Good afternoon, everyone. And you can tell that the sun is smiling on the Sandy Hook riders as it…those of who are out here in the pouring rain an hour ago know how the clouds just cleared.
I’m Elizabeth Esty and I’m proud to welcome you all here today. I want to thank Monte Frank and all 26 cyclists, the Sandy Hook Ride on Washington. And thank you to the support crew, including Becky Frank, because this is a family affair. Thank you to the whole support team. Thank you to the Virginia Tech Victim Cycling Team, and all the riders who made it to Washington, and thank you to my colleagues here today.
It’s a pleasure as the representative for Connecticut’s Fifth District, as a representative for the small, brave town of Newtown, to join my colleagues in the Connecticut delegation in welcoming you to the Nation’s Capital. You’ve just finished a long journey, cycling almost 400 miles over 4 days.
That is a shout out! I mean how many here could do the 400 miles? But this is a journey that really began in Newtown on that terrible day nearly three months ago. Every day since, the community of Newtown has lived with the consequences of political inaction, but Newtown’s journey—much like yours—has reached far beyond the small town’s boundaries. So I would like to reiterate a point that I made when you departed on Saturday.
The people of Newtown have inspired our country and propelled the national conversation on gun violence in a way we haven’t seen before. Monte, can you come up here? Monte where are you? Monte is the originator of this idea, and I’d like you to turn around and I want you to move where everyone can see the back of your jersey. This is why it’s different this time. Because of your message. The message of peace, hope, and love. Many people doubt you can. You can turn around. He’s not just a prop. He’s a dear friend.
But many people have doubted whether meaningful change can be achieved after so many years, nearly 20 years of inaction, and it’s understandable to doubt but…And make no mistake, this is not going to be easy and there’s no guarantee of success. I can’t predict what form or what precise legislation will be the ultimate result of our efforts, but I do believe—I do know—we will achieve meaningful change both because we have to and because of the people of Newtown. I believe we can because of your love and your courage which have inspired this nation.
People across the country are inspired by parents like Chris and Lynn McDonnell, parents who live with grief so deep that any mother or father can only begin to imagine, but these brave parents were stepping up to take action so that others do not have to endure that same grief and so that other communities do not have to experience that same loss. The country is inspired by the talented and courageous educators and brave first responders who are honored to call Newtown their home. The country is inspired by heroic leaders like Newtown’s wonderful first selectman Pat Llodra. And the country is inspired by these cyclists who rode from Newtown, for the friends and neighbors they lost, who rode for their lost children, and who rode for Newtown whether they call Newtown home or not. The country is inspired by Newtown parents who rode, Monte Frank, Bill Muzzio, and Chris Peck. And Heather Peck. The country is inspired by a brave Newtown Police Officer who rode, Jeff Silver. And by a courageous Vietnam Vet from Brookfield who rode, Gary Lyke. The country is inspired by educators from communities across Connecticut who rode, like Mike Andrews from Danbury, John Funk from Kent, and Wayne Prescott from Litchfield. The country is inspired by riders from across Connecticut and across the country, who joined for a nearly 400-mile journey to Washington, and by others who joined you today, including the Virginia Tech Victims Cycling Team.
Your successful journey, your love for the Newtown community and for every community touched by gun violence reflects what is changing in America since that terrible day almost three-months ago. People across the country are inspired and coming together, coming together to call for common sense reforms to save lives that respect the 2nd Amendment rights of responsible gun owners. These are reasonable reforms folks are asking for. Reforms like universal background checks, tougher penalties for gun trafficking, restrictions on high-capacity magazines, a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban, and a strong commitment to mental health services. Let’s clap for this, folks. This is what we need to do. And common sense. Common sense.
And 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. Our time to pass common-sense laws to save lives.
So I want to thank you again for being an inspiration to all of us here and to the whole country.