Newtown, Connecticut -
A Connecticut town where 20 children and six educators were massacred in December held a moment of silence Friday, at a six-month remembrance event that doubled as a call to action on gun control, with the reading of names of thousands of victims of gun violence.
The mood of the six-month marker of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown was decidedly more political than private. It was organised by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group co-founded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Events were being held in 10 states calling for lawmakers to expand background checks for gun buyers. Such legislation failed in the Senate in April, despite strong support from the Obama administration in a reflection the deep divisions among Americans over gun control.
While many citizens support stricter gun laws in the face of repeated mass shootings, many others argue firearms are a legitimate means of self-defence and are wary of any attempt to restrict buying and owning them.
Two sisters of Victoria Soto, a teacher slain at Sandy Hook on December 14, asked the crowd gathered at a town hall in Newtown for a 26-second moment of silence. The event then transitioned to the reading of the names of more than 5 000 people killed in America by gun violence since the tragedy in Newtown. The reading of names is expected to take 12 hours.
The gunman in Newtown killed his mother and then the 26 people at the 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.
“He just told us to have faith,” said Jillian Soto, 24. “It isn't something that happens overnight. It's something that you have to continue to fight for. Within good time we will have this passed and we will have change.”
Mayors Against Illegal Guns also launched a bus tour that will travel to 25 states over 100 days to build support for legislation to expand background checks.
Bloomberg, one of the most powerful gun control proponents in the US, this week sent a letter asking donors not to support Democratic senators who opposed the bill to expand background checks.
On the other side of the debate, the National Rifle Association is focusing on Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, who co-sponsored the bill to expand background checks.
The NRA, the most powerful pro-gun lobby in the country, plans to spend $100 000 airing a TV ad in West Virginia urging viewers to phone Manchin's office and tell him “to honour his commitment to the 2nd Amendment” of the Constitution, which protects the right of citizens to own firearms. - Sapa-AP