Four parents, all of whom lost children in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, met with Gov. Jack Markell, Sen. Karen Peterson (D-Stanton) and Sen. Sakola (D-Newark) on Tuesday to discuss gun legislation.
“We are trying to encourage lawmakers in other states and in Washington to embrace the concept of expanding background checks,” said Mark Barden, father of 6-year-old Daniel Barden who died at Sandy Hook. “We would also like to see a limit to large capacity magazines, in many of these mass shootings that would have made a difference in the lethality of the firearm.”
Earlier this year, Markell, along with Lt. Gov. Matt Denn and Attorney General Beau Biden, proposed legislation that would ban the sale of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, increase the stringency of background checks required for obtaining guns, require that citizens report lost and stolen firearms and ban possession of guns near a school. On Wednesday, Markell signed into law legislation that would expand background checks on gun transfers and those sold by private gun sellers.
Nicole Hockley’s 6-year-old son Dylan was in a classroom where she says the potential benefits of banning high capacity magazines were seen.
“In the classroom where Dylan was, five children were killed, as well as their teachers and Dylan. Dylan was autistic and his special education aid was there and they died together,” said Hockley. “In terms of high capacity magazine clips, there were 11 other children in the classroom that escaped because the shooter had an issue in reloading and they had time to run for their lives.”
Hockley went on to say that had the shooter had lower capacity magazines it may have offered more opportunities for children to escape or for an adult to disarm him. She also reminded those gathered that what happened at Sandy Hook could happen anywhere.
“It doesn’t matter where you’re from. We’re from Sandy Hook, which is an absolutely beautiful little place,” she said. “You would never think that something like this could happen there, but it happened and we’re hoping to do whatever we can to stop it from happening anywhere else.”
The parents spoke to many of the issues that are raised time and again in the debate over gun legislation. Barden tackled the topic of rights.
“I think the bills that are on the table here all make good common sense,” Barden said. “They don’t infringe on anybody’s rights, they don’t impose ban or lead to confiscation.”
Nelba Marquez-Greene who lost her 6-year-old daughter Ana during the shooting offered her opinion of the topic of the effectiveness of such legislation.
Page 2 of 2 - “Why are we saying if it can’t prevent everything it will do nothing?” she asked. “What we’re talking about is common sense. I don’t want another mother to ever have to go through my nightmare and the reality is that eight mothers a day do. So why don’t we try?”
Some Republican legislators, however, felt having the Sandy Hook parents visit Legislative Hall was a strategic ploy to gain votes on the proposed bills.
“An invitation was never extended to me to join the meeting,” said Sen. Dave Lawson (R-Marydel). “I didn't hear of any other Republicans being invited and I wasn't invited. As far as the parents are concerned my heart breaks for them. As far as using them as pawns in the game of gun control, I think it’s despicable. Shouldn't this bill be based on merit and not on the tugging of heart strings?"
According to Stephanie Mantegna, communications officer for the House of Representatives’ Republican Caucus, some Republican members of the House did in fact meet with the Sandy Hook visitors after their meeting with Democratic senators.
Lawson said in general the gun control legislation proposed by the Markell administration will only do more harm than good.
“None of the legislation proposed will prevent crime,” Lawson said. “After 20 years with the state police, I know. This piece of legislation will not stop criminals. It will only impede on the rights of citizens."
Marquez-Greene said, in her eyes, everything she’s doing is for Ana.
“We’re here to honor our children,” Marquez-Greene said. “We are choosing love, we are choosing advocacy, we are choosing a gift to our children who are no longer here and our children who survived, to honor them by doing this. I chose to live the rest of my life advocating for safety.”
Marquez-Greene went onto say that the safety she’s seeking doesn’t just include gun safety, it also includes better mental health services and school safety as well. Hockley agreed with Marquez-Green.
“This isn’t just about school shootings,” Hockley said. “It isn’t just about Sandy Hook. It’s about saving lives state by state, all over the country. It’s not about banning or confiscation. It’s about hoping to save lives.”