Washington – Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy are giving fellow senators pins that show how many people in their state have been killed by guns since Adam Lanza shot 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School nearly two years ago.
The senators’ own pins bear the number 227.
Blumenthal said he and Murphy are distributing the pins to pressure Congress to act on gun control.
“Congress’ failure to act is contemptible and unconscionable,” Blumenthal said.
On Wednesday, the senators and other Connecticut lawmakers joined Newtown families and victims of gun violence across the nation in renewing their calls for new federal gun laws at a press conference in the U.S. Capitol.
The appeals come at a time when the political prospects for gun control are dim and getting dimmer as a new Republican-controlled Congress prepares to be gaveled in next year.
Still, the people from Newtown and the others who have come to Washington to lobby for change are now a part of Washington’s political fabric.
They have held countless events, lobbied every member of Congress, and won the respect of even the toughest opponents of gun control with their determination that the deaths of their loved ones should count for something – the possibility that laws can be changed in a way to prevent other gun-related deaths.
“I note that Lauren would be proud of our effort,” said Gilles Rousseau, who lost his daughter Lauren Rousseau, an educator at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in the shooting. “She’s been gone for two years but my daughter has been with me every day.”
The Newtown Action Alliance brought in dozens of gun-control advocates from Connecticut. Victims of the mass shootings at Virginia Tech and Aurora, Col., also attended the event, as did victims of random acts of gun violence.
Among them was Tyrek Marquez, who was shot in the head on the streets of Hartford a few years ago when he was 7.
“He was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Blumenthal said.
Marquez has a limp and is partially paralyzed by the shooting.
“I can’t do what other kids do, but I can do some of it,” he said.
Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, said the 60,000 Americans shot since Adam Lanza lauched his murderous assault on Dec. 14, 2012 “cannot be the price of freedom.”
She said she would tell the new members of Congress, “Welcome to Congress; now do your job.”
The gun control advocates are seeking an expansion of federal background checks of gun buyers. Under current law, those who purchase a gun at a dealer undergo an FBI background check that determines if the prospective buyer is a felon or has been involuntarily committed to a mental institution — conditions that would quash the sale. But gun sales by individuals over the Internet and at gun shows are not subject to an FBI background check.
An attempt to pass a bill that would expand background checks failed in the Senate last year.
A report by Everytown for Gun Safety says Connecticut ranks 15th among the states when it comes to reporting mental health records to the FBI. The gun-control group, founded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said as of Nov. 30, 2013, Connecticut had submitted 15,898 mental health records, or about 442 per 100,000 residents, to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
The gun control advocates who have come to Washington this week plan to attend a vigil at Washington’s National Cathedral on Thursday and to distribute petitions signed by more than 170 groups calling for expanded background checks.