'We the people are speaking.' On a day of national protest for stricter gun legislation, one Sandy Hook mother described her children's experience on the day of the tragedy.
Newtown residents gathered Thursday outside the local National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) to protest robocalls made by the NRA to families still grieving from the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. Across the street, members of the NSSF responded with a protest of their own.
“We respect the rights of all citizens under our First Amendment to express their opinions in public. We all share the goal of wanting to help make Connecticut safer for our children and all our citizens,” NSSF said in a statement Thursday.
The NSSF is the second largest gun lobby in the country. Its headquarters are located approximately three miles from Sandy Hook Elementary.
Thursday was The National Day to Demand Action, a day for advocates to pressure legislators to sign on for stricter gun control. There were more than 140 events in 29 states, organized by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group led by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
One of Thursday’s protesters, Susan Ludwig, is the mother of two children who were at Sandy Hook Elementary on the day of the shooting. In addition to protesting outside of the NSSF Thursday, Ludwig wrote an open letter to both legislators and pro-gun advocates, describing the horrors her children endured on December 14th.
“I will never forget when my daughter found out that her best friend had died,” Ludwig wrote. “She rode the bus everyday with her. I tried very hard those first days to shield my children from the horror of it all. But there was one day that the TV was on for a moment and Grace’s face flashed across the screen. Summer said, ‘Mom, that’s Grace, that’s my best friend Gracie, why is she on TV? She’s OK, Mom, right? She’s OK?’ And I had to tell her no, she’s not OK. I watched as my little girl crumbled, it was like watching a little piece of her soul being torn from her.”
Ludwig argues for a number of stricter measures of gun legislation. “The answer,” she writes, “is to ban all assault rifles. I don’t care about the cosmetic differences–all of them. Ban high capacity clips. Do not allow them to be grandfathered in. The market is saturated. Let the government buy the military weapons back and give them to the military.”
Here is Susan Ludwig’s full letter:
I am a Sandy Hook mom with 4 children, 2 of whom were at Sandy Hook that day, along with me.I am here today because I have been irreversibly changed by the events at my children’s school Sandy Hook Elementary on Dec. 14thI am here because the events at Sandy Hook can and will happen again with the laws the way they are. I want to get the word out that the status quo is not nearly good enough.I want to tell people that it could be your child or my child next time. We need to change the laws. We need to be the ones to make congress see that the laws need changing. The changes will not bring back the children of Sandy Hook and this breaks my heart, but the changes might save your child one day.I will tell you this. The gun companies are calling us the ‘[Connecticut] Effect’ and that our feelings will fade. I can tell you that as a mother, who has had her children nearly murdered, watched as 20 of their friends and 6 of their teachers were murdered, watched as their innocence and sense of safety was shattered, let alone what it has done to their mental health–my feelings and the feelings of this country will not fade.Every day that goes by turns my grief and heartache into a fierce determination for change.I have a 6 yr. old first grade daughter and 7 yr. old second grade son in Sandy Hook Elementary.I truly believe that if assault rifles were not legal Adam Lanza would not have been able to get one. We might have seen a different story that day. Some kids and teachers might have died, but not 20.My daughter might not have lost her best friend. She might not have lost half of her daisy troop friends that day. My son might not have lost his swim buddy.My children’s innocence and sense of safety has been stripped from them. I will have to worry about their mental health in the days moving forward. But it’s not just my children that were affected.There are approx. 400 children in that school. 30-40 of those children were hiding in closets listening to the cries and pleading of their friends as they were massacred. Each body was riddled with 3-11 bullets.Some of those children were able to escape as he reloaded his gun. Imagine if his clips were smaller and he had to reload more often. How many more would be alive?He shot 150 bullets in five minutes. Children walked out and saw their principal on the floor in a pool of blood. They found Vicky Soto, riddled with bullets, cradling a child in her arms.There are many children who still wake up screaming from the nightmares night after night. Some don’t sleep.I was there in the parking lot when all this happened. I was supposed to be making gingerbread houses in my daughter’s class. I watched from the parking lot as a police officer carried out the lifeless little body of my daughter’s daisy friend. She looked so much like my daughter I had to look hard to see that it wasn’t. Her long brown hair flowed down and she had a bullet wound on her head and blood all over her midriff. I am told that the first responder who found her looked into her eyes and told her “your parents love you.”I watched as the sole survivor from one of the classes came out of the school covered in blood and flesh. I watched and waited in that parking lot, begging God that my kids be safe, until they finally came out of the building.There were many parents there that day unable to find their children. They live every parent’s worst nightmare every day. The light of their lives has been stolen and my heart is broken. I constantly think about how impossible it must be for them to live their lives now. Whenever I hear “Your Song” by Elton John, I think of that sweet little face of Daniel Barden’s. How can he have stolen him from them? Or any of them?I will never forget when my daughter found out that her best friend had died. She rode the bus everyday with her. I tried very hard those first days to shield my children from the horror of it all. But there was one day that the TV was on for a moment and Grace’s face flashed across the screen. Summer said, “Mom, that’s Grace, that’s my best friend Gracie, why is she on TV? She’s OK, Mom, right? She’s OK?” And I had to tell her no, she’s not OK. I watched as my little girl crumbled, it was like watching a little piece of her soul being torn from her.These things never had to occur. If we had left the old assault weapons ban in place, Adam Lanza would not have had that gun. He had gone to Dicks’ Sporting Goods the day before and had been turned away. There would have been survivors; they