Watch: Newtown marks 6 months since shooting with a moment of silence
Newtown held a moment of silence Friday for the victims of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School at a remembrance event that doubled as a call to action on gun control, with the reading of names of thousands of victims of gun violence.
The event then transitioned to the reading of the names of more than 6,000 people killed by gun violence since the tragedy in Newtown. The reading of names is expected to take 12 hours.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns, an organization of city mayors promoting tougher federal, state, and local gun regulation, will launch a bus tour that will travel to 25 states over 100 days to build support for background checks legislation. Legislation to expand background checks for gun buyers failed in the U.S. Senate in April.
The mayors group is also holding events in 10 states calling for lawmakers to expand background checks and urging senators who opposed the bill to reconsider. Those events, which include gun violence survivors and gun owners, will be held in Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Montana, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
On Dec. 14, 2012, Adam Lanza killed his mother and then 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School before committing suicide as police arrived.
Since Sandy Hook, there have been at least 10 school shootings near or on campuses in the United States. On June 7, a gunman with a semi-automatic rifle walked through Santa Monica College campus after killing his father and brother at their home and another man near the school. He also killed a woman outside the library before dying from police gunfire shortly after.
As advocates around the country call to pass legislation expanding background checks for gun purchases, we take a brief look at what has—or hasn’t—changed since the shooting in Newtown.
Gun control legislation
Six months after the Newtown school shooting, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is stepping up his gun control campaign by asking donors not to support Democratic senators who opposed a bill to expand background checks on gun buyers, while a mayors’ group he co-founded is embarking on a national bus tour to rally for efforts to curb gun violence.
Some of the victims’ families also vowed to keep up the pressure for stricter gun control as they met with lawmakers in Washington earlier this week.
“This mother’s heartbreak that I carry, this life sentence that I have, no one should ever have to bear this burden,” said Nelba Marquez-Greene, whose daughter, Ana, was among 26 people killed inside Sandy Hook Elementary School.
In April, Connecticut passed legislation that included a ban on new high-capacity ammunition magazines like the ones used in the massacre.
VIDEO: The families of Newtown shooting victims have wrapped up a week of lobbying in Washington. They are calling on U.S. politicians to implement tough new gun regulations. (April 13)
In a letter, Bloomberg asked New York City donors not to support Democratic senators who opposed a bill to expand background checks, which helped lead to the legislation’s defeat in April. The letter names Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Max Baucus of Montana and Mark Begich of Alaska.
“I am writing to ask you: The next time these four senators want you to support them with donations to their campaigns, tell them you cannot,” Bloomberg wrote to about 1,100 New York City residents who had contributed to the four senators. “Until they show they will stand up for the American people and not the gun lobby, tell them you cannot support their candidacy.”
Pryor has said he didn’t vote for the background check measure because he believed a separate gun control measure he supported by Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa was stronger. He also said the bill would not have prevented Newtown and other mass shootings.
Gun control advocates say they are anticipating further action from President Barack Obama, who said he would do everything he could to stem gun violence even without Congress.
The Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank with close ties to the White House, is asking Obama to issue a dozen more executive actions they say are within his power to reduce gun crimes. The group has been pushing those measures in meetings with the White House, where point man Vice President Joe Biden declared in an email to supporters Friday, “This fight is far from over.”
Obama issued 23 executive actions in the aftermath of Sandy Hook and hasn’t ruled out doing more. His aides say he isn’t planning to announce any new initiatives or hold a gun-related event this week but will likely acknowledge the anniversary.
But the National Rifle Association, which has successfully helped block any new guns laws, says it sees no further need for executive action. “The problem we have is lack of enforcement and lack of prosecution,” said NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam.
Safety in schools
Since Newtown, state lawmakers across the U.S. vowed to act and devise ways to prevent a similar tragedy. They came up with hundreds of possible strategies, including proposing solutions that include arming teachers, adding guards or police offers and increasing security in schools.
According to Education Week, at least 62 proposals since the school shooting have been introduced in state legislatures that would allow school employees, including teachers, to carry weapons to school. Kansas, South Dakota and Tennessee have passed laws since the shooting at Sandy Hook to allow it.
A closer look at mental health
Missouri Senator Roy Blunt said the Newtown tragedy couldn’t have been stopped with Obama’s gun control proposals.
“I’m also disappointed it has taken so long,” wrote Blunt in an editorial in USA Today on June. “Instead of joining bipartisan efforts to address mental health reform immediately after the Sandy Hook tragedy, President Obama spent a great deal of time and political capital trying to pressure Congress into passing an unrelated gun bill — legislation that failed to address the root cause of the deadly violence that we witnessed in Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo., and Tucson.”
“People with mental health problems are almost never dangerous. In fact, they are more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators. At the same time, mental illness has been the common denominator in one act of mass violence after another.”
Earlier this month, Obama said it was time to bring mental illness “out of the shadows.”
The Mental Health First Act of 2013 was introduced in January to help people identify, understand and respond to the signs of mental illnesses and addiction disorders through a pilot program for mental health first aid training.
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