Erica Smegielski, the daughter of slain Sandy Hook Elementary School principal Dawn Hochsprung, is joining the likes of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy Wednesday at the 2016 Democratic National Convention to tell her story, along with encouraging voters to support nominee Hillary Clinton and her stance on expanding gun control nationwide.
Smegielski, dedicated to closing gun law loopholes, has appeared in a Clinton ad called “My Mom,” where she says “no more families should have to go through what we have. Hillary Clinton is the only candidate that has what it takes to take on the gun lobby.” She has spent time in Washington, D.C., with other gun violence victims’ family members.
After Murphy and others failed to push through gun control measures in the Senate, Smegielski teared up and Murphy was there to comfort her.
She married Christopher Smegielski on July 6, 2013 — seven months after the Sandy Hook shooting — in the dress her mom picked out, she has said.
Here is what you need to know about 30-year-old Smegielski:
1. Her Mom, Dawn Hochsprung, Was Killed During the Sandy Hook School Shooting
The reason Smegielski has become involved in efforts to curb gun violence and advocate for tighter gun restrictions is because her mother, Dawn Hochsprung, was a victim of a mass shooting. Hochsprung was the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and was one of 26 victims — including 20 children — who were killed by gunman Adam Lanza.
Hochsprung reportedly tried to stop Lanza from entering the school and was also a few months into a doctorate program. The local board of education said Hochsprung “comes to us with 12 years of administrative experience, six of those years were served as assistant principal within the Danbury Public School System; five years at Rogers Park Middle School from 1998 to 2003 and one year at Danbury High School, 2003-2004.”
Smegielski is Hochsprung’s youngest daughter. “Every time I’m ready to give up, a school bus will drive by, or I’ll be standing outside… and my wind chimes will go off,” Smegielski (then Erica Lafferty) told CNN’s Piers Morgan.
Smegielski read some of her mother’s letters to her on the Today show days after the school shooting.
2. Smegielski Said She Was Married to Christopher in the Dress Her Mom Picked Out
At the time of the Sandy Hook shooting, she was Erica Lafferty, engaged to Christopher Smegielski. The two wed in July 2013, seven months after the tragedy, in New York’s Adirondacks. Smegielski said the wedding was “exactly the day [my mother] would have wanted me to have.”
“I got married in the dress that my mom and I picked out, at her house in the Adirondacks, in the shoes that she would have tormented me for wearing,” Smegielski told Piers Morgan and reported by the Daily Mail. “We had almost the entire wedding planned together and I did it exactly the way that she wanted it to be.”
3. She Hangs With Poodles Named Jaxon & Jinxy
When Smegielski isn’t advocating for gun control on the national stage, she is hanging with poodles, Jaxon and Jinxy, her Instagram account shows.
4. Smegielski Is a Hillary Supporter Who Has Appeared in Clinton Ads
Smegielski’s Facebook profile picture features the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Clinton, but that isn’t all: the Clinton camp asked Smegielski to speak alongside Murphy at the DNC and tout Clinton’s ability to fight the gun lobby.
In a one-minute ad for Clinton’s presidential campaign called “My Mom,” Smegielski discusses her wedding and “the giant hole” where her mom — her “best friend” — used to be.
“[Clinton] reminds me of my mother; she isn’t scared of anything. That’s how I know that she’s the person who can actually make a difference. And that’s why I believe in her…” Smegielski says in the spot.
5. Smegielski & Sandy Hook Families Demanded an Apology From Bernie Sanders
Long before she tweeted a ‘Thank You‘ to Sen. Bernie Sanders during the 2016 DNC, Smegielski was far more critical of the Vermont senator-turned-presidential-hopeful.
When Sanders defended gun makers against a lawsuit by Newtown victims’ families, the New York Daily News ran a front page photo of Sanders with the caption “Bernie’s Sandy Hook Shame.”
Sanders was asked by the Daily News whether family members of the Sandy Hook victims should be allowed to sue gun manufacturers, and he responded, “No, I don’t.”
“But I do believe that gun manufacturers and gun dealers should be able to be sued when they should know that guns are going into the hands of the wrong people,” Sanders added.
“Shame on you,” Smegielski tweeted to Sanders. “try living one hour of our lives. Love, the #SandyHook Principal’s Daughter.”
Clinton has put in a lot of effort this campaign to publicly talk with Sandy Hook families and discuss expanding gun control.