Victims' families and survivors of recent mass shootings gathered with gun control activists on Capitol Hill on Thursday morning for a rally, renewing calls for expanded background checks legislation.
Organizers said this event was in the works before Monday's shooting massacre at the Washington Navy Yard. But in light of the tragedy, the rally took on new meaning.
Since the shooting rampage in Newtown, Connecticut, gun control advocates said 9,000 Americans have been murdered with firearms.
Carlee Soto, sister of teacher Victoria Soto – who was shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School – said, “As time passes, I do believe people forget what's going on. And that's why I feel it's very important for myself and everyone else to come out and tell their story. So people have to remember my sister and the other 25 victims from that day.”
Nine months after her sister’s death, Soto said she's extremely frustrated with Congress and the nation.
“Call your senators. Write letters. Ask to speak to them. Ask why they don't support this bill,” she said.
Soto spoke at the Capitol Hill rally, along with survivors of mass shootings in Tucson, Arizona, Aurora, Colorado and other acts of gun violence.
Some participants said they planned to lobby their Congressional representatives – including some lawmakers who have voted against expanded background checks.
Shooting survivor Jennifer Longdon told the crowd, “And when I meet with [my senator], I'm going to tell him ‘look, I don't want your sympathy. I don't want your condolences. I don't want your hugs, your pats. I want your courage!’”
After the Navy Yard shooting, President Obama delivered a statement from the White House on Monday afternoon, calling the victims "patriots." But he quickly pivoted back to his economic agenda, marking the five-year anniversary of the financial crisis.
Even allies of increased gun control on Capitol Hill have said there aren't enough votes to pass any legislation.
But advocates say they’re realistic. And they say they’re seeing small but steady change across the country.
Stephen Barton survived the Aurora theater shooting. He said he does not expect instantaneous change.
“You know this is not an issue that will disappear,” Barton said. “As everyone acknowledges, there's going to be another mass shooting. There are shootings today that are happening. There are more families being torn apart by gun violence and they're becoming advocates too.”
The NRA and others opposing expanded background checks have argued that the proposed laws would not be effective, because criminals are not law-abiding citizens.
They also believe more regulations would create an unfair burden for lawful gun buyers.
On its homepage this week, the NRA posted a statement: "We grieve and pray for those who lost their lives and for those hurt at the Washington Navy Yard."