Relatives of Sandy Hook Elementary School victims “turned the tide” in Washington’s discussion on gun control during their visit this week, adding momentum to the push for stricter gun laws.
Eleven family members of those killed in the December shooting at the Newtown, Conn. elementary school joined President Barack Obama on an Air Force One flight from Connecticut to D.C. after Obama’s speech at the University of Hartford on Monday.
“The families of Newtown literally turned the tide in Washington, D.C.,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal said at a press conference at the University of Hartford on Friday. “Their faces and voices are an historic story in achieving better measures against gun violence.”
The Newtown victims’ stories moved the Senators “beyond words” and brought tears to their eyes, according to Blumenthal, who said their visit was “historic in changing the outcome of this vote, and I believe, will be of enduring impact.”
In all, 16 Republicans contributed to Thursday’s 68-31 bipartisan victory over the Republican-led filibuster that would have prevented debate on the legislation.
“This victory is elating and encouraging and exciting but we are only partway there,” Blumenthal said. “This next week will be a critical testing time. We face a treacherous, rugged road.”
The real test will come next week when they try to pass the legislation.
Sens. Joe Manchin D-West Virginia and Pat Toomey R-Pennsylvania, both of whom are gun owners with “A” ratings from the National Rifle Association, scripted the bipartisan compromise that extends background checks to Internet transactions and unlicensed gun show dealers.
The bill’s prudent nature is “less than preferred” by Blumenthal, who said that a universal background check would have been more desirable.
“The compromise doesn’t go as far as many of us would like but it will guarantee that thousands less criminals across this country get their hands on firearms,” said Sen. Chris Murphy D-Connecticut, who joined Blumenthal at the press conference.
Despite their criticism of the compromise, both Blumenthal and Murphy are in support of it with hopes that it will lead less illegal gun trafficking and increases in school safety. Although the language is “less complete” than desired, Blumenthal said he considered the measure a “vast improvement” from existing legislation.
Murphy gave credit to the Connecticut General Assembly for passing a package of tough gun regulations earlier this month and for playing a helpful role in the debate on gun laws.
“Connecticut showed that Republicans and Democrats could stand together against the gun lobby,” Murphy said.
Blumenthal added that he believes that the “Connecticut effect, far from going away, has actually increased through the constant and consistent work of these families.”
Some of the Newtown relatives have expressed interest in returning to Washington for the debate next week, according to Murphy. Francine Wheeler, whose 6-year-old was murdered at Sandy Hook, will be giving Obama’s weekly radio podcast Saturday to seek support from the American public in the fight for stricter gun laws and the prevention of future shootings.