WASHINGTON -- A increasing number of House Democrats are bringing people affected by gun violence as their guests to next week's State of the Union, with the list now including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).
Pelosi announced Friday that she plans to bring a fourth grader from Newtown, Conn., along with her mother, as her guests to President Barack Obama's annual address to the nation. A Pelosi spokesman said the student does not attend Sandy Hook Elementary School, the site of a December mass shooting, but attends another elementary school in Newtown. Her office is not releasing the names of the girl or her mother.
The girl sent Pelosi a letter explaining how she has been affected by gun violence. "What everyone in Newtown wants, is for you to ban semi automatic weapons and large capacity magazines and to make everyone use gun safes. This is important so that a person cannot shoot many people at once, and/or injure people badly," the girl wrote. "This ban will help prevent individuals, families and communities from suffering the way we are in Newtown."
Van Hollen, meanwhile, announced that he plans to bring a woman named Carol Price as his guest to the president's address. He said that Price her lost her son to gun violence, and that his death led to the passage of legislation in Maryland requiring trigger locks on firearms.
News of their plans comes amid an effort by a group of House Democrats to get all lawmakers in their party to bring gun violence victims to the State of the Union, in an effort to keep up the pressure for new gun safety laws. Ten lawmakers were confirmed to participate in the effort earlier this week; that number is now up to 21.
In addition to Pelosi and Van Hollen, Democrats taking part in the effort include Reps. Jim Langevin (R.I.), Keith Ellison (Minn.), Carolyn McCarthy (N.Y.), David Cicilline (R.I.), Lois Frankel (Fla.), Gloria Negrete McLeod (Calif.), Ed Perlmutter (Colo.), Janice Hahn (Calif.), Bobby Scott (Va.), Brad Schneider (Ill.), Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), Elizabeth Esty (Conn.), Mike Thompson (Calif.), Jim Himes (Conn.), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Diana DeGette (Colo.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), Jan Schakowsky (Ill.) and Lujan Grisham (N.M.).
Schakowsky announced earlier Friday who her guest would be: Carolyn Murray, whose son Justin was fatally shot in November in Evanston, Ill. By mid-December, Murray had organized a gun buyback event and collected nearly 50 guns.
"I'm so grateful to welcome Carolyn Murray as my State of the Union guest this year. Ms. Murray has turned her pain into power through her tireless work against gun violence and she is truly making a difference in our community," Schakowsky said in a statement.
Murray said she is excited to attend the State of the Union in honor of her son.
"Too many young people have been killed by guns, and it must end," she said in a statement. "As the mother of a young victim, I'm committed to doing everything in my power to end gun violence. The time is now for Congress to act to save lives."
The State of the Union is next Tuesday, Feb. 12.
Read the letter the girl sent to Pelosi:
Dear Representative Pelosi and Members of Congress,
My name is [REMOVED] and I am a 4th grade student in Newtown, CT. After the shooting in my town, I started an online petition asking for help from the President and Congress to change the gun laws. It got a lot of support from all over America, but then I had to take it down because the police were worried about my safety. What everyone in Newtown wants, is for you to ban semi automatic weapons and large capacity magazines and to make everyone use gun safes.
This is important so that a person cannot shoot many people at once, and/or injure people badly. Semi-automatic weapons and large capacity magazines end lives and put lives at risk. This ban will help prevent individuals, families and communities from suffering the way we are in Newtown.
In Newtown’s municipal center, there are hundreds of thousands of cards and pictures from children and adults from all across America. It’s so sad. I think the people against changing gun laws should walk through the long hallway and read one card out of every box, to realize how many people want this change. We would all appreciate anything you could do to help.
Thank you for your help.
CORRECTION: This story originally stated that the girl was a Sandy Hook Elementary School student. She attends another school in Newtown.