About 50 people rallied outside U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent's office in South Whitehall Wednesday to urge the congressman to co-sponsor a bill that would strengthen background checks for gun purchases.
"This is not a political issue. This is not a Republican versus Democrat issue," said Fritz Walker of Organizing for Action, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that organized the rally and 14 others like it Wednesday across Pennsylvania.
The group supports President Obama's agenda on issues such as gun violence, the environment and immigration reform, according to its website.
House bill 1565, the bipartisan King-Thompson Background Checks bill, needs about 20 more representatives to co-sponsor it before it can move out of committee to the floor for a vote.
Walker was among a roster of speakers who addressed the crowd, many holding simple, stark signs that commemorated the country's most notorious mass shootings in recent years, including the one 16 days ago at a Ross Township supervisors meeting in which three people were killed.
Walker read a list of names of towns and schools that have become a kind of national shorthand for gun violence -- Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech. He was momentarily interrupted by Roger Timm, a retired Lutheran pastor from Emmaus, who said his daughter was at the university during the country's deadliest mass shooting on April 16, 2007 and survived.
Others stood in silent testimony with signs that read, "Moms demand action for gun sense in America."
Walker, who leads the group's gun violence prevention team, said the House bill is similar to the Senate bill co-sponsored by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa).
Under the legislation, background checks of potential gun buyers would be conducted by a federally licensed dealer and keep records of sales. The bill would also strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and reduce federal funding to states that do not comply.
The fear is the House bill will die in committee, Walker said.
"We need Charlie Dent to step up to the plate and co-sponsor" the bill, he said.
Beth Goudy, pastor at Metropolitan Community Church of the Lehigh Valley, told the crowd that supporters of gun control need to be fearless.
"When we are scared of one another, we don't work for the greater good of other people," she said.
At 12:30 p.m. Goudy led the group to hold hands and observe a minute of silence in a show of unity.