The sun came out over the West Lawn of the Capitol building Monday afternoon, warming up a group of shivering cyclists who rode over 400 miles to convince Congress to pass what they called “common sense” gun control legislation.
The cyclists, known as Team 26, began riding on Saturday from Newtown, Conn., the site of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December. The team was made up of Connecticut residents, including a Newtown police officer and a Vietnam war veteran.
Team 26 founder Monte Frank told ABC News that the group got a big lift Tuesday when the Senate Judiciary Committee announced the passage of a bill that would require universal background checks for gun buyers. But he said there were two more needs to be done, including bans on military assault-style weapons and high capacity magazines.
“We have been motivated all along by 26 angels who’ve been pushing us along,” said Frank, joined Tuesday by his young daughter, Sarah, whose third grade teacher was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting. “If those bills are enacted, they will go a long way toward removing dangerous military style weapons from our streets and ensuring that the weapons in people’s possessions are in the right people’s possession.
Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., who hosted the welcoming event, said the group had helped advance the conversation on gun control legislation.
“People across the country are inspired and coming together for common-sense reforms to save lives that respect the Second Amendment rights of responsible gun owners,” Esty said at the press conference. “As elected officials, it is now our job to meet the call of the American people, it is our time to act, our time to vote, it is our time to pass common sense laws to save lives.”
The group was also joined on its ride by members of the Virginia Tech cycling team. Several Connecticut lawmakers, including Senators Richard Blumenthal and Christopher Murphy as well as Connecticut Reps. Rosa DeLauro, John Larson, Joe Courtney and Jim Himes, greeted the group as they arrived at their destination in Washington.
Frank read aloud letters from families of the Sandy Hook victims.
“We appeal to you as parents to honor the memories of those lives lost in Sandy Hook and support the measures the president has put forward to reduce the epidemic of gun violence,” said one letter he read.
Sen. Blumenthal said at the press conference that he would deliver the letters to Sen. Patrick Leahy and his colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Blumenthal said he would be on the Senate floor advocating the legislation.
Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., who heads the Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, said at the event that though he is a supporter of Second Amendment rights, passing new gun restrictions should be a “no brainer.”
Rep. Larson said he was proud of his colleagues for the progress they have made so far, but that it was time for American citizens to demand Congress vote on gun control legislation.
“A constituent, Christine Maxwell, of mine was abroad when she heard the news [of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School],” he said during the press conference. “She said, when a citizen said to her, ‘How is it that in the greatest nation in the world you’ll allow children to murder children? How is it Congress … would allow children to murder children – without taking action?”