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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regreti
X
Zana Omer
March 28, 2015 1:19 AM
The Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

The Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Virginia Tavern Takes Patrons Back to Medieval Times

European martial arts are not widely practiced and are unknown by most people. A tavern in Old Town Alexandria, outside Washington, wants to change this by promoting these fighting techniques from medieval times. Through combining visual arts, martial arts and culinary arts, this tavern brings medieval history back to life. VOA's Yang Lin and Helen Wu report.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More