In lieu of a public remembrance ceremony in Newtown, Conn., a vigil will be held at Washington’s National Cathedral on Dec. 12, two days before the one-year anniversary of the shooting rampage that killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The 75-minute event, scheduled to start at 3:45 p.m., will also honor more than 30,000 people across the United States who have been killed by guns in the 11 months since the Newtown shootings, said Dave Ackert, founder and chairman of the Newtown Action Alliance, which advocates for changing gun laws, and its charitable and educational sister organization, the Newtown Foundation, which is organizing the event.
“The reality is that it’s not just Newtown; Newtown opened a lot of people’s eyes but it’s a national problem,” Ackert said, adding that families affected by gun violence are expected to travel to Washington from around the country for the vigil.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “We’re raising a generation of kids who instead of selling Girl Scout cookies are selling bracelets to remember the kids who died in their community because of guns.”
The vigil is being held in Washington to deflect attention from Newtown as the anniversary date approaches.
“The whole community is wanting to be alone and remember the tragedy in our own way, and need media to stay away,” said Ackert, who has several neighbors whose family members were killed at the school.
President Obama’s advisers have been informed of the vigil, Ackert said, adding, “We would obviously love and welcome the Obamas. They’ve been strong advocates, and I know that they’ve been touched and moved by Sandy Hook and every time there’s another shooting across the nation.”
Since the Sandy Hook shootings, gun control advocates have called for tighter gun laws; at the same time, pro-gun groups have moved to counteract restrictions on owning or carrying them.
Last month, a Washington state Second Amendment group announced a “Guns Save Lives” day to be held on the anniversary of the shootings. After a barrage of public outcry, the group moved its event to the following day.
After federal legislation for tougher gun laws fell short by five votes in the Senate in April, a group of Sandy Hook families last week announced a new campaign to address gun violence, with the goal of recruiting 500,000 parents to join their cause in the next month.
Citing changes in legislation on drunk driving, smoking and gay marriage that started from grass-roots efforts, the group is pushing for conversations to take place in local communities and schools.
Newtown first selectman Patricia Llodra has posted a call on her blog for groups and individuals to “pledge an act of kindness to each other” in the weeks leading up to the anniversary.
“Maybe this tragedy can serve as a reminder for all families to set aside a few minutes to talk together about the importance of compassionate acts — that those acts become the glue that binds us together in our humanity,” she wrote.