NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) – Relatives of victims of recent high-profile mass shootings in the U.S. traveled with activists to Washington on Tuesday to lobby again for gun control, a trip that took on new urgency in the wake of Monday’s shooting in the capital that killed 13.
The trip by the Newtown Action Alliance gun law advocacy group was planned to mark roughly nine months since the Dec. 14 rampage in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 children and six educators were shot to death. It now also quickly follows Monday’s killings at the Washington Navy Yard.
Members of the group also included those who lost family members in the July 2012 shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., in which 12 people were gunned down and 70 wounded.
They also included Amardeep Kaleka, whose father was one of six Sikhs killed at a Wisconsin temple in August 2012.
Kaleka said his goal is to see Congress impose stricter background checks and close loopholes that enable people to buy guns at gun shows without any background checks. It’s the same message he has given lawmakers before, but he said it has to be repeated so legislators don’t forget there are multiple sides to the issue.
“The NRA is able to lobby them eight hours a day, five days a week, for months on end. We survivors come in periodically, only one or two times a year,” he told The Associated Press. “I fear (lawmakers) are in that position where they think they’re going to lose votes or money backing them campaign-wise.”
Among those traveling from Colorado were Megan Sullivan, whose brother Alex was killed in the shooting, and her father, Tom.
“This is another moment where it’s just surreal that I’m even in this situation and speaking with other people who have lost their brothers and loved ones,” Megan Sullivan told The Aurora Sentinel on Tuesday.
The Newtown massacre renewed momentum across the country for tighter restrictions on guns. The movement had some early successes, including laws enacted in Connecticut and Colorado, but it has since stalled. A federal effort to enact new background checks fell short in the Senate in April. And in Colorado, angered by the state’s new laws, gun-rights activists achieved the recalls of two Democratic lawmakers in elections last week.
The activists traveling from Connecticut focused their criticism on Congress as they headed to Washington, where they planned to meet with lawmakers Tuesday and Wednesday, said Po Murray, one of the founders of Newtown Action Alliance. She said the group is also delivering letters asking members of Congress to pass a background check requirement.
“It’s been nine months and there’s still no action on the federal level,” Carlos Soto, the brother of a teacher who was killed in Newtown, told WFSB-TV. “We’re not gonna go away.”
The Sullivans and the parents of Jessica Ghawi, who also died in the Colorado shooting, also plan to meet with members of Colorado’s congressional delegation to lobby for a renewed push on gun control.
“We’re going to keep pushing along,” Tom Sullivan said in an interview. “That’s what we do.”
The activists now hope lawmakers may be motivated to act now because the killings at the Navy Yard were close to Capitol Hill.
“It definitely brings back terrible feelings, and we know what the families are going through,” Newtown Action Alliance co-founder David Ackert told the Hearst Connecticut Media Group.
“It exacerbates the reason we’re going, and we’re determined to get the politicians to stop looking the other way, now that it’s come to their doorstep.”
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