Around New England

Some Newtown Shooting Survivors Are Now Stumping for Gun Control – But Not Everyone Agrees

December 11, 2019

On December 14, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot up Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, killing 26 people, including 20 first graders.

Seven years later, former Sandy Hook students who survived the mass-shooting are now teen-agers. As the Associated Press reports, some of them are now gun control and school safety advocates.

One such student is Natalie Barden. Now 17, she was 10 when her seven-year-old brother Daniel was killed by Lanza.

After seeing students from Parkland, Florida become gun control activists following the 2018 Valentine’s Day mass-shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School that took 17 lives, Natalie felt she also had to take action. She joined the Junior Newtown Action Alliance, a pro-gun-control organization, and began calling various politicians, urging them to pass gun control legislation, including an assault weapons ban.

The organization is the youth wing of the Newtown Action Alliance. According to the Newtown Foundation’s web site, “the students work to raise awareness about gun-violence prevention through various educational activities and actions.”

Students involved with the organization have participated in various pro-gun control demonstrations such as March for Our Lives events, PeaceJam, and Generation Progress Youth Leadership Conferences. They’ve also helped organize vigils, school walkouts, and so-called “die-ins” across the country.

Like Barden, Rayna Toth and Olivia Doscher, who were third graders at the time of the Sandy Hook massacre, are members of the Junior Newtown Action Alliance, according to the Associated Press. They joined the organization as sophomores in high school.

During the shooting, the school was on lockdown. Each of their classes gathered in the corners of their respective rooms and put papers up over the door so the shooter could not see them.

“I knew I wanted to do it,” Rayna told the Associated Press of joining the Alliance. “I was very young when the shooting happened, so I don’t think I got to use my voice and say what happened to me.”

A 2020 Republican candidate for state Senate in Connecticut’s 28th district, 19-year-old J.T. Lewis, whose 6-year-old brother Jesse died in the Sandy Hook massacre, has a different approach from that of some of his peers. He is not in favor of gun control. Rather, he supports bolstering school security and mental health programs.

“I’m tired of watching my politicians fight for gun control to no avail,” he told the Associated Press. “Right now, we need to look at other things. You’re seeing a lot of shootings now where the measures they wanted to pass wouldn’t have prevented anything.”

Lewis was among many school safety advocates who met with President Donald Trump last December to discuss findings from a federal school safety commission’s research.

Last week, Lewis also met with New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, a Republican, at a Christmas party.

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