By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
DANBURY, Conn. — Vice President Joe Biden was scheduled to speak Thursday at a gun violence conference a few miles from the scene of last year's Newtown school shooting massacre.
The conference, in Danbury, is to push President Barack Obama's gun control proposals. It was organized by members of the state's congressional delegation including U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who said the proximity to Newtown was of "symbolic significance."
"There will be people with enormous expertise speaking but also Connecticut and Newtown residents who have felt the full burden and brunt of this horrific tragedy," Blumenthal said.
Other officials including U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and the parents of a girl killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, 7-year-old Grace McDonnell, also were scheduled to address the conference at Western Connecticut State University.
The Newtown gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, killed his mother at their home before going to the school and slaughtering 20 children and six adults. He committed suicide as police arrived.
As a teenager, Lanza studied at Western Connecticut State, earning a 3.26 grade point average before taking his last class in the summer of 2009. Classmates remembered him as quiet, a trait some thought was a result of him being younger than his peers.
Obama is pushing for universal background checks for gun owners, a ban on military-style assault weapons and limiting the size of ammunition magazines.
Chris and Lynn McDonnell, whose daughter was among the first-graders shot at the school, were to take part in a panel discussion on gun violence. A second panel was to discuss mental health and school safety initiatives.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra, state police Capt. Dale Hourigan and the mayors of Bridgeport and Hartford planned to participate, along with other experts in the fields of mental health, law enforcement and education.
Gun makers and lobbyists weren't invited to participate in the conference, but Blumenthal said gun rights advocates will have opportunities in hearings and other forums to express their points of view.