Two weeks after losing her teenage daughter to a stray bullet, a heartbroken and somber Cleo Pendleton urged lawmakers to take action to help prevent senseless gun violence.
"I'm here today because my daughter never came home," she said. "I'm here today because gun violence affected my life, as it has affected the rest of my life."
She implored Congress to take action. "No one should feel the way we do, and I'm appealing to the Congress to be smarter than me," she said. "You guys signed up for the job, do something, you can."
Pendleton is one of many family members of gun violence victims who will attend the State of the Union tonight as the guests of House Democrats. Pendleton, who was invited to the State of the Union by Illinois Congressman Brad Schneider, will sit with the First Lady, who attended Hadiya's funeral this weekend.
Rev. Winford Bell, who lost his daughter to gun violence in 2009, echoed those statements. "Congressional leaders, feel our pain, feel our passion, feel our desire to see this thing change," he said. "we can do this together by God on our side, we can make a change."
Bell was one of many family members who have dedicated themselves to reducing gun violence after losing someone they loved to a bullet. That includes Jim Tyrell, whose sister was murdered nearly a decade ago in a convenience store shooting in Connecticut. He's organized a golf tournament to raise funds for the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence every year since. Peggie McCrum, who lost her brother to gun violence, became the leader of her local Brady Campaign chapter. She demanded action in tearful remarks. "There are many avenues that we can take to stop gun violence in our country, but we can certainly not choose the avenue of inaction," she said. "We all deserve the freedom to be safe from gun violence... We should not stop until we see real tangible solutions to issue of gun violence."
Rep. Jim Langevin of Rhode Island spearheaded the movement to have House Democrats bring gun violence victims to this year's State of the Union. Dozens of Democrats have signed onto the plan, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi who will bring a student from Newtown, Ct., and Rosa DeLauro who will bring Carlos Soto, the brother of Vicki Soto, a Sandy Hook teacher who died in the massacre.