WASHINGTON -- A increasing number of House Democrats are bringing people affected by gun violence as their guests to next week's State of the Union, with the list now including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).
Pelosi announced Friday that she plans to bring a fourth grader from Newtown, Conn., along with her mother, as her guests to President Barack Obama's annual address to the nation. A Pelosi spokesman said the student does not attend Sandy Hook Elementary School, the site of a December mass shooting, but attends another elementary school in Newtown. Her office is not releasing the names of the girl or her mother.
The girl sent Pelosi a letter explaining how she has been affected by gun violence. "What everyone in Newtown wants, is for you to ban semi automatic weapons and large capacity magazines and to make everyone use gun safes. This is important so that a person cannot shoot many people at once, and/or injure people badly," the girl wrote. "This ban will help prevent individuals, families and communities from suffering the way we are in Newtown."
Van Hollen, meanwhile, announced that he plans to bring a woman named Carol Price as his guest to the president's address. He said that Price her lost her son to gun violence, and that his death led to the passage of legislation in Maryland requiring trigger locks on firearms.
News of their plans comes amid an effort by a group of House Democrats to get all lawmakers in their party to bring gun violence victims to the State of the Union, in an effort to keep up the pressure for new gun safety laws. Ten lawmakers were confirmed to participate in the effort earlier this week; that number is now up to 21.
In addition to Pelosi and Van Hollen, Democrats taking part in the effort include Reps. Jim Langevin (R.I.), Keith Ellison (Minn.), Carolyn McCarthy (N.Y.), David Cicilline (R.I.), Lois Frankel (Fla.), Gloria Negrete McLeod (Calif.), Ed Perlmutter (Colo.), Janice Hahn (Calif.), Bobby Scott (Va.), Brad Schneider (Ill.), Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), Elizabeth Esty (Conn.), Mike Thompson (Calif.), Jim Himes (Conn.), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Diana DeGette (Colo.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), Jan Schakowsky (Ill.) and Lujan Grisham (N.M.).
Schakowsky announced earlier Friday who her guest would be: Carolyn Murray, whose son Justin was fatally shot in November in Evanston, Ill. By mid-December, Murray had organized a gun buyback event and collected nearly 50 guns.
"I'm so grateful to welcome Carolyn Murray as my State of the Union guest this year. Ms. Murray has turned her pain into power through her tireless work against gun violence and she is truly making a difference in our community," Schakowsky said in a statement.
Murray said she is excited to attend the State of the Union in honor of her son.
"Too many young people have been killed by guns, and it must end," she said in a statement. "As the mother of a young victim, I'm committed to doing everything in my power to end gun violence. The time is now for Congress to act to save lives."
The State of the Union is next Tuesday, Feb. 12.
Read the letter the girl sent to Pelosi:
Dear Representative Pelosi and Members of Congress,
My name is [REMOVED] and I am a 4th grade student in Newtown, CT. After the shooting in my town, I started an online petition asking for help from the President and Congress to change the gun laws. It got a lot of support from all over America, but then I had to take it down because the police were worried about my safety. What everyone in Newtown wants, is for you to ban semi automatic weapons and large capacity magazines and to make everyone use gun safes.
This is important so that a person cannot shoot many people at once, and/or injure people badly. Semi-automatic weapons and large capacity magazines end lives and put lives at risk. This ban will help prevent individuals, families and communities from suffering the way we are in Newtown.
In Newtown’s municipal center, there are hundreds of thousands of cards and pictures from children and adults from all across America. It’s so sad. I think the people against changing gun laws should walk through the long hallway and read one card out of every box, to realize how many people want this change. We would all appreciate anything you could do to help.
Thank you for your help.
CORRECTION: This story originally stated that the girl was a Sandy Hook Elementary School student. She attends another school in Newtown.
