Mother Of Sandy Hook Victim Continues Fight For Gun Control After Orlando
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
For survivors and people who lost family members in Orlando, things probably won't ever return to normal. There is a new normal now. Nelba Marquez-Greene knows that better than most people. Her 6-year-old daughter Ana Grace was killed in the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, and she is with me now. Welcome to the show.
NELBA MARQUEZ-GREENE: Thank you for having me, Kelly.
MCEVERS: What did you do when you heard about the Orlando shooting?
MARQUEZ-GREENE: My knees buckled, and I started to write because I knew exactly what those families would be going through in those minutes and hours and weeks and months and very long years after the shooting. So I started to write, and I wrote a letter that went viral, actually. It was a letter to the victims of the Orlando shooting and their families.
MCEVERS: Right. That's why we're talking to you now. We read that letter. And one of the things you wrote is - you said, I'm sorry that our tragedy in Sandy Hook wasn't enough to save your loved ones. What did you mean by that?
MARQUEZ-GREENE: Well, we spent a lot of time - and I have to back up for a little bit and let you guys know that I'm a marriage and family therapist, so...
MCEVERS: That's right.
MARQUEZ-GREENE: ...My focus after Newtown was really mental health legislation. But when gun responsibility legislation kind of came into play, we joined some of that, recognizing that some of these weapons of war shouldn't be on our streets and that we need to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them.
So we worked really hard. And I won't say that it failed. I think our tragedy bought a lot of people into the movement, but we didn't get as far as we wanted.
And my heart broke for those folks in Orlando - and I have to say not just for those folks in Orlando but for the 91 moms and dads and uncles and cousins and brothers and sisters a day who face the loss of loved ones because we can't forget about them either.
MCEVERS: So you were speaking specifically about political battles, like, I'm sorry that we didn't get further along.
MARQUEZ-GREENE: I was. Yeah, it's horrific, and I still - I wake up in the morning with those families on my heart.
MCEVERS: You also write advice to them. You know, as someone who's been there, you have some tips for them about how to get through this. What are some of the things you said?
MARQUEZ-GREENE: Well, you know, I know what's coming for them. What's coming for them is this decision between, do I practice self-care, or do I go out and become an advocate? Do I follow this rush of activity and commotion that comes up after? There are so many different ways to do this that I guess my heart is with them in trying to figure all that out.
And also, I know that they have no idea of the kind of stuff that comes after this - the conspiracy theories and the people who come out of the woodwork to, you know, send you pictures of guns and send all of this hate.
MCEVERS: That happened to you?
MARQUEZ-GREENE: It still happens. As I'm driving to the studio today, people are sending me pictures of guns to my Twitter. I shared an interview with my son that I did, and unbeknownst to me, there were really, really disparaging comments underneath it. And he had an - you know, his eyes were full of tears, and he said, Mom, why are people so mean; why would they do this? And I just looked at him and said, Son, some people just don't have enough love in their heart. And that's our job - to make sure love wins.
MCEVERS: Wow. Do you see that it's any different now from when you were in Washington in 2013? Do you think there's, you know, a different kind of momentum right now?
MARQUEZ-GREENE: I do. I think of groups like Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety who have organized parents who are just really tired of this culture - that, you know, their kids are having lockdown drills at schools, and they're saying, you know what? We've had enough. It's time. It's time for this to change. And I do see more people on board, more people getting interested in asking how I can help.
MCEVERS: I mean, what is it, in a perfect world, that you and people who are in different groups like this would like to see from Washington?
MARQUEZ-GREENE: I can only speak for me. I can tell you I would love to see mandatory gun safety classes, mandatory gun locks. If you have weapons - I know that's not up now, but for me as a mom, all these accidental shootings where you have 2- 3-, 4-, 5-year-olds accidentally accessing firearms and killing themselves - I don't think any responsible gun owner can argue with that.
I don't think any responsible gun owner or non- can argue that if you're on the no fly list, you should not be able to buy. I think background checks are so important. And people will say, well, that wouldn't have stopped Sandy Hook. Well, you know, I'm not only interested in saving lives in Sandy Hook. I'm interested in saving lives everywhere.
MCEVERS: That was Nelba Marquez-Greene. Her 6-year-old daughter Ana Grace was killed in the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Nelba Marquez-Greene, thank you for talking with us today.
MARQUEZ-GREENE: Thank you, Kelly. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.