Six months after a gunman massacred 26 children and adults at a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school, families of the victims marked the day on Friday with 26-seconds of silence and a reading of the names of more than 6,000 Americans who have been killed by gunfire since the shooting.
The remembrance event at Newtown's Edmond Town Hall was organized by Mayors Against Illegal Guns and other groups advocating for stricter gun control. The town's top elected officials, including First Selectman Patricia Llodra, did not attend.
"Six months ago today, my sister Victoria Soto was brutally murdered as she taught her class," said Carlee Soto, a younger sister of the 27-year-old teacher. "The pain is excruciating and unbearable but thanks to all of you and with your support we will somehow get by."
On the morning of Dec. 14, 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, in her bed, and then went to Sandy Hook Elementary School - a school he once attended - and forced his way inside. He killed 20 children and six adults before turning the gun on himself.
The massacre, which followed a shooting rampage at a Colorado movie theater in July that killed 12, and a shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin that killed seven, sparked a national discussion about gun rights and how to better protect Americans.
While states like Connecticut and New York passed a series of new gun measures, the effort to tighten gun laws, backed by President Barack Obama, failed in Washington, and opponents say the proposals would unfairly limit the rights of responsible gun owners.
In an email distributed by Obama's political network, Erica Lafferty, the daughter of Newtown's slain principal, Dawn Hochsprung, called for revival of the gun control effort.
"In the weeks and months after that horrible day, lawmakers from across the country told us, the families of the victims, that they'd take action to make our communities safer," Lafferty said. "What we found out is that, for some of our members of Congress, those were empty promises."
Earlier this week, the Soto family was in Washington, lobbying lawmakers to revive a bill to expand background checks on gun purchasers, which failed in Congress in April, and an assault weapons ban that was proposed but never brought to a vote.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which is largely funded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, also said it was launching a 100-day "No More Names" bus tour from Newtown that will feature rallies with proponents of stricter gun control.
"It's certainly a sad day on a number of fronts," U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, said.
"Six months ago, it was unconceivable to me that we'd be standing here today, with Congress having done nothing in the wake of 20 6- and 7-year-olds being gunned down," he said.
Murphy and others are vowing to revive their push for new gun controls, especially an expansion of background checks, which is favored by most Americans.
Also on Friday, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy announced an allocation of $750,000 to begin the process of rebuilding the elementary school. The money is slated for approval at next week's meeting of the State Bond Commission.
"There are many decisions to be made when it comes to the construction of a new school," Malloy said in a statement. "But it's my hope that by announcing this funding today, we can help Newtown continue with the healing process."