Also on HuffPost:
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)
"I wish to God she had had an m-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out ... and takes him out and takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids," Gohmert said of slain principal Dawn Hochsprung on <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/louie-gohmert-guns_n_2311379.html"><em>Fox News Sunday</em></a>. He argued that shooters often choose schools because they know people will be unarmed.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R)
"If people were armed, not just a police officer, but other school officials that were trained and chose to have a weapon, certainly there would be an opportunity to stop an individual trying to get into the school," he <a href="http://www.wtop.com/610/3162096/Gov-Is-it-time-to-arm-school-officials">told WTOP's "Ask the Governor" show</a> Tuesday, warning that Washington may respond to such a policy with a "knee-jerk reaction."
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) & State Sen. Frank Niceley (R)
Gov. Haslam says he will consider a Tennessee plan to secretly arm and train some teachers, <a href="http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/12/tennessee-armed-teachers.php">TPM reports</a>. The legislation will be introduced by State Sen. Frank Niceley (R) next month. "Say some madman comes in. The first person he would probably try to take out was the resource officer. But if he doesn’t know which teacher has training, then he wouldn’t know which one had [a gun]," Niceley told TPM. "These guys are obviously cowards anyway and if someone starts shooting back, they’re going to take cover, maybe go ahead and commit suicide like most of them have."
Oklahoma State Rep. Mark McCullough (R) & State Sen. Ralph Shortey (R)
State Rep. Mark McCullough (R) <a href="http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=336&articleid=20121217_336_0_OKLAHO168827">told the Tulsa World</a> he plans to file legislation that would bring guns into schools, calling their absence "irresponsible." “It is incredibly irresponsible to leave our schools undefended – to allow mad men to kill dozens of innocents when we have a very simple solution available to us to prevent it," he said. "I’ve been considering this proposal for a long time. In light of the savagery on display in Connecticut, I believe it’s an idea whose time has come." Sen. Ralph Shortey (R) told the Tulsa World that teachers should carry concealed weapons at school events. "Allowing teachers and administrators with concealed-carry permits the ability to have weapons at school events would provide both a measure of security for students and a deterrent against attackers," he said.
Florida State Rep. Dennis Baxley (R)
Baxley, who once sponsored Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law, <a href="http://politics.heraldtribune.com/2012/12/17/florida-legislator-allow-guns-in-schools/">told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune </a>that keeping guns out of schools makes them a target for attacks. “We need to be more realistic at looking at this policy," he said. "In our zealousness to protect people from harm we’ve created all these gun-free zones and what we’ve inadvertently done is we’ve made them a target. A helpless target is exactly what a deranged person is looking for where they cannot be stopped.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R)
At a Tea Party event Monday night, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/18/rick-perry-guns-in-schools_n_2322185.html">Perry praised a Texas school system that allows some staff to carry concealed weapons to work</a> and encouraged local school districts to make their own policies.
Minnesota State Rep. Tony Cornish (R)
Cornish <a href="http://www.kdlt.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=22736&Itemid=57">plans to introduce legislation that would allow teachers to arm themselves</a>, according to the AP.
Oregon State Rep. Dennis Richardson (R)
In an email <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/17/oregon-state-rep-dennis-richardson-teacher-guns-stopped-connecticut-shooting_n_2317444.html?ir=Education">obtained by Gawker</a> and excerpted below, Richardson tells three superintendents that he could have saved lives had he been armed and in Sandy Hook on Friday: <blockquote>If I had been a teacher or the principal at the Sandy Hook Elementary School and if the school district did not preclude me from having access to a firearm, either by concealed carry or locked in my desk, most of the murdered children would still be alive, and the gunman would still be dead, and not by suicide. ... [O]ur children's safety depends on having a number of well-trained school employees on every campus who are prepared to defend our children and save their lives?</blockquote>
Former Education Secretary Bill Bennett
"And I'm not so sure -- and I'm sure I'll get mail for this -- I'm not so sure I wouldn't want one person in a school armed, ready for this kind of thing," Bennett, who served as education secretary under Ronald Reagan, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/bill-bennett-education-secretary-connecticut-shooting_n_2311774.html">told <em>Meet the Press</em> Sunday</a>. "The principal lunged at this guy. The school psychologist lunged at the guy. It has to be someone who's trained, responsible. But, my god, if you can prevent this kind of thing, I think you ought to."