Family of VT & Newtown Shooting Victims Hold Gun Violence Rally - WSET.com - ABC13

Family of VT & Newtown Shootings Victims Hold Gun Violence Rally in Blacksburg

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Blacksburg, VA - Advocates on both sides of the gun debate issue were in Blacksburg Friday as part of a national bus tour called "No More Names."

The tour is a project of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's group, "Mayors Against Illegal Guns." It's designed to push Congress until they enact what they say is common sense safety legislation, particularly universal background checks.

The tour is part of the ongoing effort since the Sandy Hook murders to keep alive a voice that supporters say represents a majority of Americans in regards to certain gun control measures.

As the names were read of the more than 6,000 Americans killed by guns since the Sandy Hook massacre in December, Newtown resident Neil Heslin can only really think about one thing: His son Jesse.

"Today would have been the last day of first grade. Father's Day.... the school. Jesse's birthday is June 30th. It's been a hard month so far," said Heslin.

It's not a position he could have possibly seen himself in six months and one week ago, a burden he says he will carry for the rest of his life.

"You're never going to be able to stop all of it, but any changes or actions that you can take to prevent any of it to save just one life is worth the effort," Heslin.

"People that are adjudicated mentally ill, criminals…these are people affected by background checks. The law abiding citizen who owns firearms lawfully isn't going to be affected by the background check," said - Peter Read, whose daughter was killed at Virginia Tech.

But that is not the hope among nearly half the crowd that came. A group organized by the Virginia Citizens Defense League came to show off their rights and to express them.

"It's a slippery slope. Again, if people can protect themselves that's the best approach because the government is not going to catch them all. Some of the worst shootings we've had the person passed the background check," said Philip Van Cleave with the league.

The event remained cordial-- the opposing side spoke only with signs.

There was no arguing or fighting - just listening to fathers telling their stories and the names of hundreds of others whose stories have the same ending.

"I know my life is changed forever on that day," said Heslin.

The "No More Names" tour, which began June 14, is scheduled to last for 100 days and will visit 25-states. The tour's next scheduled stop in Raleigh Saturday.

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