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June 13th, 2013
07:00 PM ET

Newtown victim's father: Son known for reaching out to the kid sitting alone

Friday marks six months since the deadly shooting attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and the actions of one man still affect the lives of so many.

The anniversary is reigniting efforts on both sides of the gun control debate. Mayors against illegal guns is holding rallies, targeting politicians who have not supported gun control legislation.

The National Rifle Association is back with an ad attacking one of its own, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin - an avowed gun enthusiast and "life member" of the NRA - for his ill-fated bill that would have strengthened background checks.

That NRA ad was released the same day Manchin met with Newtown families at the Capitol. President Barack Obama also met with the families Thursday afternoon.

One of those parents was Mark Barden, father of 7-year-old Newtown victim Daniel Barden.

"We're just trying to get through every minute of the day, a minute at a time,"  Barden said, adding that he and his wife, Jackie; son, James; and daughter, Natalie, are learning to be a family again.

Barden now keeps a journal, where he writes down memories of his son.

"As I get farther away from my time with Daniel, it's important as I think of our little routines and all the little things we used to do," said Barden. "In 10 years, in 20 years, or however far down the road, I'll just have a memory, a log of all that wonderful, silly little stuff that we used to do."

The Barden family is part of Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit group that provides support to Newtown victims and pushes for what they call "commonsense solutions."

The group has pushed the issue of further restrictions on guns, specifically on high-capacity magazines and assault weapons, and tackling the related mental health issue.

"What gets a person to the point where they can do that much damage and harm to other people? And where do you start? You go all the way back to when they were kids in school," said Barden. "So we're looking at mental health issues and intervention programs that can be implemented, social connectivity, cultural change, and then yes, legislation."

Mental health advocates are disappointed with President Barack Obama for not pushing for more funding for community mental health centers.

Barden said the non-profit group is also lobbying for an increase in funds, and added that the mental health aspect touches him personally.

His niece started a Facebook page called "What Would Daniel Do?" that encourages people to reach out to others who may be troubled.

"Go talk to the kid sitting alone, which is - Daniel was known for that," said Barden. "We want to move that ... Facebook site into a more of a foundation, where it can reach more people and do more good."

Barden is in Washington not only to commemorate the anniversary of Newtown, but also because he wants Americans to keep the conversation going.

"We can't forget what happened, we will never forget what happened, we want to make sure the awareness is there," said Barden.

Barden said the Manchin-Toomey expansion on background checks that failed in the Senate this spring is juxtaposed with the many polls that show Americans favor stronger background checks for gun purchases.

"We need those people to speak up, we need them to make their voices heard, they're being out-shouted by that small minority of people that don't agree with them," said Barden.

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