December 14th marks the anniversary of the Newtown child massacre in Connecticut, where residents have asked for privacy and "acts of kindness." Meanwhile in Florida, Rep. Ted Yoho will host an educational, family-friendly event on gun ownership. "Please bring your family and kids," the invitation posted to Facebook encourages. The event will cover "gun safety, purchasing firearms, legal requirements and safety standards," the invite explains, "while encouraging responsible firearm ownership."
A year ago Saturday, 20-year-old Adam Lanza walked into the Sandy Hook Elementary School and opened fire, killing 20 children and six adults. The gunman then took his own life, using weapons that were legally purchased by his mother Nancy, also killed by Lanza that day. The tragedy sparked a national debate on gun control and access to firearms. And although attempts to pass federal legislation in the wake of the tragedy with new regulations on firearm sales ultimately failed, the tragedy — along with the work of some of the victims' families, has a long-term resonance in the gun control debate.
Despite all this, Yoho's office is saying that the event was planned without the anniversary in mind. Spokesperson Omar Raschid responded to criticism on the timing by arguing that the event was fine, content-wise, for December 14:
"The Congressman's prayers will certainly be with the victims and families of such an unspeakable tragedy. This event focuses on responsible firearm ownership and safety. Safety education is an integral part of responsible firearm ownership, and that is what the goal of this event is."
Yoho will be at the event, Raschid added.
This is not the first time the Newtown tragedy has faced an unfortunate juxtaposition with gun ownership advocacy. In August, a national event encouraging gun owners to show up armed to local Starbucks, including a store in Newtown, drew frustration from residents. The Newtown Starbucks ultimately decided to close early "out of respect for Newtown and everything our community has been through."