WASHINGTON — Some 7,000 pairs of shoes were placed Tuesday on the U.S. Capitol’s eastern lawn as a reminder to lawmakers of the lives of 7,000 children taken by gun violence since Sandy Hook.
The makeshift memorial, organized by Avaaz, a global advocacy group that is seeking gun-control legislation in the wake of last month’s shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida that claimed 17 lives.
Representative Jim Himes posted a photograph of the shoes on his Instagram account with the message: “7,000 children’s shoes. 7,000 children’s lives lost to guns since Sandy Hook. It’s too much for the heart to handle. We must Act.”
Senator Chris Murphy also shared a photograph of the shoes on Twitter, where he has been posting comments calling for Congress to act. A day earlier he noted that his 6-year-old had been locked in a bathroom with 24 classmates for an active shooter drill. It was an experience his son did not enjoy. He ended the Tweet with the message: “Sleep well tonight, colleagues.”
Murphy says there has been enough talk and planning. He wants the Senate to hold an open debate on gun violence and see what passes and what doesn’t.
“Then, let’s take it to the voters in November and see what they think of how it all went down,” he said.
Following the February 14 shooting at Parkland’s Stoneman Douglas High School, advocates for strengthening gun safety legislation had hoped for swift action in Congress especially after President Donald Trump threw his support behind action.
The president released his proposal over the weekend to the disappointment of Murphy and Representative Elizabeth Esty, who had been included in a White House roundtable discussion two weeks ago. Meanwhile, no gun safety legislation has come to the House or Senate floors — and a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing set for Wednesday to examine Parkland shifts the focus away from gun regulation.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, a member of the committee, said Tuesday that Congress has earned “a well-deserved F” for its failure to act — not only since Parkland but since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown where “26 beautiful people were gunned down by a seriously disturbed — indeed deranged — shooter carrying a weapon of war.”
Blumenthal was referring to a grade given by Everytown For Gun Safety, whose president, John Feinblatt, said Tuesday that a 30-day report card for Congressional efforts since Parkland was “pretty straightforward. Congress has done nothing.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee meets at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday for an oversight hearing on Parkland. The panel will hear from Florida’s U.S. Senators as well as representatives of the FBI, ATF, and Secret Service, and a parent and teacher from Parkland.
Feinblatt says the focus of the hearing is on finger pointing as they consider blaming law enforcement, school security, and violent video games for the shootings.
The “blame game” won’t actually stop more Parklands, he said.
Blumenthal agreed, saying that Congress should instead focus on passing a ban on assault weapons, a ban on high capacity magazines, expanding background checks for gun purchases, and establishing a national “red flag” law to allow guns to be removed from those posing imminent danger to themselves or others.
“The hearing tomorrow is titled ‘See something. Say Something.’ What it is missing is doing something. Congress is doing nothing,” Blumenthal said.
Esty voiced her disappointment with Trump’s gun violence proposal, complaining that it does not call for expanded background checks, funding for gun violence research, or encourage extreme risk protection orders to get guns out of the hands of those who pose a danger to themselves or others.
“Two weeks ago when I met with the president at the White House he said that he wasn’t afraid of the NRA and that members of Congress shouldn’t be either. And yet, with few exceptions, the administration’s plan is a near total surrender to that same gun lobby,” she said.
Murphy, Blumenthal and Esty plan to walk out of the U.S. Capitol Wednesday to join students in a planned national “school walk out” to protest inaction on gun safety legislation in the wake of Parkland. Students from more than 28 schools are participating in a 17-minute “moment of silence” outside the White House at 10 a.m. and then plan to march to the U.S. Capitol.