WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is bringing 11 relatives of those killed in the shooting at Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School to Washington on Air Force One on Monday so they can personally encourage senators to back gun legislation that faces tough opposition.
A nonprofit organization that works with the families, Sandy Hook Promise, said that after Obama's speech on gun control in Hartford, he is flying with relatives of seven children and one staffer killed during December's massacre at the school. The White House says Obama is going to argue that lawmakers have an obligation to the children killed and other victims of gun violence to act on his proposals.
Gun legislation could come up for debate in the Senate this week after lawmakers return from spring break. The Sandy Hook families want to speak this week to senators who have not so far voiced support for the legislation to ask for support in memory of their children and the staff that was killed Dec. 14. The White House offered to give them a ride so they could also attend Obama's speech before their lobbying push.
"The group is encouraging senators to come together around legislative proposals that will both save lives and respect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans," Sandy Hook Promise said in a statement.
Obama plans to invoke the memories of the 26 students and staff members killed. He is speaking at the University of Hartford, near the state capitol where last week the governor signed into law some of the nation's strictest gun control laws.
But legislation in Washington faces a tougher challenge, with the nation's memories of the shooting fading with time and a formidable campaign by the National Rifle Association to keep members of Congress from support gun legislation. Senators were negotiating Monday in search of a deal to expand background checks for gun buyers, but the prospects for an agreement were still uncertain.
Senate leaders say there are not enough votes for Obama's push for an assault weapons ban. Prospects are also bleak for the president's proposal to limit the number of rounds of ammunition in a magazine to 10.
Not all Sandy Hook families support gun control, and even those involved with the lobbying push organized by Sandy Hook Promise are not backing the assault weapons ban. But they are asking lawmakers to expand background checks, increase penalties for gun trafficking and limit the size of magazines.
Nicole Hockley told The Associated Press in an interview that she wonders if her 6-year-old son, Dylan, might still be alive if shooter Adam Lanza hadn't be able to bring 10 magazines holding 30 rounds each into the school that day. Lanza was able to get off 154 shots during a four-minute rampage in the school. But he stopped shooting briefly in her son's classroom to reload, giving 11 children time to escape.
"They ran for their lives," Hockley said in a telephone interview Friday. "Dylan was not so fortunate. If there were lower capacity magazine clips, there's a chance Dylan would be here with me today."
Hockley plans to introduce Obama in Hartford and sit on stage during the speech with her husband, Ian. The other families who plan to fly on Air Force One are scheduled to meet privately with the president before he speaks and attend the speech. Those relatives include:
— Mark and Jackie Barden — parents of 7-year-old Daniel
— Nelba Marquez Greene — mother of 6-year-old Ana
— Neil Heslin — father of 6-year-old Jesse
— Jennifer Hensel — mother of 6-year-old Avielle
— Bill Sherlach — husband of Mary, a 56-year-old school psychologist
— Ben and Cheyanne Wyatt — parents of 6-year-old Allison
— David and Francine Wheeler — parents of 6-year-old Ben
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Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.