The mother of one of the victims in the Sandy Hook Elementary mass shooting told Bill Moyers on Friday she and the other parents bereaved in the December 2012 attack were not discouraged by the Senate’s refusal to pass an amendment expanding background checks on gun purchases.
“Our hearts are broken, our spirit is not,” Francine Wheeler said on Moyers & Company, before recounting remarks by another parent, Mark Barden, in the White House Rose Garden after the Toomey-Manchin Amendment was defeated in an April 17, 2013 vote.
“I love him,” Wheeler said of Barden. “He got up there and he courageously said, ‘We’re not going because where am I going to go? I have to live without my six-year-old here anymore for as long as I’m on the earth. So, what am I going to do? I have to still parent him. I have to still honor him. I still have to be there for him.’”
Wheeler and her husband, David, whose six-year-old son Ben was killed in the attack, are part of The Sandy Hook Promise, an advocacy group that she described as being as much about helping the residents of Newtown, Connecticut heal as it is about pushing for tighter gun safety laws.
“You have many different people in this community who are in such pain,” she said. “And you know, we didn’t ask to be in this club together, but we are.”
The Toomey-Manchin amendment, which failed to gather the 60 votes necessary to pass, called for background checks to be applied to gun purchases made online and at gun shows. The Senate did not pass it in spite of polls showing overwhelming national support for the idea.
“I think the numbers that people are hearing about percentages of the population in this country that approve or support the idea of something like an extended, expanded universal background check system, for instance, leveling the playing field for all commercial firearm purchases,” said David Wheeler. “Those numbers, those approval numbers and the numbers of people in this country that support that are so very high that it becomes a question of, you know, how many voices can we raise and how many people can make their opinions known so that eventually our systems of government that are intentionally designed to do nothing very quickly will respond.”
Watch Moyers’ interview with the Wheelers and folk musician Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary, posted online on Friday, below.