WASHINGTON -- In an effort to keep up pressure for new gun safety laws, nearly a dozen House Democrats are planning to bring victims of gun violence as their guests to the State of the Union later this month.
Members of Congress are each allowed to bring one guest to sit with them in the House gallery during President Barack Obama's address to the nation on Feb. 12. In a letter to Democratic colleagues last month, five House Democrats urged lawmakers to use the occasion to highlight the need for action on gun violence.
"In December, President Obama declared that addressing gun-related violence would be a 'central issue' as he opens his second term. In an effort to continue the discussion and engage our constituents in this important debate, we ask you to join us in inviting a person who has been impacted by gun violence to be your guest at the President's State of the Union address on February 12th," the letter reads. "It is our hope that their presence in the House Gallery will send a strong message that it is long past time to act."
The letter is signed by Democratic Reps. Jim Langevin (R.I.), Carolyn McCarthy (N.Y.), Keith Ellison (Minn.), Rosa DeLauro (Conn.) and David Cicilline (R.I.). All five are part of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force formed by House Democrats.
At least 10 House Democrats are planning to participate in the effort, with another five to 10 lawmakers considering it, according to a Langevin spokesman. In addition to the five lawmakers pushing the effort, those confirmed to participate include Democratic Reps. Elizabeth Esty (Conn.), Janice Hahn (Calif.), Mike Thompson (Calif.), Ed Perlmutter (Colo.) and Jim Himes (Conn.).
Notably, Esty represents Newtown, Conn., the site of the December shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
"We know all too well that difficult political obstacles continue to threaten the chances of enacting responsible legislation that would better protect our communities and especially our children. However, the vast majority of Americans want us to strengthen gun safety laws," Langevin said in a statement Tuesday. "For our effort to be successful in Congress, it is critical that our elected officials hear their outcry and particularly the stories of those who have been affected by gun violence. They can most powerfully send the message that the status quo is unacceptable."