Five years after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school, advocates who are disappointed with the failure of efforts to limit access to firearms are changing their strategy.
Instead of pressuring lawmakers to push new gun-control measures through the U.S. Congress, volunteers from groups including Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America are now running for office themselves.
Nine of 13 volunteers trained by the group ran for office this year and won seats, ranging from New Hampshire state representative to city council member in West University Place, Texas. Fourteen more have already declared their intentions to run for office in 2018, seeking seats in Congress, state legislatures, and local government, all running as Democrats.
"The reality is that the work doesn't really start in Congress. That's where it ends," said Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts, who launched her group the day after the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
The group began training candidates after more than 400 of its 70,000 members said they were interested in running for office.
"This is a marathon, not a sprint," Watts said. "It's going to take several election cycles."
Even if the next class of candidates, none of whom are running as Republicans, succeed in winning office, they will face an uphill battle against a U.S. Congress controlled by Republicans, who are staunch defenders of the right to bear arms protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Sandy Hook was at the time the second-deadliest mass shooting carried out by a single gunman in U.S. history. It sparked new energy among gun-control advocates who pushed for fresh federal restrictions on assault weapons, which were blocked by Republican lawmakers and the powerful National Rifle Association lobby.
A steady stream of mass shootings has continued across the United States since Sandy Hook, including two deadlier incidents — the slaughter of 58 people at a Las Vegas concert in October and the massacre of 49 people at an Orlando gay nightclub last year.