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Newtown's 'Bike Messengers' Arrive In Washington



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Roughly 400 miles after First Selectman Pat Llodra and others wished Team 26 "Godspeed," the 26-member bicycle team arrived in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, April 12, with its message.held a ceremony at Edmond Town Hall on Saturday, April 9, before putting their feet to their pedals and making their way down Main Street, the first road on the fourth annual journey to Washington, DC.its Facebook page, Sandy Hook Ride on Washington, and website, team26.org.(Content from The Connecticut Mirror was used for part of this story. The Connecticut Mirror is an independent, nonprofit news organization covering government, politics, and public policy in the state.)

The bicyclists, organized by award-winning cycling enthusiast and Sandy Hook resident Monte Frank,

Before their departure Mr Frank said the members of Team 26 "are your bike messengers and we will deliver."

The members of Team 26 come from a number of places, he said. They are mothers, fathers, students, teachers, doctors, husbands, and wives, Mr Frank said, and they are sharing the message that "enough is enough."

"We must reduce gun violence in the nation," said Mr Frank.

Among those who also spoke during the annual send-off ceremony on Saturday morning were members of the Al-Hedaya Islamic Center of Newtown, Senator Richard Blumental, Representative Elizabeth Esty, Newtown United Methodist Church Senior Pastor Mel Kawakami, Ron Pinciaro from Connecticut Against Gun Violence, Andy Pelosi from the Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus, and Nelba Marquez-Greene, mother of Ana Grace Marquez-Greene, one of the children killed on 12/14.

Team 26's mission this year is to continue raising awareness of America's gun violence epidemic; to support common sense legislation to reduce gun violence; and to honor the 20 children and six educators killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on 12/14, and all victims of gun violence throughout the nation.

The team's first ride to the nation's capital took place in March 2013. For that first ride the cyclists were received generously at stops along the way, and this year was no different.

The group also hung 26 Ben's Bells at its stops through the six states and the District of Columbia. The mission of Ben's Bells is to inspire individuals and communities to engage in kindness education and practice.

Team 26 stopped in Morristown, N.J., where they were welcomed by a group that included Maura Sherlach Schwartz, whose mother Mary Sherlach was one of the educators killed on 12/14.

The group also visited the University of Delaware for the first time during its annual journey this year.

A press conference was held outside the Capitol in Washington on Tuesday, April 12, and a number of lawmakers spoke alongside the assembled cyclists.

"The American public knows exactly what needs to be done and yet this building does absolutely nothing," said Senator Chris Murphy.

Representative Jim Himes said his colleagues are "in a zombie-like torpor" when it comes to action on gun control.

Representative John Larson said the failure of the members of the House of Representatives to take up a bill that would extend FBI background checks of gun buyers was "immoral and not justified."

Rep Esty also spoke, saying, "Since the tragedy in Sandy Hook, more than 500 children have lost their lives to gun violence in this country. And in that time, the House has not held a single vote on gun safety legislation. We cannot wait any longer for Congress to do its job."

A few months after 12/14, the Senate rejected a bill that would have expanded FBI checks of gun purchasers to include sales by individuals on the Internet and at guns shows.

The House never brought up the legislation.

Sen Blumenthal spoke about a bill he and Sen Murphy introduced earlier this year that would repeal a 2005 law that protects gun manufacturers and dealers from liability when crimes are committed with their products.

"It belongs in the waste bin," Sen Blumenthal said of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.

He added that the "abhorrent" law "closes the courtroom doors" to lawsuits like the one filed by some of the parents of the children killed in Newtown against the maker of the Bushmaster rifle that was used by Adam Lanza in the massacre.

Congress is not expected to take up gun safety legislation. But it has become an issue in the Democratic primary race for the White House, with Hillary Clinton bashing rival Senator Bernie Sanders for his 2005 vote for Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.

Sen Sanders has changed his position on Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, however, and is one of the 12 co-sponsors of a bill Sen Blumenthal and Sen Murphy introduced earlier this year that would repeal the law.

Sen Blumenthal said he hoped the annual bike pilgrimage to Washington, aimed at prodding Congress to act, will someday "be a thing of the past."

Sen Murphy said there is a need to build a political movement around antigun efforts, to counter the influence of the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups on Congress.

After the press conference, Sen Murphy, Sen Blumenthal and Rep Esty went to the White House to meet with presidential advisor Valerie Jarrett to discuss gun control.

So did the members of Team 26. But unlike the lawmakers, they pedaled their way there.

Along Team 26's journey the group updated

Monte Frank, leader of the Team 26 cyclists, was surrounded by members of the Connecticut congressional delegation and his fellow riders as he advocated for federal action on gun control at a press conference outside the Capitol on Tuesday, April 12 (The Connecticut Mirror photo)
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