HARTFORD â€“ Flanked with the stateâ€™s U.S. delegates and gun reform activists around him, the father of a Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim demanded Congress act in the wake of yet another school shooting.
â€śI know all about those lives who are on the other end of those weapons,â€ť Mark Barden said while holding up a picture of his son, Daniel. â€śIâ€™ve been holding up pictures of my little Daniel since the day he was murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School â€¦ You need to look at the face. You need to look at the actual toll weâ€™re looking at here.â€ť
Barden is the founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise, a coalition of activists and parents that aims to prevent gun violence through education and advocacy for legislation. Last week, an ex-student walked into Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and killed 17 students and faculty members. The attack has re-energized the countryâ€™s gun reform movement and has once again put gun violence prevention as a â€śhot topicâ€ť in Congress.
Barden was part of the gun violence discussion in the Oval Office of the White House earlier this week with President Donald Trump and others.
â€śHere we are again. Here we are again trying to figure out what the hell are we going to do about this. Five years. Iâ€™m sick of this, Iâ€™m sick of having to figure this out. We need your help,â€ť Barden said.
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-CT, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT, U.S. Rep. John Larson, CT-1st District, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, CT-3rd District and U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, CT-5th District, joined Barden at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford on Friday to challenge residents and politicians to keep mounting pressure for gun reform legislation.
The legislators spoke about the need to pressure their Republican peers, and Trump, to take substantive action to prevent further mass shootings.
â€śWe voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act 62 times and havenâ€™t taken up gun violence once. That day is over, and in large part thanks to the energy and commitment and involvement of students like Lane and those students assembled here,â€ť Larson said.
The Congressman was referring to Lane Murdock, a sophomore at Ridgefield High School who started the National School Walkout movement. Murdock stood with legislators Friday and explained why she organized the demonstration, which is scheduled for April 20.
â€śWhen tragedies like the shooting in Florida happen, we as teenagers have no voice, no platform, even though the shooters are going into our schools and our spaces,â€ť the 15-year-old said. â€śMost of us canâ€™t vote, yet. This is why I started the National School Walkout on April 20th. This day will give schools across the country a day of solidarity, reflection, but most of all a day of listening.â€ť
Murdock said the walkout will only be the beginning of her generationâ€™s involvement. Young people have lived with the reality of gun violence all their lives, Murdock explained.
â€śI have been doing lockdowns since I was in first grade â€“ that is my normal. Learning to sit in a dark corner as a child wondering if this is how itâ€™s really going to be when it happens. Our teachers would give us coloring books so we would have something to do, so we would be quiet. This is how your children have been raised, this is what they find normal,â€ť Murdock said. â€śBlood is on your hands. And when we walk out on April 20, the whole world will see the kids are growing up and taking charge, and nothing can stop that.â€ť
Legislators mentioned that there are many bills in the works both in the Senate and House of Representatives.
â€śThere are a myriad of bills, important legislation led by this delegation, legislation that will help save lives,â€ť Esty said. â€śThereâ€™s no one bill that will stop all gun deaths, but there are many that will make a difference.â€ť
Barden mentioned the Stop School Violence Act, which has already been introduced in the House of Representatives and will makes its way to the Senate on Tuesday. This bill would fund training in schools for students and staff on ways to prevent and recognize signs of potential gun violence, similar to what his organization Sandy Hook Promise is working towards. Barden said the organization already has an anonymous reporting system where students can report tips related to potential shootings.
â€śI told the president that I have something that works. Weâ€™ve already prevent school shootings, weâ€™ve already stopped suicides, Barden said. â€śWe can do this right now, we have an amazing team of staff and Promise leaders and volunteers across the country, in 50 states, who are ready to go. We can do this nationally.â€ť
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.