It has been six months since December 14, 2012: The tragic day when a gunman in Newtown, Connecticut murdered his mother, forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary, and slaughtered 26 people, including 20 children.
In the months since, citizens and senators alike have had passionate responses to the ongoing gun debate. Some moments — like the defeat of a bill that would have expanded background checks — have been nothing but disappointing to those hoping to pass stronger gun laws. But other times, the country has been inspired by the bravery and activism of people dedicated to the cause.
Here’s a look back at some of the most inspiring moments since Newtown:
1. When Obama told the nation that four mass shootings during his first term was too many. “Can we truly say, as a nation, that we are meeting our obligations? Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children – all of them – safe from harm?” Obama asked during his speech at the memorial for those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary. “Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know that they are loved, and teaching them to love in return? Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose? I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change.”
2. When gun buybacks swept the country. In a show of solidarity in the weeks following the massacre in Newtown, local law enforcement and state attorneys general called for gun buyback programs. It started right next to Newtown, in Bridgeport, CT, where anonymous donations bankrolled an effort to buy back guns, no questions asked, from anyone who turned one in. Quickly, though, the movement spread as far as Los Angeles, where thousands turned in guns in exchange for groceries. Gun buybacks might not be the most effective way to decrease violence, but the nationwide effort signaled something even bigger.
3. When Gabby Giffords decided it was time to fight. On the day that former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) was gunned down in a parking lot in Tucson, Arizona, no one was sure whether she would make it through the day. But two years later, after she saw the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook, Giffords — now well on the road to recovery, though with much left to do — decided she’d had enough. She and her husband announced that they were going to launchAmericans for Responsible Solutions. Giffords then testified in favor of expanded background checks:
4. When the Colorado governor signed a gun safety law days after one of his cabinet members was gunned down. Colorado experienced its own horrific mass shooting in 2012, but it wasn’t until after Newtown that the state legislature approved a package of gun laws that includes expanded background checks and limits on ammunition clips. Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper (D) signed those bills into law the day after his state’s Chief of the Department of Corrections was gunned down in his home.
5. When the families of Newtown victims read off the names of the dead. In 12 hours, a group made up of friends and relatives of those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary, the Newtown Action Alliance, read the names of the 3,300 people killed by guns since the Newtown massacre in front of Edmond Town Hall in Newtown. At the same time, on Capitol Hill, another collection of groups advocating for gun safety — including eight members of Congress — spent 139 hours reading 36,976 names of gun victims. To honor the six-month anniversary, Mayors Against Illegal Guns is launching this Friday a 100-day national tour to read the names of those killed since Newtown in 40 cities.
6. When Frank Lautenberg cast one of his last votes, and it was for background checks. The late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) spent his career fighting for stronger gun laws. The last major gun law passed in the US, in 1996, was Lautenberg’s amendment to ban domestic abusers from owning guns. The late Senator went out fighting the same fight. Even as he was struggling with illness, Lautenberg made his way to the senate floor in April to cast the one of the final votes of his career for expanded background checks. You can see him being wheeled in by an aide in the bottom left:
7. When a hero from the Tucson shooting shamed the Senate for failing Americans. Patricia Maisch was there when former Giffords (D-AZ) was shot, point blank, in the head, and she was there when the senate failed to pass background checks. She’s the woman who shouted from the galleries, “Shame on you!” when the effort failed.
8. When the daughter of a Newtown victim confronted Sen. Kelly Ayotte. After Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) voted against the Manchin-Toomey effort to expand background checks, the daughter of a Newtown victim confronted her at a town hall. She referenced Kelly Ayotte’s argument against the bill, and asked: “You had mentioned.. the burden on owners of gun stores that the expanded background checks would cause. I’m just wondering why the burden of my mother being gunned down in the halls of her elementary school isn’t as important as that.”