WASHINGTON -- Andrei Nikitchyuk, whose 8-year-old son escaped violence at Sandy Hook Elementary School last week, had a message Tuesday for the National Rifle Association: Think of the children who could be saved in the future if stricter gun control laws are enacted.
"I would offer NRA, return this country their kids," Nikitchyuk told reporters after a press conference hosted by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which advocates for stricter gun control laws. "If they can do it, I would like that very, very much."
Nikitchyuk said his son, who goes by Bear, is a classroom helper and walked with a fellow student on Friday to give attendance sheets to the principal's office. Nikitchyuk said his son heard loud noises and saw gunshots and was then pulled into a classroom by a teacher and kept safe from harm.
In total, 26 people -- 20 children and six adults -- were killed at Sandy Hook.
The Brady Campaign released a letter on Tuesday "to everyone committed to a safer nation" from families and friends of 32 people who lost their lives in gun violence.
"We know we are far from alone in our grief," the letter reads. "Every day in America, 32 more families lose loved ones to gun murders, most in tragedies that do not make national headlines because they are so common. We believe we are better than this."
Brady Campaign President Dan Gross, also speaking at the press conference in front of the Capitol, said gun control shouldn't be a problem based on support from the American people.
"The only place that this is a contentious debate is in the building behind us," he said.
Nikitchyuk, an immigrant from the then-Soviet Union, said that after mass shootings in Columbine High School in 1999 and in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater earlier this year, he had faith that gun control would be addressed -- even as the issue was repeatedly dismissed.
"I would avert my eyes, and I would still think something would be done, but all of those beliefs were shattered on Friday," he said during the press conference. "Now I think we all need to speak up."
Nikitchyuk said he hadn't been asked to speak out for Newtown, Conn., where the shooting took place, and stressed that he wasn't speaking for all parents. He told reporters he hadn't been able to talk to many of them because the town is still in shock after Friday's events.
"Not too many people speak," he said. "So the parents -- it's such a delicate subject right now."