NEWTOWN, Conn.—Frustrated with inaction to reduce gun violence, 36 teachers and other school staff who survived the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., are urging congressional support for a bipartisan firearms background check bill, with an eye toward the November elections.
The King-Thompson and Manchin-Toomey bills would expand the existing background check system to cover all commercial firearm sales, including at guns shows, over the Internet and through classified ads. Background checks would be conducted through a federally licensed dealer, states would report criminals and the dangerously mentally ill to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and the bill explicitly bans the federal government from creating a registry.
The Sandy Hook educators and school staff have written an impassioned open letter for educators to deliver to congressional offices asking for support on the background check reform measures.
"We shielded children while overhearing 154 shots go off in a mere five minutes. Others smelled the gun smoke, a result of shots that killed our friends," the letter says. "We don't want what happened to us to happen to anyone else. But here's the thing: It keeps happening." It goes on: "Listen to your constituents and especially the educators and parents in your district. We are counting on you to protect us. Do that, or get voted out. So, where do you stand on gun reform?"
Abbey Clements, a second-grade teacher at Sandy Hook, says survivors are moving forward in the aftermath of the shooting that took the lives of 20 children and six educators, and many are now ready to stand up for change for the sake of every community in America.
"There have been 74 school shootings since Dec. 14, 2012. As survivors and educators who cannot sit idly by, we feel we must contribute to the efforts for change," Clements says.
Sandy Hook library clerk Mary Ann Jacob says, "It is for the children who survived, and in honor of the 26 we lost, that we have chosen to stand up and be heard. We believe we are at a tipping point." Added Sandy Hook para-educator Karen Wilk: "If it could happen at Sandy Hook, it can happen anywhere. It is our responsibility to make sure it doesn't."
AFT President Randi Weingarten says the legislation is a commonsense response to gun violence.
"As these courageous educators send a powerful message to those with the power to make change, they also set an incredible example for their students and their community. By turning their unimaginable grief into constructive engagement, they remind us all of the importance of never giving up, never giving in to despair, and always working for a better world," Weingarten says.