Newtown Families Lead March on Gun Control

By Story of America Team

The Wagner Family lives in Sandy Hook, the Newtown, CT enclave where the Dec. 14 gun massacre took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Darren Wagner is a former Deputy Sheriff. His wife, Georgia Monaghan Wagner is a writer and editor of The Newtowner, a local literary magazine.  

Georgia is from Sydney, Australia. Georgia and Darren raised their two sons in Australia until Darren began to miss America. Georgia was concerned about the family’s safety in America, but they came to an agreement. If Georgia would consent to moving the family to America, she could choose any town she liked. Georgia used the Internet to do her search, and found Newtown, CT, which she thought was quiet, charming, and safe. And it was until that horrible day.

The Wagner family had never expected to be involved in political activism, but after the tragedy, they began to exercise their voices on Facebook. In the weeks following the massacre, opponents of gun safety sought out Newtown residents on the Internet. Some of them found Darren’s Facebook page and began leaving threatening comments. Darren deleted his Facebook page because he didn’t want his sons exposed to such hatred. But, he decided that if he was going to receive threats as retaliation for speaking his mind, he was going to do so on a larger stage.

The family’s first rally together was in nearby Danbury, CT at a Walmart where bullets were on sale. The goal of the rally was to ask Walmart to stop selling guns and ammunition in their stores and on-line. Their second rally was in New York City. This video depicts their third. In all, 100 people came from Newtown to lead a crowd estimated at six thousand in a “March on Washington for Gun Control” from the U.S. Capitol to a rally at the Washington Monument.

We also talked to two fathers who had lost children to gun violence. The march was organized in a month by Arena Stage’s artistic director, Molly Smith, and her partner, Suzanne Blue Star Boy. Molly who had never organized a rally before in Washington and had never been an activist before until Newtown reported after the rally that “it went off without a hitch.”

We also talked to people from Seattle, WA, from New Jersey, and from Boston, MA most of whom had not been involved in politics in the past. A common thread, was being new to activism, and, being determined to include civic engagement in already busy lives because the safety of America’s children is at stake. 

Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Mayor Vincent Gray, Marian Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, and Rep. Eleanor Norton Holmes joined actress Kathleen Turner and other stars from Broadway to speak with one voice about the need for stricter gun laws.

Video by Annabel Park & Eric Byler