would have had a chance to run. But what happened instead is that the gun company puppets, the NRA and NSSF, got a hold of and corrupted our elected officials two decades ago while we weren’t paying attention.The gun companies persuaded Congress to pass a law forbidding the CDC from doing research that could be used to promote gun control. Research that would have saved lives.Congress has put a law in place so that you cannot sue the gun companies. They are above the law. That law should be repealed and the gun companies should be forced to fund all of the research on gun death prevention, just like the cigarette companies had to.The gun companies persuaded congress to impose restrictions on how cities and elected officials can use and share the information they gather in crime scenes.The gun lobby has made repeated attempts to eliminate a program that tracks bulk sales of assault weapons by dealers in 4 states that border Mexico. These guns end up in the hands of drug gangs.But the NRA doesn’t want to stop any of it and has corrupted our elected officials to go along with them. Why? Because even guns in the hands of criminals means more gun money.The NRA’s puppets in our congress have written laws forbidding commanders and physicians from asking questions that can prevent accidents and suicides. Suicides in active duty service members exceeded combat deaths in Afghanistan. But to the gun companies, human life means very little, it is more guns and money that matter most.So it makes sense to me that the NRA would push for the answer to Sandy Hook to be more guns and not less. More guns equals more money equals more death.They want to put armed security guards in every school. They want to arm our teachers. Did you know that a trained policeman only hits his target 80% of the time? Where do the bullets go the other 20%? How does that equate in the hands of an untrained teacher in a school full of children?I believe a security guard would have been outgunned and massacred right along with our children. The assailants at Columbine and Virginia Tech managed to shoot a combined total of 82 people that were staffed with armed guards. Besides, would you put security guards in the grocery store, or in the church, or on the soccer field? What would stop someone from shooting at a school bus? Someone with an assault rifle would not even need to be on the bus, he could destroy dozens of innocent lives in the blink of an eye from his front yard.The answer is to ban all assault rifles. I don’t care about the cosmetic differences–all of them. Ban high capacity clips. Do not allow them to be grandfathered in. The market is saturated. Let the government buy the military weapons back and give them to the military.It only takes one bullet to take a life. If you are afraid of a home invasion then head for the target range. Australia banned assault rifles in 1996. They had 18 mass murders before. After the ban, 0. The UK had similar results. All of this gun death is a uniquely United States phenomenon. There are 30,000 gun deaths each year. Only 200 of them are legally justified self-defense homicides.No one is asking to take away hand guns and hunting rifles from responsible gun owners. My mother and brother own guns responsibly.But leave the assault rifles where they belong, in the military. When I went to the safety meeting in Hartford, the NRA argued that if someone wants to kill someone they would do it even with a hammer. My reply: I have never seen 26 people die by hammer before.The United States murder rate is 20x higher that anyone else’s. 33 people die by gun every day. Enough.Look at the national polls. The people are speaking. The majority of the people support these bans, background checks and the addressing of mental health. None of these measures will work alone, they need to be done together to make a difference. Statistics show that in Virginia background checks reduced gun death by 40%. 91% of the people across this country support background checks. You can’t even get 91% of people to agree the sky is blue. Yet the last I looked the republican vote was 0. And of course the NRA doesn’t support background checks either. Background checks means less guns sold, means less money, means more death, but they’re not thinking about people.I thought being an elected official meant that you were supposed to listen to the people who you represent. And maybe I’m not wrong. Maybe it’s just that the people in congress don’t represent the people who elected them. Well, that, at least is something we can fix in the next election.I am tired of watching night after night the childish behavior of the politicians. This is not a game of chess where you can sit in a stalemate. This is our lives and we the people are speaking. You represent us and we want change. There are limits on the freedom of speech. It is common sense to put limits on guns. When someone’s right to bear rocket launchers and machine guns takes away children’s rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.I wish with all my heart that this tragedy did not descend upon us. But it did. And it has forced an awakening. I think the NRA has underestimated the moms of this world. To the gun companies this is just another nuisance killing where one of the crazy people they gladly sell to killed some children. But to us in Sandy Hook, and Newtown and Shelton and New York and California and Ohio and North Carolina and all across this country, this is our children and if you think we are complacent still–you are wrong.When I tell you my grief has changed me, what I should be saying is that it has awakened a fierce maternal instinct deep within and if you think I am going to stand by and let you endanger my children again, then you are sadly mistaken.So why am I speaking out now after all this time? I honestly didn’t thing I was going to have to in the beginning. I thought the horrors that now permeate my sleep and life would stay mine. The laws had to change, how could they not? It wasn’t until I saw that even though 91% of America wanted something as common sense as universal background checks, many politicians still couldn’t support it. That’s when I started researching it myself. That’s when I realized that many politicians were corrupt. That’s when I realized that I would have to do everything I could possible do to put things right. I want to be able to look back, with no regret, and say I tried as hard as I could to make this right.The blood of our children is on the hands of the politicians who signed those laws blocking the information that could have prevented this. And the ones who let the assault weapons ban expire. Our elected officials chose to represent the gun companies and not the people who elected them. Now it is our turn to make it right.You elected officials had better get with the program or even the gun companies will not be able to buy your job on Election Day.Susan Ludwig Sandy Hook, CT