Entries in Newtown (13)


Ayotte’s Gun Vote Follows Her to NH Town Hall

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images(FITZWILLIAM, N.H.) -- Sen. Kelly Ayotte ticked through a Power Point presentation at a town meeting Thursday, delivering an update on the federal budget, the challenges of implementing the health care law and the slow-to-recovery economy.

It seemed like a typical afternoon civics discussion if Gilles Rousseau hadn’t driven from Connecticut and taken a seat in the front row. He clutched a folder carrying the death certificate of his daughter, Lauren, a first-grade teacher killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“It says she died of multiple gunshot wounds,” he said in an interview, pausing to compose himself, apologizing for his tears. Rousseau said he had one burning question for the senator: Why did you vote against expanding background checks?

He never got the chance to ask. He was not called upon during the hour-long town meeting. Some residents held signs outside before the meeting, saying only New Hampshire voters should speak. When another man rose to ask Ayotte to explain why she voted against expanding background checks, several people in the audience of more than 250 people applauded.

“I know people have strong feelings about this issue,” Ayotte began. She said she voted against the bipartisan compromise on background checks last month because she believed gun owners would face an undue burden and she feared it could lead to a federal gun registry.

In fact, the legislation called for a felony punishment for gun shop owners who tried to create a permanent registry, though Ayotte did not mention this at the meeting.

“I thought the focus should be on fixing the current background check system and mental health,” Ayotte said.

She declined interview requests, but when asked by ABC News whether she believed her vote was being mischaracterized, she paused and said, “Yes,” before being spirited away by aides.

The biggest Congressional gun control debate in two decades is still reverberating, particularly for several senators who voted against expanding background checks and the bipartisan plan put forward by Senators Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, and Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania.

Ayotte was among the senators who had considered supporting the bill, but decided to oppose it in the final days. She is under fire by supporters of gun control and being showered with praise by the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups. She is not up for re-election until 2016, but her vote is the subject of a barrage of television and radio ads from both sides.

Her town meetings across New Hampshire this week have drawn supporters and detractors who expressed less interest in her standard Power Point presentation than her stance on guns. Stephen Murphy, a retiree from Fitzwilliam, stood outside the town meeting with a sign identifying him as a gun owner who was furious at Ayotte’s vote. He said it was his first outward political act, aside from voting, but the Newtown shootings changed his views on guns.

“I came to the meeting to make sure that Kelly knows that not all gun owners are agreeing with what she’s saying,” Murphy said. “Background checks are not a problem. I’ve been though them myself. I’ve owned guns for 50 years. The only thing a background check does to a prospective buyer is it gives you five more minutes to shop for more guns.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


President Obama's Weekly Address: Reducing Gun Violence 

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- In his weekly address, President Obama calls on Congress to pass "commonsense measures" to protect the nation's children by reducing gun violence.

The president says in the three months since 20 innocent children and six dedicated adults were lost in the Newtown, Conn. tragedy, Americans "began asking ourselves if we’re really doing enough to protect our communities and keep our children safe."

Those three months, he says, have forced the nation to answer difficult questions about what can be done to prevent the kinds of massacres that occurred in Newtown, Aurora and Oak Creek, and everyday tragedies that take place in cities and towns across America.

"Today there is still genuine disagreement among well-meaning people about what steps we should take to reduce the epidemic of gun violence in this country," Obama says. "But you – the American people – have spoken.  You’ve made it clear that it’s time to do something.  And over the last few weeks, Senators here in Washington have listened and taken some big steps forward."

Obama mentions actions the Senate has taken in an effort to make changes to reduce gun violence: advancing a bill to make it harder for criminals and people with severe mental illness to obtain guns; making progress on another bill to crack down on any gun buyer who intends to funnel it to criminals; and reinstating and strengthening a military-style assault weapons ban as well as setting a 10-round limit for magazines.

"These ideas shouldn’t be controversial – they’re common sense. They’re supported by a majority of the American people.  And I urge the Senate and the House to give each of them a vote," he says.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Lawmakers Tell Facebook’s Zuckerberg to Help Protect Sandy Hook Victims From Fraud

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A trio of lawmakers representing Newtown, Conn., where Sandy Hook Elementary School is located, wrote a letter to Facebook chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to complain on behalf of families and victims who say they may have been exploited for their loss by bad actors on the popular social media site.

Since the tragedy Dec. 14, Facebook users have created hundreds of unofficial tribute pages dedicated to the victims of Sandy Hook, including more than 100 tribute pages for first-grade teacher Victoria Soto, who is hailed as a hero for shielding her students as she was gunned down in the shooting in which Adam Lanza allegedly killed 26 students and teachers.

But not all of the people behind some of the tribute pages have good intentions.

The letter, which is signed by Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, and Rep. Elizabeth Esty, asks Zuckerberg to remove Facebook pages cited in complaints submitted by Donna Soto, Victoria’s mother, and Kaitlin Roig, a Sandy Hook teacher who survived the shooting, “for violating the above terms of service.”

