The U.S. Senate’s failure to even open debate on strengthening gun background checks in April is a lingering disappointment for Erica Lafferty, daughter of slain Sandy Hook Elementary School principal Dawn Hochsprung.
“I feel every single morning when I wake up just as disgusted with the April 17th vote as I did sitting in the gallery that day,” Lafferty said.
That feeling isn’t going to go away until “common sense legislation gets passed,” Lafferty said Wednesday during a conference call hosted by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group founded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“I’m not going to give up until something happens to reduce that number of 33 people a day that are murdered with a gun. Thirty-three families a day should not have to live with the feeling that I feel every single second of every single day,” she added.
Lafferty is currently planning her wedding, which will be held in three weeks, but once it’s completed she will continue her efforts to get Congress to act on passing legislation to strengthen the nation’s gun laws.
Aside from traveling to Washington in April to encourage lawmakers to vote in favor of the bipartisan legislation, Lafferty confronted U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire at a town hall meeting in the Granite state.
Lafferty said she had an opportunity to speak with Ayotte at her office after the vote where she explained the reason for her “no” vote was the burden it would place on people trying to sell guns.
“I very simply asked why that burden was any more important than the burden of me dealing with the murder of my mother,” Lafferty recalled. “I just got a very, you know, condescending and kind of nonsensical answer from her.”
Mark Glaze, executive director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said 40 percent of gun transfers take place every year with no background check.
“The single biggest thing you could do to reduce gun violence in this country that would do no damage to the Second Amendment is to make sure that all sales in this country are subject to a background check,” Glaze said.
That’s what the compromise struck by U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, would have done, he said.
The group remains dedicated to getting Congress to try again to pass a bill that would do the exact same thing as the Manchin-Toomey bill.
John Feinblatt, chief policy adviser to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said anytime Congress votes down a bill that has the widespread support of the public, there is going to be “outrage.”
“We’ve seen that outrage persist since April 17,” Feinblatt said. “People feel that Congress did not represent them on April 17.” He said many members of the Senate “placed a higher priority on the safety of their seats, rather than the safety of all Americans.”
To that end the group will be launching a 100-day bus tour that will make about 25 stops and will launch this Friday from Newtown where many will be gathering for the six-month anniversary of the second worst school shooting in the nation’s history.
The tour is a chance for the group to keep the dialogue going. Feinblatt said 6,000 people have been killed by guns since the Newtown school shooting, so that means that by the end of the bus tour those numbers will have increased by another 3,300.
After the mass shootings in Tuscon, Aurora and Newtown, the debate over gun violence “just kind of washed away,” Lafferty said. “For the past six months I’ve been living without my best friend, without my mom. I’ve been planning a wedding without her and that’s happening to 33 additional families every single day and it will continue to happen until Congress decides to make a change.”
The bus tour is being called “No More Names: The National Drive to Reduce Gun Violence.” It’s an effort to persuade Senators to take a look at the background check bill they failed to debate or pass this spring. During each of the stops on the tour there will be a rally with gun violence survivors and the families of Americans murdered with guns.