All across the country Saturday, people turned out at rallies to demand tougher gun laws. Meanwhile, Sandy Hook mother Francine Wheeler made an emotional appeal for national gun-control legislation. NBC's Kristen Welker reports.
A mother who lost her 6-year-old son in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School made an emotional plea for national gun-control legislation in an address from the White House.
Francine Wheeler made her appeal in lieu of the president’s weekly address. Her appearance is the only time President Obama has handed the address to anyone other than Vice President Joe Biden since the two first took office. Wheeler was joined by her husband David.
“I have hear people say that the tidal wave of anguish our country felt on 12/14 has receded, but not for us,” Wheeler said. “To us it feels as if it happened just yesterday, and in the four months since we lost our loved ones, thousands of other Americans have died at the end of a gun.”
The address, taped Friday, comes as several Sandy Hook families have mounted an aggressive effort to get a gun-control bill passed by Congress. Wheeler and her husband wrote the remarks after they were approached, the White House said.
“We have to convince the Senate to come together and pass common sense gun responsibility reforms that will make our communities safer and prevent more tragedies like the one we never thought would happen to us,” Wheeler said.
Jessica Hill / AP file
Francine Wheeler, mother of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim Benjamin Wheeler, cries as she listens to Vice President Joe Biden speak during a gun violence conference in Danbury, Conn., Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013.
Family members of the Newtown victims were present on Capitol Hill Thursday when Senators voted 68-31 to move forward with the process of debating a gun bill that several Republican lawmakers had threatened to filibuster. Several Republican senators have said that the presence of Newtown families helped contribute to the unexpectedly overwhelming vote to move forward with the bill.
Among the more than a dozen relatives in the gallery was Jillian Soto, whose sister was killed at Sandy Hook.
“The tears that we had weren’t tears of joy, but tears of remembering this is happening,” Soto told NBC News shortly after the vote. “We’re here because of what happened to us.”
During her remarks, Wheeler and her husband wore green pins to commemorate the 20 schoolchildren, including their son, and six adults who died in the December shooting. The Wheelers’ older son Nate, a 4th grader at Sandy Hook, survived the shooting.
“Sometimes I close my eyes and all I can remember is that awful day waiting at the Sandy Hook volunteer firehouse for the boy who would never come home – the same firehouse that was home to Ben’s Tiger Scout Den 6,” said Wheeler, choking back tears. “But other times I feel Ben’s presence filling me with courage for what I have to do for him and all the others taken from us so violently and too soon.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.