Gun victims to attend Obama's speech

2013-02-11 22:37
US President Barack Obama. (Jewel Samad, AFP)

US President Barack Obama. (Jewel Samad, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - US President Barack Obama's fellow Democrats in Congress are bringing victims of gun violence to his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, providing faces and voices to the carnage that he wants to curb with new firearms restrictions.

About two dozen victims, including a girl from Newtown, Connecticut - site of the 14 December school massacre that killed 20 children and six adults - will see a divided Congress, uncertain what, if any, new gun laws to pass.

And lawmakers will see victims who agree with Obama that bold action is needed now, including a ban on semi-automatic assault weapons and a limit on high-capacity ammunition clips, like those used in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

The move is part of a multi-faceted campaign by gun control advocates to apply public pressure on members of Congress to stand up to the gun-rights lobby, despite fears that it could cost some of them re-election.

"They should be worried about doing the right thing, not about getting re-elected," said John Aresta, a gun violence victim who was invited by Democratic Representative Carolyn McCarthy of New York to attend Obama's speech.

Aresta, the police chief of Malverne, New York, had a partner with the New York City Police Department shot to death while on duty in 1989, and an uncle killed in a 1993 mass shooting on a commuter train.

McCarthy's husband was killed in the same train attack.

"When people are killed, their names appear in the paper and then they are basically forgotten," Aresta said. "We don't forget them."

With 310 million firearms in the hands of US civilians and more than 11 000 gun-related homicides in 2010, the US is one of the world's most heavily armed nations and one of the most violent in terms of gun-related deaths.

"Enough is enough. People should have stepped up years ago," said Jim Tyrell of Rhode Island, whose sister was killed in a 2004 armed robbery.

Since then, Tyrell has held an annual fundraiser for the study of nonviolence.

Tyrell and others impacted by gun violence will hold a news conference at the Capitol before Obama's speech.

"I understand gun owners have a right to own guns, but who needs to walk around with a semi-automatic?" Tyrell said.

The only gun-related proposal drawing bipartisan support is one requiring background checks for all gun buyers.

Critics, including the National Rifle Association (NRA), reject tougher steps as violations of the US Constitution's right to bear arms.

Shadow of Newtown

No Republican has offered to bring a gun violence victim to the speech, said Democratic Representative Jim Langevin of Rhode Island, who helped organise the outreach effort.

"This should be a bipartisan issue," Langevin said.

"We should all be concerned about guns in the wrong hands."

The victims will sit in the visitors' gallery of the House of Representatives, overlooking members of Congress as Obama delivers a speech that will spell out his priorities for the coming year, including tougher gun laws.

"It's important to have people there who have touched by gun violence," Langevin said. "They will be able to see members, and members will be able to look at the gallery and know they are there."

Langevin is one of at least half dozen or so members of Congress who are also gun violence victims. Some lost family members and a few, like Langevin, were nearly killed.

At age 16, he was paralysed when a bullet accidentally discharged from a police officer's gun and struck him in the neck.

"What happened to me shows that despite what the NRA says, having more guns isn't the answer to keeping our communities and children safe," Langevin said.

Langevin's guest at Obama's speech is Tyrell.

Online petition

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi invited a fourth-grade student from Newtown after the youngster wrote to her. The girl didn't attend Sandy Hook Elementary School, where the shooting occurred but has since become a gun control advocate.

"After the shooting in my town, I started an online petition asking for help from the president and Congress to change the gun laws," the youngster wrote.

"What everyone in Newtown wants is for you to ban semi-automatic weapons and large capacity magazines," she wrote.

Natalie Hammond, a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School who was shot in the attack, will also attend Obama's speech as a guest of Democratic Representative Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut, her congresswoman.

Langevin and McCarthy, along with three other House Democrats, urged colleagues to invite victims in the wake of the Newtown massacre and after Obama vowed to make gun control a top priority.

"It is our hope that their presence in the House Gallery will send a strong message that it is long past time to act," the five Democrats wrote.

Read more on:    nra  |  barack obama  |  us  |  us shooting  |  gun control

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

Debtors/Creditors Supervisor

Century City
Pro Placements Recruitment Agency
R10 000 - R12 000 Per Month

Graphic Designer

Cape Town Northern Suburbs
Creative Sourcing
R7 000 - R9 000 Per Month

CSR Inbound

Cape Town Northern Suburbs
O'Brien Recruitment
R14 000 - R16 000 Per Month

Property [change area]

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.