Survivors, Families, Law Enforcement: Marching Together

A couple nights ago we honored several amazing individuals who have stepped forward in the last year to advocate for common-sense gun laws in this country.
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A couple nights ago we honored several amazing individuals who have stepped forward in the last year to advocate for common-sense gun laws in this country.

The Brady Center awarded Col. Gerald Massengill the James S. Brady Law Enforcement Award for his work as chair of the Virginia Tech Review Panel. This group made strong recommendations to close the gun show loophole, report all records of the dangerously mentally ill to the Brady background check system, and allow colleges and universities to keep their campuses gun-free.

We also awarded Abigail Spangler the Brady Center Advocate Award for the grassroots movement of concerned citizens she has inspired - including students, parents, and people from all walks of life - who have been willing to demonstrate publicly their desire to strengthen America's woefully inadequate gun laws. Like many of us, she was moved to tears by the shocking events of April 16, 2007. Unlike many of us, she decided to do something about it.

She started, and anyone can with participate or help organize one of their events. All you need are 32 people who agree that it should be harder for dangerous people to get dangerous weapons. This symbolizes the total number of murdered at Virginia Tech, as well as the number murdered by guns every day in this country. These individuals lie down on the ground in a public place silently for just a few minutes, to symbolize the amount of time it took for the Virginia Tech shooter to get his guns.

We expect over 50 of these or similar events to take place across the country this coming Wednesday, the one-year anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings. If any of these are in your area, I encourage you to participate.

Finally, and most important last Wednesday night, we heard the voices of Virginia Tech family members Joseph Samaha and Pat Craig. Joe lost his daughter Reema in Norris Hall and Pat lost her nephew Ryan Clark at the West Ambler Johnston residence hall. Joe and Pat - two truly courageous individuals - gave talks that those in attendance said were among the most moving they had heard in a very long time.

I've been involved in politics since I was a child, and since that time I've heard more speeches than I can count. But listening to Joe Samaha and Pat Craig reminded me of the oft-quoted story recounted by Adlai Stevenson many years ago:

"Do you remember that in classical times when Cicero finished speaking, the people said, 'How well he spoke'-- but when Demosthenes had finished speaking, the people said, 'Let us march.'"

Joe Samaha and Pat Craig moved us all to march to do everything we can to help prevent other families from having to endure the pain they've endured this past year, by strengthening America's gun laws.

It was an honor just to be with all these individuals.

Note to readers: This entry, along with past entries, has been co-posted on and the Huffington Post.

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