Vigil marks six years since Newtown tragedy
WASHINGTON — Connecticut lawmakers and advocates of greater firearms controls marked the sixth anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting at a church vigil Wednesday night to commemorate “all victims of gun violence.”
Scheduled Connecticut speakers include Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., as well as Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn. Carol Wakeman, a board member of Newtown Action Alliance, was to participate in a “Litany of Remembrance.”
Jordan Gomes Jr., a fourth-grader at Sandy Hook the day of the shooting, was to offer testimony on behalf of Jr. Newtown Action Alliance. Gomes is now a high school student.
The vigil at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, just blocks from the U.S. Capitol, was the sixth since the Newtown shooting on Dec. 14, 2012, which took the lives of 20 young children and 6 adult staff members.
A busload of advocates from the Newtown area joined others affected by gun violence in the event organized by the Newtown Foundation and Newtown Action Alliance.
Twenty other groups, including the Brady Center for Gun-violence Prevention and Moms Demand Action, were co-sponsors.
In a statement, the groups noted that more than 600,000 people in America have been killed or injured by gunfire since Sandy Hook.
“We urge you to join the gun violence prevention community in our collective effort to continue to shine a light on the devastating epidemic of gun violence in our nation until these gun deaths and injuries are reduced,” the statement said.
By some measures, the ground for gun-control advocacy has not been as fertile in a decade or more.
Buffeted for years by a Republican-controlled Congress disinterested in greater regulation of firearms sales, advocates got accustomed to cycles of outrage as each new mass shooting unfolded, only to be followed by congressional inaction.
But a confluence of factors may change that script.
Democrats will control the House starting in January. While any legislation they pass will get a cold reception in the Senate (which remains in Republican hands) and President Donald Trump, controlling the House gives advocates and gun control-minded lawmakers a solid perch from which to express their views.
Also, their chief nemesis, the National Rifle Association, is suffering a decline in income and membership. The NRA even took away free coffee from employees at their suburban-Washington headquarters, according to media reports.
Since President Trump replaced President Obama last year, gun sales have plummeted. Gun-rights advocates always joked that Obama, a staunch supporter of limits such as comprehensive background checks, was the best salesman the firearms industry ever had.
Trump, by contrast, is a strong Second-Amendment advocate who counts NRA members as a core constituency.
The Newtown-based National Shooting Sports Foundation acknowledges dropping sales but argues gun-buying remains robust by historic standards.
“Sales remain strong, even if they are off recent records,” said NSSF spokesman Michael Bazinet, pointing to the most common measure of gun-industry strength — background-check requests submitted by firearms dealers to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
NICS requests for the week of Thanksgiving were lower than last year, but higher than 2016 and all the years between 2009 and 2014.
By contrast, a survey by Guns.com, an online firearms outlet, concluded that the number of background-check requests was down 10.4 percent over the same time frame in 2017.
Requests involving sales of long guns — rifles including semi-automatics such as the AR-15 — were the slowest for the month of November since 2011, Guns.com found.
“Likewise, long gun tallies for October sank to 10-year lows, returning to levels not seen since before the election of President Obama,” Guns.com said. “September fared even worse, ranking dead last in the 20-year history of NICS.”