said. "I very much
believe that Orlando will be the culmination of it."
Other families affected by mass shootings have added their voices to
the debate. At a news conference on Thursday with Senate Democratic
leaders, the Rev. Sharon Risher, whose mother and two cousins were
killed in June 2015 by a gunman at a Charleston, South Carolina,
church, said gun control could prevent future tragedies.
"Hate becomes deadly when we make it far too easy for those intent
on causing harm to get their hands on a gun," she said.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax in New York; Additional reporting by Ginger
Gibson and Alana Wise in Washington; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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