It was an unseasonably warm day for this time of year. The kind of day that serves to tease you that spring will be arriving in a few weeks, even though winter may or may not be done with us yet. But since today was so nice, I used a little vacation time and took a longer than usual ride during my break at work today.
But you just never know what you’re going to see when you’re riding in D.C. Just as I was getting ready to head back to my office, I saw that the police had blocked off some roads for a group of cyclists who were riding down Pennsylvania Avenue. Being on a bike myself, I merged into the back of the pack and road with them.
The riders’ jerseys all read “Team 26,” which I later found out was connected to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which was the scene of a school shooting approximately 15 months ago. In December of 2012, twenty children and six educators were killed in the second-deadliest mass shooting by a single person in American history. The Team 26 riders, motivated by their connection to this tragedy, rode over 400 miles from Newtown to D.C. in order to raise awareness of the effects of gun violence, and to spark change in the gun-control debate.
The 26 riders, one for each victim of the Sandy Hook shootings, left Newtown four days ago wearing jerseys of green and white, the elementary school’s colors. In addition to holding rallies in 10 different communities along the way, the riders were greeted by cheering crowds, honking horns and messages of support along the road. The 400-mile “rolling rally” through Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Maryland, concluded with the team’s arrival at the U.S. Capitol Building, where the team held a press conference, along with U.S. Representative Elizabeth Esty and other lawmakers from Connecticut, about the need for new gun control legislation.
Team 26 is advocating for a series of measures to help curb gun violence, including requiring all gun buyers pass criminal background checks, instituting a ban of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, making gun trafficking a federal crime, including real penalties for “straw buyers”, and strengthening gun ownership restrictions for people diagnosed with severe mental illness.
Noting that this year was the second annual ride, Congresswoman Esty said that many people ask how long it will take to achieve “common-sense gun laws” in this country. She replied by asking, “How long did it take to get women’s rights? How long did it take to get African-American rights in this country?” She added, “We are prepared to stay the course as long as it takes.”