Politics

Gun Victims Gather in D.C. on Virginia Tech 5th Anniversary

| by Brady Campaign

WASHINGTON -- On the 5th anniversary of the worst mass shooting in American history, a group of 32 gun violence victims, led by Colin Goddard, who survived being shot in the Virginia Tech Massacre, gathered at the House Triangle, outside the U.S. Capitol, to make public safety demands of Congress, the Brady Campaign today announced.

The victims’ demands include signing a Statement of Principle Against Arming Dangerous People and rejecting Senate bills that the Brady Campaign has dubbed the “George Zimmerman Armed Vigilante Acts”.  Coinciding with the presentation of demands, the Brady Campaign launched an online petition asking Americans who sign not to vote for elected officials who refuse to sign the Statement of Principle, a 5-foot-tall replica of which was signed by all the victims at the news conference.

The 32 victims on Capitol Hill today represent the 32 victims who were killed at Virginia Tech on this day in 2007 and they represent the 32 people who are murdered every day in America. They are black, white, and Hispanic, women and men, young and old.  They come from cities and suburbs, in California, Utah, Colorado, Texas, Wisconsin, Illinois, Pennsylvania,  New York, and the District of Columbia.  Most have lost loved ones, or been shot themselves, by people who should never have had a gun.

The victims include Tom Mauser, who lost his 15-year-old son Daniel at the Columbine Massacre 13 years ago April 20, Carolyn Tuft, a mother of two, who survived being shot five times and lost her daughter, Kirsten Hinckley, at a mass shooting in the Trolley Square Mall in Salt Lake City, Utah, Sherialyn Byrdsong,  who lost her husband in a neo-Nazi shooting spree outside Chicago on July 2, 1999, Vidal Colon, a Milwaukee police officer who was shot three years ago April 11, and was awarded a Medal of Valor for his heroism, and Nardyne Jefferies, whose 16-year-old daughter Brishell Jones was killed two years ago in the South Capitol Street shooting in Washington, D.C.

Brady Campaign President Dan Gross opened the news conference and was joined by his brother, Matthew, who was shot in 1997 while visiting the Empire State building. "It is a somber day because TODAY, 32 more will be murdered in our nation with guns.  Yes, another Virginia Tech will happen today, like it happens every day. And that’s why we are here.  To say, ' Enough is enough!'  And to hold the people who do their work in that building accountable to put an end to this madness," said Gross. 

"Wayne LaPierre, at the NRA convention, in his feeble attempt to deflect the well-deserved blame for putting the gun in George Zimmerman’s hands, had the gall to complain about the media attention on the Trayvon Martin tragedy. He asked what about the tragedies that occur every day in our nation. Well, Wayne, here they are.  32 of them!  And they blame you and the politicians who do your bidding even more than the media does. The fact is, not just the Trayvon Martin tragedy, but much of the gun violence in our nation could be prevented if Congress would take simple action to stop arming dangerous people.  That’s why we’re here in DC this week – to demand Congress make it abundantly clear whose vision they support – the NRA’s dark, paranoid  vision of guns just about everywhere in just about anyone’s hands.  Or our vision of an America where tragedies like ours and the 32 others that will occur today no longer happen."

Goddard, who now works as Assistant Director of Legislative Affairs for the Brady Campaign, insisted that “Now is the time” for Congress to act.

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“After the shootings of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the murder of Trayvon Martin, and the murders of 32 people at Virginia Tech and 13 at Columbine, leading politicians have said, basically, ‘Now is not the time to talk about gun policy.’ In fact, last year, House Speaker John Boehner said it a nanosecond after the attack on Congresswoman Giffords and the others in Arizona,” began Goddard. “I’m joined today by 31 other victims of gun violence and we are here to say that ‘Now is the time’ for Congress to talk about gun violence in America. We demand our leaders begin the conversation by signing our Statement of Principle Against Arming Dangerous People.”

Longtime gun violence prevention supporter Rep. Jim Moran, (VA-8), welcomed the victims to the nation’s capital and signed the Statement.  

“When there are nearly enough guns in the U.S. for every man, woman and child, firearms will find their way into the wrong hands. Criminals, terrorists and the dangerously mentally ill have no business owning deadly weapons. As we pay tribute to those we lost five years ago, I am proud to stand with the Brady Campaign to strengthen commonsense gun safety laws and prevent another tragedy,” said Congressman Moran.

The STATEMENT reads:

I believe that these people should not be able to buy, own or carry a gun anywhere in our nation:

∙         Convicted felons 

∙         Convicted domestic abusers 

∙         Terrorists 

∙         People found to be dangerously mentally ill.

Just days after the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by Sanford Neighborhood Watchman George Zimmerman, the NRA prevailed on U.S. Senators to introduce S 2188 and S 2213, which the Brady Campaign is calling the “George Zimmerman Armed Vigilante Acts.” The Senate bills, similar to HR 822, which passed the House late last year, would allow dangerous people like Zimmerman to carry guns in public places, from downtown L.A., to New York’s Times Square, even though those states’ concealed carry laws make it highly unlikely that Zimmerman would be granted a permit to carry a gun in public.

