The families of those killed in the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut know that tragedy alone is not enough to move lawmakers to pass gun control measures; so they committed the time and energy towards learning how the game is played in Washington.
And they are winning.
The Newtown families were political novices a few months ago before their loved one were tragically ripped away from them. Yet, unlike past massacres or the victims lining the streets of Chicago, the Newtown families are largely well educated and wealthy. Their access to money and the media in the wake of such an indisputably despicable tragedy has enabled them to pry movement out of the Senate.
Politico reports that the families have several lobbyists, and, since they sound more like bereaved parents than political operatives, senators respond to them as such. The families demand to sit with senators directly, not their staffs, to share their stories.
Yesterday a majority of senators, including 16 Republicans, voted to begin the process of debating a gun control bill. This came as a surprise after Republicans consistently spoke of gun control only followed by the word filibuster. NBC reports that as the vote was taken, more than a dozen Newtown family members sat in the gallery, crying with relief. The vote was 68 – 31.
“The tears that we had weren’t tears of joy, but tears of remembering this is happening,” Jillian Soto, whose sister was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, told NBC News. “We’re here because of what happened to us.”
Earlier that same day, over 30 family members had attacked Republicans who threatened to filibuster gun control proposals in the Senate.
“The senators who have vowed to filibuster this bill should be ashamed of their attempt to silence efforts to prevent the next American tragedy,” read a statement signed by 33 family members. “Their staunch opposition to sensible gun reform is an affront to the 26 innocent children and educators who were murdered in Newtown.”
Newtown families have worked vigorously to re-frame the debate, one that has largely been dictated by the NRA despite the moral authority of those seeking to prevent future massacres. The NRA has deemed any degree of gun control to be a threat to people’s rights under the second amendment and proposes arming teachers as a deterrent to future violence.
“No one should have to experience the pain we have endured – commonsense gun laws will help spare others from the grief we live with every day,” the statement continued. “We thank Senators Manchin and Toomey for coming together to honor the memory of the victims of Sandy Hook, and we urge their colleagues in Congress to join them.”
Enough time passed that Democrats were beginning to wonder if the window for passing gun control had closed, but they now see that Newtown families are standing beside them, holding the window open with both hands.
[Image via ShutterStock]