“Many give the appearance they were created by loved ones in the names of the victims. Unfortunately, many of these pages have become vehicles for harassment, intimidation and possibly financial fraud,” the trio wrote. “Pages providing platforms for people to violate the privacy of families as they grieve, or seek financial gain through soliciting donations under false pretenses, or generating Facebook ‘likes’ for marketing purposes, should not be given quarter in the Facebook community.”

The lawmakers note that shady tributes violate several of Facebook’s terms of service, such as providing false personal information on Facebook, creating an account for someone else without permission and bullying, intimidation and harassment.

“If you do not believe these pages violate your terms of service, please detail in a written response why,” the letter reads. “If Facebook is already looking into this matter, please detail what you have done thus far to address the take-down requests from Donna Soto and Kaitlin Roig.”

Esty’s office did not immediately provide a copy of the Soto/Roig take-down request, but the congressional offices pledged to work with Facebook to address their constituents’ grievances.

“We recognize that Facebook receives a large volume of reports and requests each day, but this issue deserves and needs priority enforcement of your own well-established policies,” the letter concludes. “We trust you will do the right thing.”

A Facebook spokesperson who asked not to be identified said the company “has been working closely” with families and a foundation representing Sandy Hook victims “to identify, review, and take action” on content posted to Facebook “in line with our terms.” The source said Facebook has also created a “dedicated staff” to address concerns related to the Sandy Hook shooting, and Facebook briefed Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen on its efforts.

“Hours after the tragedy, we reached out to law enforcement to provide assistance. We are continuing to work closely with the families and the foundation representing the victims of Sandy Hook to ensure that we respond as quickly as possible to concerns,” the Facebook spokesperson said. “For the past few months, our rapid response team has acted swiftly to remove inappropriate materials flagged by the foundation and the families. We will continue to be vigilant.”

The spokesperson did not comment directly on the Soto/Roig take-down request.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Sen. Chris Murphy: Biden’s Visit Will Help Newtown Heal

ABC News(NEWTOWN, Conn.) -- Vice President Joe Biden is slated to travel to Connecticut this week to deliver remarks at a conference on gun violence about 12 miles from Newtown, Conn.

Chris Murphy, Connecticut’s newly elected Democratic senator, told reporters on a conference call on Monday that Biden’s visit will help Newtown heal after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School that sparked a national debate over gun control.

“We have not had a comprehensive forum to explain to the Newtown community and to the people in Connecticut the changes we’re thinking about making in Washington,” Murphy said, noting that most of the discussion about guns in Connecticut has centered on changes to state law.

“The conference is going to be really important, both in terms of its role in the community’s recovery process, as well as in the community’s role in the educational process in this issue,” Murphy told reporters on a conference call organized to release polling figures critical of the National Rifle Association.

Attendees have not been announced, and Murphy said the full list is being finalized. Murphy will host the event along with Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Rep. Elizabeth Etsy, both Democrats from Connecticut.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Sen. Heidi Heitkamp: Reported Obama Gun Proposals ‘Way in Extreme’

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D. said Sunday morning on “This Week”  that while all options should be on the table to address gun violence, President Obama’s reported plans to curve shootings are ”way in extreme” when asked about the types of measures she could potentially support.

“I think you need to put everything on the table, but what I hear from the administration — and if the Washington Post is to be believed — that’s way — way in extreme of what I think is necessary or even should be talked about.  And it’s not going to pass,” said Heitkamp, a member of the National Rifle Association.

Heitkamp – who has an A rating from the NRA and was elected in a state that Gov. Mitt Romney won by nearly 20 points – stressed the importance of addressing mental health as part of the effort to curve violent shootings.

“Let’s start addressing the problem.  And to me, one of the issues that I think comes — screams out of this is the issue of mental health and the care for the mentally ill in our country, especially the dangerously mentally ill.  And so we need to have a broad discussion before we start talking about gun control,” said Heitkamp.

The renewed effort to address gun violence by the White House comes after 20 children were shot and killed last month in Newtown, Conn.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


PHOTO: Obama Hears of Sandy Hook Shooting

Pete Souza/White House(WASHINGTON) -- A new collection of White House photos includes an image of the moment on Dec. 14 when President Obama heard about details of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

A grim-looking Obama leans on a couch as his Homeland Security adviser tells him of the shooting.

“The President reacts as John Brennan briefs him on the details of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.,” according to the caption provided by White House photographer Pete Souza.  “The President later said during a TV interview that this was the worst day of his Presidency.”

Later that day, Obama made televised remarks from the briefing room at the White House.

“The majority of those who died today were children, beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old,” the president said of the 26 victims, pausing to collect himself.  “They had their entire lives ahead of them, birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.”

The shooting at Sandy Hook began an ongoing national discussion about gun violence that has led the president to go from largely ignoring the issue to now listing gun control near the top of his second-term agenda.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Obama: Newtown Shooting ‘Worst Day’ of Presidency

The White House(NEW YORK) -- President Obama said the Newton, Conn., shootings on December 14 were the “worst day” of his time in office.

