Sandy Hook victims' memorial set for Thursday

Brandon Paykamian • Updated Dec 11, 2018 at 6:33 PM

The Tri-Cities chapter of Moms Demand Action will gather Thursday to honor and mourn the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Dec. 14 marks the sixth anniversary since the mass shooting, which took the lives of 20 children and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut.

The service, which is one of about 200 held annually across the country commemorating the massacre, will be held at Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church at 7 p.m.

“We are holding this remembrance service to honor the 26 innocent lives affected by gun violence at Sandy Hook Elementary, as well as within our own community this past year,” co-organizer Jessica Joyner said Tuesday.

Joyner said the event was also organized to continue encouraging lawmakers to do more to end gun violence and institute “common-sense gun laws” in the wake of shootings that have happened since then, including the February mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 dead; the October massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, which left 11 dead; and the November mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, California, which left more than a dozen dead after a gunman opened fire in the Borderline Bar and Grille.

“Since Sandy Hook, we’ve seen mass shootings continue as a result of individuals — who should never be granted access to a weapon — obtaining a weapon easily because of our lax gun laws as a state and country,” she said. “Because the lives of first-graders and their faculty didn’t matter enough to our elected officials to pass common-sense gun laws six years ago, we’ve seen attacks on innocent lives at churches, schools, grocery stores, college campuses, nightclubs, college bars and so many more.”

In the aftermath of the November Thousand Oaks shooting, Tennessee Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, said he disagreed with Moms Demand Action’s proposal to lessen gun violence. The staunch gun rights proponent said, “Good guys with guns are what it takes to stop bad guys with guns.”

“There are evil people in this world, whether they use guns, knives or fists,” Van Huss said in November.

On Tuesday, Van Huss said activists calling for gun control in response to mass shootings are entitled to their opinions, but “no amount of liberal pandering is going to cause me to betray my constituents’ right and ability to defend themselves, their families and their freedoms.”

Joyner reiterated that Thursday’s day of remembrance was organized to remind attendees of the lives lost at Sandy Hook, which she said was undoubtedly the pivotal “turning point” of the movement for gun control legislation in recent years. She recounted how the 2012 mass shooting shook her when she heard the news.

“I was a high school teacher and pregnant with my first child when the shooting took place at Sandy Hook Elementary. I remember spending my entire planning session crying in my locked, dark classroom for the parents who had already wrapped their presents for their babies who would not be coming home. As a teacher and a mother, Sandy Hook affected me personally, as it should have affected our lawmakers,” she said. “Every parent should have been rocked to their core.”

The event will begin with a candlelight vigil, followed by guest speakers from throughout the local community, including local gun control activists and gun violence survivors. Speakers will include Nathan Farnor, East Tennessee State University civic engagement coordinator and recent candidate for the 7th House District; Michelle Treece, a recently-elected member of the Johnson City Board of Education; Becky Saunders, an instructor at South Side Elementary School; Amanda Finley, a gun violence survivor; and the Rev. Bedford Transou from Munsey.

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