NEWTOWN, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) — 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.
Two sisters of slain teacher Victoria Soto asked the crowd gathered at Edmond Town Hall for a 26-second moment of silence, honoring the 20 children and six adults gunned down at the school on Dec. 14. Victoria Soto died trying to protect her students.
“Although it’s been six months, we have not forgotten and we will never forget the ones who died,” said Carlee Soto, who held hands with her sister Jillian before taking the stage. “This pain is excruciating and unbearable but thanks to people like you, that come out and support us, we are able to get through this.”
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, which organized the event in Newtown, also launched a bus tour that will travel to 25 states over 100 days to build support for legislation to expand background checks for gun buyers. Such legislation failed in the Senate in April.
“I’m both surprised and disappointed [in the lack of action]. My life changed, as did a lot of people’s, on December 14,” Sen. Chris Murphy told WCBS 880’s Steve Scott in Friday’s Eye on Politics segment. “I wake up every morning thinking about those 26 little kids and teachers and I go to bed every night thinking about them.”
“I’m shocked that Congress looks these families in the eye and does nothing,” he added.
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.
The gunman in Newtown killed his mother and then the 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School with a semiautomatic rifle before committing suicide as police arrived.
Some of the victims’ families are in Washington this week lobbying lawmakers for action. Jillian and Carlee Soto met with President Barack Obama as they campaign for gun control.
“It’s time now,” said Jillian Soto. “Six months after Sandy Hook that we stand together as a nation and do something, it’s time that Congress stop being cowards and do something about it.”
“It brings back the memories of our sister who drove up here that day, was never able to drive out. So it brings back a lot of emotions, but we know that we’re here for a good fight,” said Jillian Soto.
Gilles Rousseau takes comfort in living for his daughter Lauren, one of the teacher victims.
“It’s Father’s Day in a couple days and I really, that makes me really sad, that she’s not gonna be there,” he told CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who co-founded the mayor’s group, this week sent a letter asking donors not to support Democratic senators who opposed the bill to expand background checks.
“We lost the first vote but we will win the last vote,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). “The one who wins the last vote is the one who wins.”
On the other side of the debate, the National Rifle Association is focusing on Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who co-sponsored the bill to expand background checks, with a TV ad urging viewers to phone Manchin’s office and tell him “to honor his commitment to the 2nd Amendment.”
The NRA plans to spend $100,000 airing the ad in West Virginia markets over the next two weeks.
The NRA and conservative lawmakers insist that new laws will not reduce gun crime, they want to focus on enforcing the existing laws.
“Our hearts go out to these families and the tragedy that they’ve all been through. So they’ve asked and we’re willing to sit down and talk with them about their interests,” Ohio Republican and Speaker of the House, Rep. John Boehner said.
Newtown residents are not the only ones who want see gun laws amended. Stephen Barton survived the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting, he was struck twenty-five times during the attack and has joined the bus tour.
“My eyes have been opened to this issue in a way that they haven’t been before, so I can’t stand by and let this continue happening,” he said.
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