Richard Martinez speaks at the National Press Club on Tuesday, June 16, 2014. / Natalie DiBlasio, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON - Richard Martinez's face lights up as he proudly shows off an iPhone video of his son shooting hoops.
"He was ferocious," Martinez says. "That's just the type of kid Chris was."
Martinez looks like every other proud father - and that's his point. What happened to him could happen to anyone.
Less than a month ago, his 20-year-old son, Christopher Michaels-Martinez, was shot and killed during a rampage in Santa Barbara that left seven people dead, including the gunman.
When the media focus turned to his son, Martinez used the spotlight to demand action.
"I need a camera," Martinez recalls saying. "Anyone who will listen. I need to get my word out."
Almost a month later, Martinez stands at a podium in the National Press Club, surrounded by other parents whose children were killed in Newtown, Conn.; Aurora, Colo.; Tucson and at Virginia Tech. Their message: "Not one more."
The families came to Washington with Everytown for Gun Safety, an umbrella organization created by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Mayors Against Illegal Guns. In April, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg pledged to spend $50 million this year to support the organization.
The families want comprehensive background checks for gun buyers and enhanced protections for domestic violence victims. They also want the problem of children's access to guns addressed. The Everytown group says it hopes to undercut the National Rifle Association's political power in Washington.
The NRA has pressed the argument that the way to curb shooting rampages is to arm more law-abiding people, not disarm them.
"Even according to his former top staffer, Michael Bloomberg's gun-control proposals would not have prevented any of these mass shootings," said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action. "Unfortunately, that fact does not stop him from exploiting them for his political agenda. So it's no surprise that his gun control group has been called out by independent fact-checkers as being false and misleading with their "facts and figures."
"We say not one more parent should ever have to bury their child," says Roxanna Green, whose 9-year-old daughter Christina was among six people killed in a a 2011 shooting rampage in Tucson. "Not one more parent should ever have to wonder who their child would grow up to be."
The families gathered here have been pulled into the public eye after the tragedies, but Martinez was different. Rather than avoiding the news media, he took to the cameras with angry and emotional demands, becoming a role model.
"He wasn't worried about being politically correct," says Sandy Phillips, whose daughter Jessica Ghawi was among 12 people killed in a shooting spree in an Aurora, Colo., theater in 2012. "A lot of people, when this first happens, we are in shock (and) we don't know what to think, what to say, what to do. He just let it come out. He just let it go."
The survivors all hope to make the noise now that they didn't have the strength to make when their children died.
"When I saw Martinez speak so forcefully and so eloquently on behalf of his son just a few weeks ago I was electrified," said Peter Read, whose daughter Mary was among 30 who died at Virginia Tech in 2007. "What stops a bad guy with a gun is a bad guy not having a gun."
Erica Lafferty's mother, Sandy Hook Elementary School principal Dawn Hochsprung, died with 20 of her students and five of her staff at the school in 2012. Lafferty says she had a duty to join the Washington event. "I am here because I know my mom would be here if I was killed in the school that day."
Read the original story: Santa Barbara, Newtown, Aurora families speak out in D.C.