By Brian Tumulty
WASHINGTON - More than 120 people -- some survivors of gun violence and some related to those killed by guns -- gathered in Washington hours before Tuesday's State of the Union address to keep the issue on the national agenda.
The group included Tamar King, who was on a business trip in Singapore on Dec. 14, the day 26 faculty members and children were shot and killed at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
King said that when people in Singapore asked her why mass shootings are so common in the U.S., she didn't have an easy answer.
Nor did she have one after a mass shooting that killed her mother at Binghamton, N.Y.'s American Civic Association in 2009. Roberta King was teaching civics to recent immigrants when the gunman walked into her classroom and opened fire.
Tamar King said she was initially startled that many media reports about the Newtown shooting didn't include the Binghamton tragedy on lists of recent mass shootings. Then she realized why.
"It was because it was over three years ago," King said. "It has become commonplace in a way."
The group of survivors and family members who gathered Tuesday was so large that only half the group was invited to a news conference, organizers said. The rest of the group was sent to the White House for briefings with administration officials.
King was part of the White House contingent. She said she was surprised when first lady Michelle Obama came by to visit and greet each group member.
"You're part of this family of survivors and you never wanted to be a part of that group, but there is such a connection," King said.
Roberta King had 10 children, most of whom have moved away from Binghamton. That includes Tamar, who lives in Washington.
Tamar King has two siblings in Rochester who live near where two Webster firefighters were shot and killed in December shooting. And she has a brother who lives near Newtown.
"It's just been one thing after another," she said. "It affects everybody."
About 20 of the victims and survivors who gathered in Washington on Tuesday were invited to attend the State of the Union address as guests of members of Congress.
Among them: Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and his brother Matt, who was shot in the head on the observation deck of the Empire State Building in 1997.
The brothers were guests of Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. and Frank Lautenberg, D.-N.J.
Dan Gross thanked Mayors Against Illegal Guns for working to bring the families and survivors together to "demonstrate the power we really have when we all come together as a single voice."
Brian Tumulty writes for Gannett's Washington D.C. Bureau
Gannett's Washington D.C. Bureau