April 4, 2013
With heavy hearts and a sense of solemn responsibility we, families of victims of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School who have signed this letter, write you today regarding legislation currently under consideration by the United States Senate. None of us sought this role or, even four months ago, imagined that we would be enmeshed in a national discussion of gun violence. The issue, however, found each of us in the most terrible way imaginable on the morning of December 14, 2012. In order to prevent other families from the loss that each of us will endure for the rest of our lives, we offer the following policy recommendations as Congress debates strengthening America’s gun laws.
It is important that you understand at the outset that we believe the 2nd Amendment protects the individual right of Americans to own guns. We live in a typical American community and those of us who do not own guns have neighbors, friends or relatives who do. We believe the vast majority of gun owners are responsible and law abiding; we do not support any law that would “take” or “confiscate” guns from law abiding citizens.
But no rights are absolute; with all rights come responsibilities. As parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of the children and spouses and children of the educators lost at Sandy Hook, we believe that responsible improvements to our laws will help prevent future tragedies like Sandy Hook and save some of the tens of thousands of lives lost every year to gun violence.
First, a background check should be required for every gun sale. Every individual, regardless of where or from whom they purchase a firearm, should undergo a background check to ensure that the purchaser is not a risk for perpetrating gun violence. The background check requirement for private sales should be enforceable, and states should ensure that the data they provide for the system is complete and up to date. It is no longer acceptable that we allow gaping loopholes to persist despite the availability of a proven system and the absence of any indication that these checks have infringed on anyone’s rights.
As ordinary citizens, we had no idea that some gun purchases were treated differently than others and that every purchase was not already subject to a background check. Maybe that is why 90% of Americans feel the way we do about background checks.
Second, Congress should address the easy availability of large capacity ammunition magazines by limiting the sale of magazines larger than ten bullets. In four minutes, the shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary fired 154 bullets, killing 20 first grade children and six educators -- our loved ones. The killer used magazines with a capacity of 30 bullets. We now know that he left less lethal, lower-capacity magazines at home
Limiting the sale of these large capacity magazines can save innocent lives. Eleven children escaped from one of the classrooms at Sandy Hook Elementary when the shooter stopped to reload. We are left to wonder how many victims – maybe our children –also might have escaped if the killer had to reload more frequently. Similarly in Tucson, during the shooting that left six dead and nearly cost Congresswoman Giffords her life, the killing stopped only because the shooter was tackled when he was forced to reload.
Third, firearms trafficking and straw purchases should be federal crimes. Congress should support law enforcement’s efforts to get guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals by making it a crime to buy a gun for another person and stiffening penalties for purchasing a gun to give to a person who is prohibited by law from having a gun. The cost of continuing our willful ignorance of these evasions of our gun laws is simply too high.
There are many who say that, rather than adopt new laws, government should do a better job of enforcing the laws already on the books. We wholeheartedly agree that existing laws should be better enforced, and that government needs to allocate the resources necessary to ensure that those laws are effectively implemented. Fortunately, we do not have to choose between better enforcement of existing laws and the adoption of new common sense approaches. We can and must do both.
We are under no illusion that making these changes will end gun violence or prevent all mass shootings. That, however, cannot be the test that determines whether America chooses to act or remain complacent. These measures will surely save many lives. And they will prevent other families from experiencing our grief.
As we address the issue of gun responsibility, we believe equal attention should be paid to issues of mental health, school safety and community. There is no single fix; some changes require new laws, many are changes we need to make in our communities and in ourselves. We will be failing our children if we do not do everything we can to address these issues now.
In the days and weeks since December 14, we have been comforted by the hundreds of thousands of expressions of concern we received from people in every state of the US.
We are grateful beyond words for the letters, the gifts and the prayers. But we have been discouraged that less than four months since we buried our loved ones, what started as a national conversation about coming together to protect our nation’s children has descended into a divisive partisan fight. Nothing we have before us is divisive; everything we support should be bi-partisan.
We urge you to act without delay to adopt these common sense measures to strengthen our gun laws. When the Senate returns next week, many of us will come to Washington, and we hope that we will have the opportunity then to discuss these issues with you in person. We have promised that Newtown will be remembered not for our tragedy, but for transformation, and you have the power to help fulfill that promise.
We thank you for considering our views and urge you to act swiftly to make our communities and families safer.
