Newtown victim's mother: 'Ben experienced life at full tilt'

The mother of a young child killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings took President Obama’s place to deliver the weekly address on Saturday.

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Francine Wheeler, joined by her husband Dave, talked about her six-year-old son Ben, who was among the 26 students and educators shot dead in Newtown, Conn., last December. Wheeler was in Washington this week, along with several other relatives of the Sandy Hook shooting victims, to lobby senators to move forward on gun control legislation.

Wheeler described Ben as a child who loved life, playing soccer and piano.

“Ben’s love of fun and his excitement at the wonders of life were unmatched. His boundless energy kept him running across the soccer field long after the game was over,” Wheeler said. “He couldn’t wait to get to school every morning. He sang with perfect pitch and had just played at his third piano recital. Irrepressibly bright and spirited, Ben experienced life at full tilt.”

She recounted the day when she found out that her younger son had died.

“Sometimes, I close my eyes and all I can remember is that awful day waiting at the Sandy Hook Volunteer Firehouse for the boy who would never come home — the same firehouse that was home to Ben’s Tiger Scout Den 6. But other times, I feel Ben’s presence filling me with courage for what I have to do — for him and all the others taken from us so violently and too soon,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler said when she packed to come to Washington this week, it appeared that the Senate was not going to move on gun control legislation. But after some personal lobbying by Newtown relatives of senators, the Senate approved a procedural motion, 68-31, to allow debate on the bill.

“But that’s only the start. They haven’t yet passed any bills that will help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. And a lot of people are fighting to make sure they never do,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler pleaded for support from the public to help pass the gun control bill.

“Now is the time to act. Please join us. You can talk to your senator, too. Or visit WhiteHouse.gov to find out how you can join the president and get involved,” Wheeler said. “Help this be the moment when real change begins. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.”

Next week, the Senate is expected to consider several amendments to the legislation — including a breakthrough agreement by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) to expand background checks on gun sales.

Yet with strong opposition from powerful gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association, it’s uncertain that the bill will be passed by the Senate and moved onto the House.