In February, David and Francine Wheeler, the parents of a child killed in the Sandy Hook tragedy, joined notable musicians including Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary and the folksinger Dar Williams to perform a concert for the community. The Wheelers and Yarrow joined Bill on Moyers & Company to discuss the path forward for gun control advocates and the power of music to bring about both healing and social change.
Yarrow said the concert was about “restoring the heart and soul of a caring community.” Watch two of the songs they performed.
The Wheelers, Peter Yarrow and others sing “Blowing in the Wind“:
Republicans are blocking gun reform but now they are criticizing President Obama for not passing it? The DNC is fuming over a new RNC ad that shows Obama consoling the mother of a victim of the Newtown school shooting -- but criticizes Obama for not passing gun reform in the wake of the shooting. The RNC insisted they used a clip from an ABC News package, with RNC spokesman Sean Spicer tweeting “I don’t think we control ABC.” It’s just another instance of the high-stakes fight over gun reform, coming just two days after New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte was confronted at a town hall meeting by the daughter of the Sandy Hook Elementary School principal, who was killed in the shooting.
The ad, called "The First 100 Days," criticizes Obama on the failure of his legislative agenda, including gun control, so far in Congress. It features a voiceover saying that Obama’s agenda has “already suffered a string of defeats,” and a black and white photo of the president reaching to embrace Nicole Hockley, the distraught mother of a victim in the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse called the ad “disgraceful” in a tweet and “disgusting” in another.
"The bottom feeders behind this one should be embarrassed ," said Jeremy Funk, a spokesman for the Democratic organization Americans United for Change.
Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) declares his support for an assault weapons ban on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday.
As support for a background-check deal collapses in the Senate, Harry Reid broke with the National Rifle Association and declared his support for an assault-weapons ban. “We must strike a better balance between the right to defend ourselves and the right of every child in America to grow up safe from gun violence,” the A-rated Nevada Democrat said on the Senate floor. Unfortunately for him, the outlook for gun-control legislation looks bleak. A bipartisan amendment on background checks that is a vital ingredient in a passable gun bill appears to lack the necessary votes. Sen. Joe Manchin, one of the bill’s cosponsors, said on the floor that he knows they’re close but doesn’t know what the outcome will be.
Reid added “I’ll vote for the ban because maintaining the law and order is more important than satisfying conspiracy theorists who believe in black helicopters and false flags,” he said. “I’ll vote for the ban because saving the lives of police officers, young and old, and innocent civilians, young and old, is more important than preventing imagined tyranny.”
The Senate will vote Wednesday afternoon on gun measures that may determine the shape of legislation inspired by the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.
On Saturday, the mother of a young victim of the Newtown massacre, filled in for President Obama on his weekly radio and Internet broadcast. Francine Wheeler said the presence of her son Ben, who was six years old when he was killed along with 19 other first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, gave her the courage to speak out. "Thousands of other families across the United States are also drowning in our grief," she said in a push to get a gun control bill through Congress. "Please help us do something before our tragedy becomes your tragedy." Wheeler is the first person other than Vice President Joe Biden to deliver the address.
Her husband, David Wheeler, sat silently next to her as she made the recording in the White House Library. Both wore the small green pins that have become a symbol of the shooting:
Hi. As you’ve probably noticed, I’m not the President. I’m just a citizen. And as a citizen, I’m here at the White House today because I want to make a difference and I hope you will join me.
My name is Francine Wheeler. My husband David is with me. We live in Sandy Hook, Connecticut.
David and I have two sons. Our older son Nate, soon to be 10 years old, is a fourth grader at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Our younger son, Ben, age six, was murdered in his first-grade classroom on December 14th, exactly 4 months ago this weekend.
David and I lost our beloved son, but Nate lost his best friend. On what turned out to be the last morning of his life, Ben told me, quite out of the blue, “ I still want to be an architect, Mama, but I also want to be a paleontologist, because that’s what Nate is going to be and I want to do everything Nate does.”
Ben’s love of fun and his excitement at the wonders of life were unmatched His boundless energy kept him running across the soccer field long after the game was over. He couldn’t wait to get to school every morning. He sang with perfect pitch and had just played at his third piano recital. Irrepressibly bright and spirited, Ben experienced life at full tilt.
Until that morning. 20 of our children, and 6 of our educators – gone. Out of the blue.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns released a new television ad Thursday that features family members of four victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting last December, and calls on leaders to remember their loved ones and prevent others from experiencing the toll of gun violence by taking real action to pass commonsense gun law reforms.
The ad features the families of two first-grade students, and two teachers killed in the shooting at Sandy Hook, out of the total 20 children and six adult staffers killed that day. The family members in the ad are Neil Heslin, father of first-grader Jesse Lewis; Chris and Lynn McDonnell, parents of first-grader Grace McDonnell; Jillian Soto, sister of teacher Vicky Soto; and Terri and Gilles Rousseau, parents of teacher Lauren Rousseau.
"I want to prevent any other family from having to go through what we're going through," Chris McDonnell says in the ad.
"Don't let the memory of Newtown fade without doing something real," adds Terri Rousseau.
The ad says that "Connecticut can save lives" and calls for comprehensive background checks, a limit on high-capacity magazines and an assault weapons ban.
The heart wrenching ad is the first to include family members of the Sandy Hook victims in a call for universal background checks for gun sales, which will be a component of the gun control legislation being introduced in the Senate. The ads will air on cable and broadcast television in the Hartford, Connecticut area. and specifically target the state's legislature to enact better gun violence prevention.