Recollecting the tragic shooting deaths of 20 first graders and six adults at a Newtown, Conn. elementary school on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the president had been asked how his administration planned to move forward on gun control measures he had suggested in recent weeks. Ultimately, the president said, any coming legislation would be dependent on public approval.

“The question then becomes whether we are actually shook up enough by what happened here that it does not just become another one of these routine episodes where it gets a lot of attention for a couple of weeks and then it drifts away,” he said. “It certainly won’t feel like that to me. This is something that – you know, that was the worst day of my presidency. And it’s not something that I want to see repeated.”

President Obama pledged to put his “full weight” behind additional gun control measures in 2013, repeating his call for a renewal of the assault weapons ban and the closing of the so-called “gun show loophole,” which allows private sellers to offer firearms to people without a background check. A CNN poll in July reported 96 percent of Americans supported background checks for all purchases, regardless of origin.

 “I think there are a vast majority of responsible gun owners out there who recognize that we can’t have a situation in which somebody with severe psychological problems is able to get the kind of high capacity weapons that this individual in Newtown obtained and gun down our kids,” he continued. “And, yes, it’s going to be hard.”

The president said the White House would put forward “very specific” proposals after a fact-finding task force headed by Vice President Biden concluded.

Host David Gregory also asked the president what he thought of the call from the National Rifle Association to place armed security in every American school, an opinion first voiced by the organization’s president, Wayne LaPierre. Obama stated that while he wouldn’t “prejudge” recommendations, he was hesitant.

“I am skeptical that the only answer is putting more guns in schools,” he said. “And I think the vast majority of the American people are skeptical that that somehow is going to solve our problem.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Responds to Petitions Calling for End of Gun Violence

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama responded on Friday to a petition on the White House website urging lawmakers to pass stricter gun control laws following last week's Newtown, Conn., school shooting.

In a video, Obama acknowledged that hundreds of thousands of people have signed petitions asking politicians to "address the epidemic of gun violence in this country."

"We hear you," he said, reiterating that he has asked Vice President Joe Biden to lead a team in developing specific proposals by January to reduce gun violence.

The president noted that "most gun owners in America are responsible."

"Like the majority of Americans, I believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms," he said.

"Here's what I think we should do," Obama continued.  "This week I called on Congress to take up and pass common-sense legislation that has the support of the majority of the American people, including banning the sale of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips, and making sure criminals can't take advantage of legal loopholes to get their hands on a gun."

He stressed the need to address a culture that "glorifies" violence and improve mental health services, and urged people to call on their members of Congress "as many times as it takes" to achieve a result.

"I'm asking for your help to make a real meaningful difference in the lives of our communities and our country, and make sure the United States of America is a safer, stronger place for our children to learn and to grow," Obama concluded.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Taps Biden for Post-Newtown Action Plan

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama has tasked Vice President Joe Biden with coordinating the administration’s response to the deadly school shootings in Newtown, Conn., last week.

Biden will oversee the formulation of new policies aimed at reducing gun violence and preventing mass shootings like the one that took 26 lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School, administration officials said.

Obama is expected to formally announce the Biden-led process at the White House late Wednesday morning.

The president, who vowed “meaningful action” in the wake of last Friday’s tragedy, has faced intensifying pressure to publicly lay out his plans.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Tuesday that Obama is now “actively supportive” of new legislation sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California that would reinstate the ban on certain types of semi-automatic weapons, and said the president may support other efforts, such as a proposal to ban high-capacity magazines.

“[The president] supports -- and would support legislation that addresses the problem of the so-called gun show loophole, and there are other elements of gun law -- gun legislation that he could support,” Carney said. 

“People have talked about high-capacity ammunition clips, for example, and that is something, certainly, that he would be interested in looking at,” he added.

Administration officials say Obama is also interested in new ways of addressing cultural and mental health factors in gun violence.

Obama met privately on Monday with Biden and three members of his Cabinet -- Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius -- to discuss steps forward in the aftermath of Newtown.

The administration has set a target of “a few weeks or a few months” for presenting those plans, while offering few additional specifics.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pro-Gun Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin Suggests New Gun Laws

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., has been as pro-gun, pro-NRA as anybody in Congress.  During his 2010 re-election campaign, he famously demonstrated his opposition to the cap-and-trade bill by shooting the bill (literally) with a rifle.

Now, in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., massacre, Manchin says it is time to re-think gun control.  As he said Monday on MSNBC's Morning Joe, “I don’t know anyone that needs 30 rounds in a clip to go hunting…”

On Twitter, Manchin endorsed a proposal by Sen. Joe Lieberman to create a national commission on gun violence.  But he said there must be action as an end result.

President Obama has not yet specifically advocated new legislation to curb gun violence.  But speaking before the grieving families of Sandy Brook Elementary School in Connecticut Sunday night, he asked if the nation can say it is doing enough to protect its children.

“If we’re honest with ourselves the answer is no,” he answered. “We’ve not been doing enough.  And we will have to change.”

Obama has not made gun legislation a priority of his administration, although he supports renewing the assault weapons ban, which was in effect from 1994 until 2004.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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