Goddard delivered letters to eight members of Congress seeking meetings with them and the victims.  Those members include Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor  (R-Virginia), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California), and sponsors of what the Brady Campaign calls the “George Zimmerman Armed Vigilante Act,”  Sen. John Thune (R- South Dakota), Sen. David Vitter (R-Louisiana), and Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska).  

The 32 victims in D.C. have meetings scheduled with: 

Sen. Vitter - LA @ 2:30pm Monday
Sen. Begich - AK @ 10:00 am Tuesday
Rep. Cantor - VA @ 5:00pm Tuesday

Speaker John Boehner has so far refused to meet with the victims, responding that he's too busy to make time. He offered a meeting with George Rogers, Assistant to the Speaker for Policy. However, the victims find this alternative unacceptable and, through Colin Goddard, and sent a follow-up letter urging the Speaker to meet with them on these life and death issues.

Other victims attending the news conference today include:

  • Matt Gross (NJ): Injured, New York, New York
  • Andrew Goddard (VA): Father of Colin Goddard (injured), Blacksburg, Virginia
  • William Kellibrew (DC): Son of Jacqueline Kellibrew (killed); brother to Anthony Cephas (killed), Washington, DC
  • Nardyne Jefferies (DC): Mother of Brishell Jones (killed), Washington, DC
  • Dale Miller (MD): Niece of Michael John Miller (killed), Washington, DC
  • Lisa Delity (MD): Sister of Michael John Miller (killed), Washington, DC
  • Bryan Miller (NJ), Brother of Michael John Miller (killed), Washington, DC
  • Suzanne Verge (CA): Sister of Peter Verge (killed), Santa Monica, California
  • Mindy Finkelstein (CA): Injured, Los Angeles, California
  • Josh Stepakoff (CA): Injured, Los Angeles, California
  • Christian Heyne (DC): Son of Jan Heyne (killed) and Tim Heyne (injured), Thousand Oaks, California
  • Tom Mauser (CO): Father of Daniel Mauser (killed), Littleton, Colorado
  • Greg Jaskolka (DE): Father of Joseph Jaskolka (injured), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Joseph Jaskolka (DE): Injured, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Jeanne Bishop (IL): Sister of Nancy Bishop Langert (killed); sister-in-law of Richard Langert (killed); aunt of unborn child (killed), Winnetka, Illinois
  • Mary Kay Mace (IL): Mother of Ryanne Mace (killed), Dekalb, Illinois
  • Pamela Bosley (IL): Mother of Terrell Bosley (killed), Chicago, Illinois
  • Annette Nance Holt (IL): Mother of Blair Holt (killed), Chicago, Illinois
  • Sherialyn Byrdsong (GA): Wife of Ricky Byrdsong (killed), Skokie, Illinois
  • Geraldine Rodriguez (NY): Mother of Michael Rodriguez (killed), Tampa, Florida
  • DeNell Williams (TX): Sister to Carroll Ann Harris (killed), Austin, Texas
  • Kim Segale (TX): Mother of Patrick Nunnelley (killed), Dallas, Texas
  • Sgt. Yvonne Vann (TX): Wife of Sergeant Kenneth Vann (killed), San Antonio, Texas
  • Carolyn Tuft (UT): Injured, and mother of Kirsten Hinckley (killed), Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Kaitlin Hinckley (UT): Sister of Kirsten Hinckley (killed) and daughter to Carolyn Tuft (injured), Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Omar Samaha (VA): Brother of Reema Samaha (killed), Blacksburg, Virginia
  • Jeanette Richardson (VA): Mother of Patrick McKinley (killed), Newport News, Virginia
  • Lori Haas (VA): Mother of Emily Haas (injured), Blacksburg, Virginia
  • David Cariens (VA): Father-in-law to Angela Dales (killed), Grundy, Virginia
  • Dayna Klein (ME): Injured, Seattle, Washington
  • Officer Vidal Colon (WI): Injured, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Christina Colon (WI): Wife of Officer Vidal Colon (injured), Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Screenings of the documentaryLiving for 32, which features Colin Goddard’s journey from gun violence survivor to advocate for gun violence prevention, will also take place on college campuses and in communities on April 16.

Student organizers have arranged screenings for Living for 32 on April 16, at colleges coast-to-coast including: George Washington University, Brown University, Colorado State University at Boulder, Ithaca College, New York University, Northwestern University, Princeton University, Rice University, Skidmore College, State University of New York (SUNY) Binghamton, SUNY New Paltz, Tulane University, University of Arizona Tucson, University of Kentucky, University of Maryland - Baltimore County and the University of Maryland’s main campus at College Park, Maryland.

Click here for more information.