Survivors and family members of victims of gun violence held a candlelight vigil at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., Wednesday evening to commemorate the fifth year since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
About 100 family members and survivors of gun violence, including relatives of those killed in the school shootings at Sandy Hook and Columbine High School, as well as the 2015 church shooting in Charleston, crowded into the rustic brick church on Capitol Hill. They lit candles, sang songs and listened.
Several of them read through a long list of places affected by gun violence.
“From Newtown to Las Vegas, Chicago to Hartford, Sutherland Springs to Aurora, Baltimore to New York …”
“We shed tears for the lives cut short by a gun. We come to remember.”
The vigil has taken place every year since the Newtown shooting. The gathering doubles as a political call to introduce stricter gun control legislation.
Jane Dougherty is the sister of Mary Sherlach, an educator who was killed in the Newtown shooting. She read a letter she addressed to her late sister.
“I have honored the promise I made to you at your funeral mass. I continue to speak out against gun violence and tell our story. What happened to you has changed my life.”
David Stowe, with Newtown Action Alliance, one of the organizers of the event, has been to a lot of vigils for victims of gun violence since the Sandy Hook shooting. He says he’s seen the mood slowly change over the last five years.
“There was always this deep sadness initially. The last year or so, immediately things turn more to anger and to rage that this continues to happen and those that are in power really seem completely unconcerned about doing something about it.”
U.S. Representative Elizabeth Esty, whose district includes Newtown, addressed the crowd, saying she’s talked to some people who have become discouraged about national gun control legislation.
“I often get asked, ‘How long will this take?’ And I’ll tell them, I don’t know. My crystal ball got shattered a year ago, I don’t know. But I do know this. We know what we need to do. And the arc of history bends toward justice.”
Earlier in the day, the U.S. House passed a bill that makes it easier for gun owners to carry concealed weapons across state lines.
The Republican-sponsored measure received majority support despite strong opposition from gun control advocates.
Esty accused Republicans of catering to the gun industry by combining a bill on background checks with one that makes it easier to carry concealed weapons across state lines.