After the deadly shootings last week at an Oregon community college, two Georgetown University students resolved to raise their voices again for legislation to prevent gun violence.
So Sarah Clements and Emma Iannini joined with a few dozen other activists Tuesday in a rally outside the Capitol in an effort to push Congress to act on proposals to tighten requirements for background checks of firearms purchasers.
The students were under no illusion that lawmakers would schedule a speedy vote on measures that have died repeatedly in Congress over the past 15 years despite a series of mass shootings that now includes the slaying of nine people Thursday at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore.
But for Clements and Iannini, the gun debate is personal. Both and are from Newtown, Conn., scene of the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School that claimed the lives of 26 children and staff members.
“We’re still here,” Clements, 19, said. “We’re still angry. We’re going to keep coming out.”
Clements is the daughter of a second-grade teacher at Sandy Hook who survived the attack. Her mother, Abbey Clements, continued to teach at the school for a couple years, then took a position at another school, Clements said.
“It’s so painful when these shootings happen over and over again,” Sarah Clements said. She is now a sophomore with a double major in government and justice and peace studies. The Sandy Hook shootings, she said, changed her life.
“I felt a fire in me,” she said. “I’m an advocate for gun-violence prevention. I’m part of a generation that has grown up with [school] lockdown drills. We are on the front lines of this issue.”
Iannini, 21, is a senior majoring in regional and comparative studies in the university’s School of Foreign Service. She also is president of Georgetown Against Gun Violence. “We advocate for common sense policy reforms,” she said.
Iannini grew up barely a mile and a half from Sandy Hook Elementary. “My soul calls me here,” Iannini said at the rally. “I believe in fate. This is one of my life’s callings.”
The two took turns with a bullhorn Tuesday, standing on a small stepstool, giving speeches to fire up the crowd at an event organized by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Clements read aloud the names of victims of the Umpqua shootings. At the rally there were also students from American and George Washington universities. The demonstrators planned to deliver a letter to outgoing House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), urging him to schedule a vote on gun legislation before he retires from Congress.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the District of Columbia’s non-voting member of the House, praised the activists. “Thank you for giving us fresh faces here for the Congress to see,” Norton said. “You are who matters.”
Norton said she planned to introduce a resolution to designate June as Gun Violence Awareness Month. “A small effort to keep the battle going,” she called it.