How do you make sense of a seemingly senseless act of violence? How do you help the country begin to process the trauma of 20 small children shot dead in their classroom?
The Hartford Courant and Frontlineare piecing together the lives of Nancy Lanza and her son Adam, who killed his mother and 26 first-graders, school officials and teachers during the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December.
Adam attended Sandy Hook as a first-grader, but his mother pulled him out of the school and several other schools over the course of his childhood.
In addition to Asperger’s syndrome, Adam from an early age also had sensory integration disorder, which left him unable to handle loud noises, pain and crowds, but is not a universally accepted medical diagnosis.
As a child, Adam got upset when others gave him a high-five or a pat on the back. It saddened his mother, Nancy, who didn’t know how to help him.
Andrew Julien, editor of The Hartford Courant, points out: “Nancy Lanza is the person Adam was closest to in the world. She was the first person he killed. He shot her four times in the head while she was in bed, and then he went off to Sandy Hook Elementary School. If we can begin to understand Adam’s relationship with Nancy, we probably can begin to understand Adam.”
Part one, Raising Adam Lanza, draws on Nancy’s own emails, previously unseen photos and exclusive home video footage of Adam, as well as insider interviews, to reveal a mother’s complex relationship with her troubled young son. Part two, Newtown Divided follows Courant reporter Matt Kauffman as he explores the consequences of the shooting in a town that has a long history of firearms and gun ownership, and where people most deeply affected by the tragedy are wrestling with our nation’s gun culture and laws.
This from MoveOn.org: Think you know who and what the NRA is? Watch this video and find out the truth about the gun industry money behind the NRA's fight against common sense gun safety legislation in the aftermath of the tragedy in Newtown.
Since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, more than a half million cards, letters, and drawings have been sent to the people of Newtown, Connecticut, from around the world.
The spontaneous outdoor memorials that sprang up in Newtown after the shootings—the angels, teddy bears, Christmas trees, and other displays—became one of the symbols of this tragedy. But the many letters and cards and drawings that were mailed are less well known.
In their shock and grief, people were compelled to make these intensely raw, personal expressions, and send them to a town they probably hadn’t heard of before, not knowing if they would even reach us. They offered help, love, condolences, prayers. They came from children, parents, families, school classes, church groups, soldiers, mayors, survivors, inmates, and entire towns. The letters on display at town hall form a massive tapestry of a world’s sorrow.
When my wife and I visited them in early January, we ended up taking hundreds of photos, returning again and again. Others have been moved to do the same.
The town very respectfully cleared away most of the outdoor public memorials after a couple of weeks for incineration, the ash to be incorporated into a future permanent memorial site. When it announced that it would be doing the same with the cards and letters, we knew we had to try to save them. The town is emotionally overtaxed and lacks the funds and space to preserve them. But they are important to save—as an ongoing reminder of what happened and as a record of the world’s response.
The letters will be published daily on Tumblr Storyboard, until every letter, image and drawing has been published. Newtown officials have been approached about creating an (extensive) digital archive, and MacDonald hopes that an actual physical home can be found for the thousands upon thousands of letters. As he notes, "Because the wisdom they express should not be lost to history. Take the words of one little girl named Brynn":
“Dear students and staff. I am sorry about your friends. I hope your school is safe from now on. I feel so bad for you. I don’t like to see people go. I am so sad. I wish people would stop being so mean.”
After a New York newspaper, the Journal News, published an interactive database of all the gun-permit holders in the region, an angered blogger retaliated by posting the names and addresses of almost every employee of the publication. Christopher Fountain said he was offended by the paper’s “conflating legal gun owners with some crazed tormented devil up in Newtown,” and “wondered how they would like it if their addresses were published.” The spark that lit the powder keg: emails he said he received from “abused women who were under protective order and in hiding” who said they feared for their safety after their information was posted on the Journal News database.
Christopher Fountain has spent the last three days posting the names and addresses of nearly every Journal News employee from Publisher on down.
In fact, as Talk of the Sound's Robert Cox noted after plugging the staffers' contact info into an interactive map of his own that some of the people listed by Fountain may no longer be at the paper due to several years of downsizing.
Asked today on CNN to justify his retribution, Fountain said he was offended by the paper's "conflating legal gun owners with some crazed tormented devil up in Newtown," and "wondered how they would like it if their addresses were published."
My grandmother always told me that "Two wrongs never make a right," and that's all I can think of to add to this debacle.
The last of the funerals have been held for the 27 victims of the Newtown massacre, the worst grade school shooting in U.S. history. On Friday, mourners held a moment of silence at the Newtown memorial site and across the country to mark the first week since the 20 children and seven adults were killed. On Christmas Day, visitors from neighboring areas flocked to Newtown’s memorial site to honor the dead.
Sandra Johnson: "Because it was Christmas and as a parent I just couldn’t move on celebrating unless we came and, you know, respect these kids and the adults. It touched everybody’s hearts. So I just couldn’t move forward. I came in this morning, early, you know, and just saying a prayer."
Jesus Carrion: "We wanted to contribute and bring some teddy bears for the families, you know, of these kids and the teachers who are not here today because of some tragic moment. And so we just wanted to come down and show support for the families — obviously that will be never be the same again, whose holidays will never be."
I know that the children, the teachers and families of Newton haven't been far from my own thoughts this holiday season. Did any of you feel moved to do something, say a prayer, send good thoughts, a moment of silence or anything else?