The US Senate has cleared the way for a debate on gun control proposals. The majority backed a move to consider legislation that would expand background checks and crackdown on illegal gun sales.
It is the first major debate on gun laws in the US for 19 years and is in part due to a powerful campaign launched by the families of those massacred at the Sandy Hook Elementary School last December.
Jillian Soto, the sister of a murdered Sandy Hook teacher, spoke to lawmakers: “We are here to demand action and demand that we receive a vote and that we are allowed to have some piece of mind that our loved ones died for a reason. They died protecting the children they loved and they deserve a vote.”
As the Senate voted in favour of a debate by 68-31 church leaders and relatives of gun crime victims planted crosses in memory of the 3,330 people killed by guns since the Sandy Hook slaying last December.
Reverend Samuel Saylor, who lost his son Shane to a drive-by shooting, called for a change in the law: “The voice of Newtown, the cries of those children, the cries of my children and the countless children that are yet to die, the countless people that are yet to die of gun violence, are calling for us to do something. This is a time for a paradigm shift in our country.”
The vote to allow the debate to go ahead in no way guarantees the passage of the measures into law.