Among the thousands who silently marched today as part of the “March on Washington” in support of stricter gun control laws, were families and residents from Newtown, Connecticut, still devastated from December’s mass shooting.
Khaliah Abdullah was a first responder at the shooting in Newtown and describes the month since as “heartbreaking,” as the images of the day continue to haunt her.
“The guns have got to go, they’ve just got to go,” Abdullah said with tears in her eyes today while marching down Connecticut Avenue, “We can’t let this happen to these kids or anyone else.”
The Newtown families joined gun control advocates, gun violence survivors and other families affected by gun violence in a silent march in protest from the Capitol to the Washington Monument.
“We’ve had Virginia Tech, we’ve had Newtown, we’ve had Columbine – when is it going to end?” asked Helene Shore of Vienna, Virginia at the march today.
The group, organized by a local DC resident, is calling for stricter gun laws, including universal background checks for gun sales, gun safety training for all firearm buyers, and a ban on military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines.
“My husband fought in Vietnam for two years and that’s the type of weapons that he used in that war and we don’t need those out here,” marcher and gun control advocate Rose Looy from Alexandria, Virginia said today.
Supporters said they believe there’s new momentum in Washington for creating stricter gun laws, in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting. But they also admit that any change is hard in Congress.
Gun control supporter Jason Gooljar has been an advocate since the shooting in Tucson in January 2011. He says that after an initial swell of support the momentum is quick to wear off. While he hopes that is not the case now, he’s not optimistic.
“I don’t have much hope right now,” Gooljar said at the march today, “I know the president wants to do something, but if you can’t get anything through the House (of Representatives) you can’t do anything.”
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray told ABC7 News he’s cautiously optimistic that Congress will respond to the president’s proposal for reform through legislation.
“We’re hopeful, we’re hopeful the good sense of responsibility will prevail,” Gray said while marching with the advocates today.
But some see that responsibility differently, like gun rights advocate Dick Heller who also showed up to the rally today – to make a counter-argument for protecting Second Amendment rights.
“The issue is protecting the children not taking away our freedoms,” Heller, a supporter of the National Rifle Association said today, “If you start compromising then you have no rights.”
Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the crowd at a rally at the base of the Washington Monument that the administration feels the debate is not about taking away guns, but how to make them safer.
"This is about gun responsibility,” Secretary Duncan said. “This is about gun safety; this is about fewer dead Americans, fewer dead children.”