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Sandy Hook Parents Speak at AFI Docs Screening of ‘Newtown’ in Wake of Democrats’ Sit-In

Just hours after Democrats ended their sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives, two of those who participated were greeted with applause at an AFI Docs screening of “Newtown.”

The documentary, from director Kim A. Snyder and producer Maria Cuomo Cole, is an intensely personal look at how the families of the victims and survivors of the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School have grieved and grappled with the horrific tragedy.

“We are going to deal with guns and not be frightened anymore,” Rep. Nita Lowey (D-New York) told the audience gathered at the Newseum.

Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), who in the aftermath of the Orlando shootings walked out of a congressional moment of silence to protest inaction on gun control, said that “we can’t lose track of the fact that those who would have us slow down in addressing the disease that besets this country want to set it up as, mental health or guns, ISIS or guns, homophobia or guns. The reality is it is all those things, and guns.”

He said that the trouble he has with Congress’s seven-second “moments of silence” is that it is merely a brief stop in the day that can be an excuse for not taking meaningful action. The moment of silence, he said, “honors nobody.”

“It is emblematic of an utter neglect of duty on all our parts,” he said.

Twenty school children and six educators were killed in the mass shooting. In the aftermath, President Barack Obama ordered a series of meetings and recommendations for action to address gun violence, but Congress blocked legislation several months later to expand background checks.

Among those joining the filmmakers in a panel were two of the parents of children killed in the Sandy Hook shootings, Mark Barden and Nicole Hockley.

On stage after the screening, Barden actually apologized to the audience for the emotional punch of the movie, in which he and Hockley are among those who are profiled as they cope not just with their grief, but with moving forward with their lives.

“I’m sorry, I know how this affects everyone,” Barden told the audience.

Snyder said that the “impetus for the film was to break through a desensitization that was almost dangerous and inevitable for all of us and to really put a human portrait on what the fallout of violence looks like, and of gun violence, every time this is reaped on a community for years, forever.”

Daniel Webster, director of the Center for Gun Policy and Research at Johns Hopkins University, said that they provided a research book to Congress in the weeks after the Newtown tragedy because “we thought this was a time, and I think we have been proven right.”

“Congress has not acted, but many states have acted,” he said. “Many communities have acted. There is an enormous growing movement.”

The movie focuses much more on the families, even though the project shows Barden, Hockley and others advocating for action on gun violence through Sandy Hook Promise.

The frequency of mass shootings in the United States also has meant that that movie screenings have taken place in the aftermath of a recent tragedy.

Braden attended a Greenwich, Conn., screening of “Newtown” on June 12, after the Orlando shooting. He said that he and his wife were “processing the news coming out of Orlando with disbelief and horror and sadness and anger and frustration, like most of the country.”

They ran into Himes that day, he said. Barden said that what Himes did on the floor of Congress was “such a heroic and beautiful act, standing up to our Congress and saying, ‘No more.'”

Himes said his reaction to the movie is that there is “no way to process the enormity of the horrendousness that was visited on this small town in Connecticut, or the remarkable reaction of optimism and life that Nicole and Mark and 26 other families have exhibited since then. There really is no way.”

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