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WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork) — President Barack Obama was not heard this week for his weekly radio address; he instead turned it over to the mother of one of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre victims, who advocated for a tighter gun restrictions.
Francine Wheeler — whose 6-year-old son, Ben, was one of the 20 children killed at the school in Newtown, Conn. – was asked to take the address as part of the push for a new gun control bill.
“As you’ve probably noticed, I’m not the president. I’m just a citizen,” Wheeler began with her husband, David, at her side. “I’m here at the White House today, because I want to make a difference, and I hope you will join me.”
Wheeler’s voice cracked with emotion frequently as she went on.
“David and I have two sons,” she said. Our older son, Nate – soon to be 10 years old – is a fourth grader at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Our younger son, Ben — age 6 – was murdered in his first grade classroom on December 14, exactly four months ago this weekend.”
As she looked back on Ben’s life, Wheeler said the “tidal wave of anguish” stemming from the massacre has not receded in the slightest.
“To us, it feels as if it happened yesterday, and in the four months since we lost our loved ones, thousands of other Americans have died at the end of a gun. Thousands of other families across the United States are also drowning in our grief,” she said. “Please help us do something before our tragedy becomes your tragedy.”
Sometimes, Wheeler said, “I feel Ben’s presence filling me with courage for what I have to do, for him and all the others taken from us so violently and too soon. We have to convince the Senate to come together and pass common-sense gun responsibility reforms that will make our communities safer, and prevent more tragedies that we never thought would happen to us.”
On Wednesday, U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.) unveiled a deal to expand background checks for more gun buyers. A day later, Sixteen Republicans joined 52 Democrats to block a conservative effort that would have stopped the debate on new gun legislation before it even began.
“But that’s only the start,” Wheeler said. “They haven’t yet passed any bills that will help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, and a lot of people are fighting to make sure they never do. Now is the time to act.”
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