Jackie Barden – Mother of Daniel
Mark Barden – Father of Daniel
Martin Giblin - Grandfather of Daniel (Smallwood, NY)
Rosaleen Murchison - Aunt of Daniel (Ridgefield, CT)
Peter Murchison - Uncle of Daniel (Ridgefield, CT)
Cristen Murchison - Cousin of Daniel (Boston, MA)
Matthew Murchison - Cousin of Daniel (Brooklyn, NY)
Lizzie Murchison - Cousin of Daniel (Brooklyn, NY)
John Murchison - Cousin of Daniel (Brooklyn, NY)
Michael Murchison - Cousin of Daniel (Ridgefield, CT)
Michael Giblin - Uncle of Daniel (Fredrick, MD)
Jackie Pickett - Cousin of Daniel (Mt. Airy, MD)
Duane Pickett - Cousin of Daniel (Mt. Airy, MD)
Corrinne Downs - Cousin of Daniel (Fredrick, MD)
Kenny Downs - Cousin of Daniel (Fredrick, MD)
Laura Giblin - Cousin of Daniel (Arlington, VA)
Madeline Giblin - Cousin of Daniel (Fredrick, MD)
Martin Giblin - Uncle of Daniel (Yonkers, NY)
Madeline O'Neill - Aunt of Daniel (Ridgefield, CT)
Michael O'Neill - Uncle of Daniel (Ridgefield, CT)
Lauren O'Neill - Cousin and God Mother of Daniel (Ridgefield, CT)
James Giblin - Uncle of Daniel (Bronx, NY)
Donald Giblin - Uncle of Daniel (Yorktown, NY)
Kathleen Giblin - Aunt of Daniel (Rhinebeck, NY)
Christine Risoli - Aunt of Daniel (Newtown, CT)
Matthew Risoli - Uncle of Daniel (Newtown, CT)
Anne Barden - Grandmother of Daniel (Yonkers, NY)
James Barden - Uncle of Daniel (NY, NY)
Timothy Barden - Uncle of Daniel (Portland ME)
Mary Lou Barden - Aunt of Daniel (Portland, ME)
Anna Barden - Cousin of Daniel (NY, NY)
Carl Barden - Cousin of Daniel (Deland, FL)
Anne Barden - Cousin of Daniel (Deland, FL)
Rob Barden - Cousin of Daniel (Deland, FL)
Disa Barden - Cousin of Daniel (Merrit Island, FL)
David Barden - Cousin of Daniel (Lake Mary, FL)
Lisa Barden - Cousin of Daniel (Lake Mary, FL)
John Barden - Cousin of Daniel (Prior, Lake MN)
Kathleen Barden - Cousin of Daniel (Prior Lake, MN)
Maureen Barden Othmer - Cousin of Daniel (Philadelphia, PA)
David Othmer - Cousin of Daniel (Philadelphia, PA)
Kevin Barden - Cousin of Daniel (Yonkers, NY)
Adrianna Barden - Cousin of Daniel (Yonkers, NY)
Sheila Keegan - Cousin of Daniel (NY, NY)
Nelba Márquez-Greene – Mother of Ana
Jimmy Greene – Father of Ana
Angel Figueroa, Ana's grandfather
Elba Márquez, Ana's grandmother
Renee Simmons, Ana's grandmother
Leonard Simmons, Ana's grandfather
Taina Amaro, Ana's aunt
Nayre Greene, Ana's aunt
Francine Wheeler – Mother of Ben
David Wheeler – Father of Ben
Mr. and Mrs. E. H. Wheeler - Ben's grandparents
Carmen Lobis – Ben’s grandfather
Annette Lobis – Ben’s grandmother
Sophia Turchi – Ben’s great-grandmother
Michael and Sheila Lobis - Ben's Uncle and Aunt (Kennett Square, Pa)
Steven L. Lobis – Ben’s Uncle and Godfather
Ann Lobis – Ben’s Aunt
Anthony and Colleen Lobis – Ben’s Uncle and Aunt
Andrew Wheeler – Ben’s Uncle
Dawn Kiss and Jeffrey Wheeler – Ben’s Uncle and Aunt
Jonathan Bond Wheeler – Ben’s Cousin
Kenny Downs – Ben’s Cousin
Harry Berquist - Ben's Grandpa
William Sherlach – Husband of Mary
Maura and Eric Schwartz – Daughter and Son-in-law of Mary
Katy Sherlach – Daughter of Mary
Jennifer Hensel – Mother of Avielle
Jeremy Richman – Father of Avielle
Neil Heslin – Father of Jesse
Nicole Hockley – Mother of Dylan
Ian Hockley – Father of Dylan
Theresa Moretti - Dylan's grandmother
Henry Moretti - Dylan's grandfather
Marjorie Erikson - Dylan's great-grandmother
Helen Shirts - Dylan's great-aunt
Grace Marshall - Dylan's great-aunt
Ivy Hockley - Dylan's grandmother
Tom Hockley - Dylan's grandfather
Donna Arnold – Mother of Madeleine Hsu
Gilles Rousseau – Father of Lauren
Joyce Rousseau – Step Mother of Lauren
Matthew Rousseau – Brother of Lauren
Andrew Rousseau – Brother of Lauren
Terri Rousseau – Mother of Lauren
Anthony J. Lusardi III - Boyfriend of Lauren
Judy, Bob, Hannah and Nathan Johnstonbaugh – Relatives of Lauren (Allison Park, PA)
Polly Leukhardt and David Fenner – Relatives of Lauren (Westford, MA)
Dan and Carol Wiley – Aunt and Uncle of Lauren (Owens Cross Roads, Alabama)
James and Michele Uhrich – Relatives of Lauren (Columbia, MD)
Steve and Brenda Bomgardner – Uncle and Aunt of Lauren (Bethlehem, PA)
James and Vicki Nagle – Aunt and Uncle of Lauren (Landisville, PA)