Sandy Hook Mom Sheds Yet More Tears for Her Son as Senate Votes on New Gun Control Laws

"I'm just very proud of him and glad that he's forcing a change to happen," Sandy Hook parent Nicole Hockley says of Sen. Chris Murphy's filibuster

Photo: Seth Perlman/AP

Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy moved many last week when he concluded his 15-hour gun-control filibuster with an emotional tribute to 6-year-old Dylan Hockley, who was found in the arms of his teacher, Anne Marie Murphy, after they were both killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

No one was more touched than Dylan’s mother, Nicole Hockley, who tells PEOPLE that although she’s spoken with the senator several times over the years about her son’s tragic story, she was surprised when Murphy chose to share it on the Senate floor last Wednesday, in a call to action motivated in part by the terrorist attack in Orlando, Florida.

“The fact that he chose that moment to end his filibuster, talking about the last moments and the bravery that Mrs. Murphy showed – while begging legislators to show that same bravery – that meant a great deal to me, that he would share that with everyone,” says Hockley, who runs Sandy Hook Promise, a group that aims to prevent school shootings through in-school awareness and training programs.

“I know it means a huge deal to him,” Hockley adds of the Democrat, a gun-control advocate who was a new senator at the time of the Sandy Hook shooting in his home state of Connecticut. “It made me cry watching him on the floor. And I’m just very proud of him and glad that he’s forcing a change to happen.”

At the close of the filibuster, Murphy spoke beside a jumbo print of Dylan wearing a Superman T-shirt. His voice choking and breaking with emotion, the senator described how police found Dylan in his classroom – “dead, wrapped in the embrace of Anne Marie Murphy,” his special-education teacher.

“It doesn’t take courage to stand here on the floor of the United States Senate for two hours or six hours or 14 hours,” Murphy said. “It doesn’t take courage to stand up to the gun lobby when 90 percent of your constituents want change to happen.”

“It takes courage to look into the eye of a shooter and instead of running, wrapping your arms around a 6-year-old boy and accepting death as a trade for just a tiny, little itty piece of increased peace of mind for a little boy under your charge,” he said, calling on his fellow senators to ask themselves: “What can you do to make sure that Orlando or Sandy Hook never, ever happens again?”

Hockley was at the White House for a screening of the documentary Newtown when she heard that Murphy had taken the floor. The senator had been scheduled to present at the annual Sandy Hook Promise Gala that evening but Hockley says she thought it was “extremely appropriate that on a night we were honoring Promise Champions that one of our most committed Champions would not be present because he was out fighting for us.”

“I went to bed around midnight that night, so saw little of Chris’ filibuster,” she tells PEOPLE. “When I woke the next morning, my emails and news alerts were flooded with his last moments before yielding the floor. I watched the last eight minutes several times, crying as Chris spoke about my beautiful boy and the courage of Mrs. Murphy.”

Thanks to Murphy’s filibuster, the Senate will vote on four gun control proposals on Monday. But many already believe the votes won’t pass.

Nevertheless, Hockley says she’s hopeful that a “meaningful change” will come soon.

“I have to stay hopeful because I just think, as a people, we’re better than this,” Hockley says. “If Monday doesn’t pass then we have to focus on the next day to make it pass. Momentum’s still building.”

Hockley says the pressure on politicians is even higher this year, due to the upcoming election in November.

“Anyone who doesn’t vote the right way on Monday, they’re going to face the anger of the American people come election day. And that’s something they should bear in mind, especially considering that they continue to vote based on what lobbyists want them to do rather than what people want them to do,” she says. “I mean, if Monday doesn’t happen then we’ve just got to push ahead to the next thing – but meaningful change will come.”

“We need more people with soul,” she adds of Congress.

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