Annual Newtown Vigil Moves to Capitol Hill

From left, Blumenthal, Murphy and Esty stand during a candlelight vigil during the National Vigil For All Victims of Gun Violence, at St. Mark's Episcopal Church on Wednesday. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Anti-gun lawmakers have spent most of the week trying to force floor votes on the issue this week, but they paused from that effort Wednesday night to attend the annual vigil commemorating the Newtown, Conn., shootings with victims and families of gun violence. Connecticut's two Democratic senators, Christopher Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, and Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Esty, whose district includes Newtown, and Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., attended the Newtown Action Alliance’s National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence at St. Mark's Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill.  

“Families share the bond of devastating grief of losing loved ones to gun violence,” White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said in opening remarks. “I ask [questions] not just as a White House official who has attended far too many memorial services … but as a granddaughter with firsthand experience.”  

When she was 15-years-old, two burglars threatened her grandfather with a toy hand gun and the grandfather pulled out a real gun. The burglars took the gun from him, shot and killed him.  

“My grandfather Stewart proves that we are not always safer just because we own a gun,” she said. On Dec. 16, 2012, two days after Newtown, she went with President Barack Obama to a vigil in Connecticut. “I am here three years later to remind you all that you are not alone.”  

For the last two years, the event was held at the National Cathedral but moved this year to St. Marks in hope more lawmakers would come.  “Congress has become complacent in the evil that we have seen all too often, all too frequently," Blumenthal told the gathering, adding, “we will not abandon this fight.”  

“At this time of year, in my faith, we celebrate a miracle. We light candles … making sure we believe in miracles. It may seem like a miracle that we stop these killings but we know we can do it,” he continued.  

Murphy spoke about how archways, when put together, hold up a building. “We’re up against an enormously powerful opposition force. The gun lobby has been readying for this moment for decades. Together, like those bricks in this archway, we will be able to do miraculous things.”  

Esty recalled to the standing-room-only church that three years ago she had just been first elected and was preparing for her new life in Congress when she heard about Sandy Hook. “We are elected in democracies to do the people’s business. We are elected to keep Americans safe. We are elected to do that which is hard. We are elected to protect Americans, not the NRA or the gun lobby,” she said to applause.  

Grabbing Murphy and Blumenthal’s hands, she said “at a time when our country is fearful, at a time when people are tempted to curl up in a ball, or worst yet, go buy another gun … this is what we do in a democracy.”  

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Topics: the-capitol