Sandy Hook parent invited to State of the Union - WFSB 3 Connecticut

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Sandy Hook parent invited to State of the Union

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NEWTOWN, CT (WFSB) -

Connecticut will be at the center of Tuesday’s State of the Union address, represented in the First Lady’s guest box by Gov. Dannel Malloy.

Also in attendance will be Mark Barden, a Sandy Hook father who said a gesture by President Barack Obama, planned for that final address, means so much to him and his family.

"It’s overwhelming, it's such an honor,” said Barden, who has been spending time in Washington D.C., participating in a town hall meeting on gun violence, and introducing the President on national television as he unveiled plans to tighten gun control.

"It gets that conversation going, it brings that conversation into people's living rooms, and hopefully stimulates conversation so people will be talking and thinking about this,” Barden said.

It’s a conversation Barden never expected to be a part of, until Dec. 14, 2012.

"My wife grew up in the Bronx, she saw gunfights right in front of her house. We were living in Nashville and we got held up at gunpoint, and we still did not get engaged,” Barden said. “Unfortunately, it took the murder of our little Daniel for us to finally wake up and say ‘hey, there's something really wrong and we need to do something about it’.”

After his son Daniel was killed inside Sandy Hook Elementary School, Barden felt he had no choice but to get involved, through his elective representatives, but also through the Sandy Hook Promise.

"We’re talking about prevention, we're talking about identification and prevention and identifying this problem before it becomes a violent behavior, and before the gun is even in the equation,” Barden said.

That work is why Senator Chris Murphy has invited Barden to be his guest at President Obama’s final State of the Union address.

In the First Lady’s guest box will be Gov. Dannel Malloy and an empty seat, representing those lost to gun violence.

“I know, I know what an empty seat means. I know it in my house. I know it very personally. So I think that's a powerful and touching gesture,” Barden said.

He added that he is grateful that the work they’re doing at the Sandy Hook Promise is getting recognition, and to be asked to be part of the conversation in Washington, but he said none of that can change the reason why he and so many other parents have been called to action.

"After any kind of a victory, any sense of elation is immediately dashed by the fact that our children are still gone,” Barden said.

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