Cyclists begin ride from Newtown, Conn. to Washington for new gun laws

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March 8, 2014, 7:01 pm
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(NECN/NBC Connecticut: Abbey Niezgoda, Newtown, Conn.) - Saturday morning, 26 cyclists started a 400-mile journey from Newtown, Conn. to Washington, D.C.

As they set off for the second Sandy Hook Ride on Washington more than a year after the tragic elementary school shooting, Team 26 is pedaling with one mission in mind: changing the nation's gun laws.

"Last year, we only did about 50 miles - the last leg of the journey from Maryland to D.C.," said Omar Samaha. "This year, we're doing the full 400."

Samaha drove to Newtown from Washington, and he will bike all the way back. He lost his sister in the shootings at Virginia Tech, but he's riding for the same reason as those from Newtown, who are calling on Congress to pass a comprehensive background check bill.

"The fact that it didn't go through last year was a travesty," said Samaha.

It's the message they are hoping to bring to Washington and to the rolling rallies along the four-day route.

The send-off ceremony was filled with supportive voices, like that from one Sandy Hook father, who lost his 6-year-old son.

"On December 14, 2012, the scourge of gun violence reached right into my world and took the life of our little boy," said Mike Barden.

As they pedaled through Newtown, many cyclists wore Sandy Hook bracelets, bearing the names of the victims names as a reminder why they are riding all the way to Capitol Hill.

"Like the riders here, we're not giving up," said Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. "We're not getting tired or stopping."

Gun rights supporters criticized the idea, saying it only punishes law-abiding citizens. But these cyclists know the ride, like the fight, will be a lengthy one.

Tags: connecticut, Washington, virginia tech, D.C., Newtown, Richard Blumenthal, Sandy Hook, wvit, sandy hook shooting, Abbey Niezgoda, NBC Connecticut, Team 26, Sandy Hook Ride on Washington, Omar Samaha, Mike Barden, Virginia Tech Massacre
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