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Newtown to mark 6 months since shootings with ceremony, new push on guns

By Edith Honan

(Reuters) - Six months after a gunman killed 26 children and adults at a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school, families and local officials will mark the day by honoring the victims and renewing the fight for stricter gun control.

The ceremony on Friday morning will include a moment of silence and a reading of the names of victims of the massacre that launched a new U.S. debate on guns.

The event will be followed by a rally, organized by Mayors against Illegal Guns and other groups, to urge Congress to revive a series of gun-control initiatives proposed after the Newtown shooting. The measures, which were opposed by the National Rifle Association gun rights lobby, failed to win approval in Congress.

"We are going to continue to fight. The NRA, they're bullies, and they can get as far as they've come because they have power and numbers," said Jillian Soto, whose older sister, Victoria Soto, was among the teachers gunned down that day.

"We're going to be able to fight this one and we're going to be able to win. It's just going to take some time," Soto said in an interview.

On the morning of December 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, was one of the worst in recent American history.

Ultimately, a bill that would have expanded the use of background checks in gun purchases failed in Congress and an assault weapons ban was proposed but never brought to a vote.

"It's certainly a sad day on a number of fronts," U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, said of the occasion.

"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 the background check bill, which enjoys broad support among Americans.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group founded by and largely financed by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has used his personal fortune to promote measures like the background checks bill, has also stepped up its efforts in recent days.

The group will sponsor a bus tour, starting on Friday in Newtown, to U.S. towns and cities that have been touched by gun violence.

(Editing by Peter Cooney)

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