News / USA

Mother Of Slain Newtown Boy Gives White House Weekly Address

Francine Wheeler, mother of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim Benjamin Wheeler, cries as she listens to Vice President Joe Biden speak during a gun violence conference in Danbury, Conn., Feb. 21, 2013.Francine Wheeler, mother of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim Benjamin Wheeler, cries as she listens to Vice President Joe Biden speak during a gun violence conference in Danbury, Conn., Feb. 21, 2013.
x
Francine Wheeler, mother of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim Benjamin Wheeler, cries as she listens to Vice President Joe Biden speak during a gun violence conference in Danbury, Conn., Feb. 21, 2013.
Francine Wheeler, mother of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim Benjamin Wheeler, cries as she listens to Vice President Joe Biden speak during a gun violence conference in Danbury, Conn., Feb. 21, 2013.
Kent Klein
President Barack Obama has called on the mother of one of the children massacred inside a Connecticut school in December to deliver his Saturday radio and Internet address.  The White House is using an emotional appeal to seek public support for gun control legislation.

With her husband David at her side, Francine Wheeler talked about her six-year-old son, Ben, as only a mother can. “Ben’s love of fun and his excitement at the wonders of life were unmatched.  His boundless energy kept him running across the soccer field long after the game was over.  And he could not wait to get to school every morning," she said.

On the morning of December 14, a man walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and fatally shot Ben, 19 of his classmates, and six adults.

Some public opinion polls have indicated that many Americans’ memories of that day are fading, and momentum for gun control legislation has stalled.  But Wheeler says it still seems like yesterday to her, and she is asking for action.

“And in the four months since we lost our loved ones, thousands of other Americans have died at the end of a gun.  Thousands of other families across the United States are also drowning in our grief.  Please help us do something before our tragedy becomes your tragedy," she said.

Senators voted Thursday to start debate on legislation which includes expanded background checks for gun buyers and new penalties for gun trafficking.  An attempted filibuster by Republican Senators to block the bill was defeated.

Francine Wheeler says political action by many of the Newtown families, in conjunction with President Obama and other Democrats, is helping to advance the cause of gun control.

“After the president spoke in Hartford and a dozen of us met with Senators to share our stories, more than two-thirds of the Senate voted to move forward.  But that is only the start.  They have not yet passed any bills that will help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, and a lot of people are fighting to make sure they never do," she said.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Friday the parents of the slain children have been effective in helping Obama campaign for his gun legislation. “As you know, the president has been in regular contact this week with the families of victims of the 12/14 shootings, and he believes their voices and resolve have been critical to the continued progress we have seen in the Senate," he said.

Erich Pratt, with the group Gun Owners of America, says the president, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other leaders of the gun control effort are exploiting the Newtown families’ tragedy.

“I think it is a shameless thing that Bloomberg and others have done in trying to use what is a very sad situation, but use the survivors and the victims to advance their political agenda," he said.

Pratt says the bill before the Senate would not have prevented the mass murder in Newtown. “We think it is very tragic when we hear them say, ‘We want to do something that will make a difference,’ and yet, the proponents of this bill admit that nothing in this bill would have done anything to keep that dirtbag in Connecticut from getting the gun that he acquired," he said.

After Obama spoke in Connecticut recently, several of the Newtown parents accompanied him on the Air Force One flight to Washington.

A number of the parents have been working with Democratic lobbyists and communications specialists to campaign for gun legislation.  Media reports say the family members have delivered a strong message to Senators, and are likely to continue to do so.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs