The reaction to the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the deadliest against the Jewish community in American history, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum told the Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in Manhattan, to be more Jewish, more visibility, not be (terrorized) into bunkers or invisibility.
Leading a communal shiva service, she said, “We will study, build community and not lose our focus as to what it is to be Jewish.”
New York State Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, addressing a communal Shiva gathering for victims of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh said, “The word is resilience, a refusal to succumb to victimhood. That’s how we win out. Willingness to gather as a community …
“The shock, outrage, disbelief, overwhelming sadness and grief is overwhelming,” she said.
“How it happened? We don’t have political courage to ban weapons that allow such carnage.
“As to why? We know there is hatred, evil, but in t last two years, it has evolved… Evil lurking under surface, the serpents feeling they can rise up out from under rocks because leadership is willing to do the same. .. What was submerged is unleashed.
“What gives hope is the knowledge that no child is born anti-Semitic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic. [We must] capture hearts and minds of next generation before they learn hate.”
She advised, “Live a more publicly Jewish way, not be a victim, but embrace your heritage and embrace the ones not yet [tainted] by hate. Push [hate] back under a rock.
“On behalf of Governor Cuomo and 20 million New Yorkers, I express condolences to all of us because we are all heartbroken today.”
Rabbi Kleinbaum noted that the first response after the news of the massacre in Pittsburgh came via text and email from Muslim and Christian leaders in the city.
She said that since the inauguration, she and members of the synagogue have held a vigil at the nearby mosque every Friday, to stand up for Muslims who have been vilified by Trump.
“We say to ourselves what would it have been like in Berlin, in Vienna, if non-Jewish Germans and Austrians stood with their Jewish neighbors.
And now, the Iman has said his members would come to the synagogue this Friday before Shabbat services.
“We are in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters,” he wrote. “Throughout the constant attacks and dehumanization from this administration, [Beit Simcha Torah] has been a source of faith and love. … Our duty is to stand with our Jewish brother and sisters. We stand with them, put our bodies on the line for their safety. … [We must] stamp out White Supremacy and anti-Semitism….Any attack on your community is an attack on ours.”
Rabbi Kleinman said, “We can replace hate in the world, the violence, with love.”
She noted that the attack on Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh was not only an act of anti-Semitism, but because the synagogue supported refugees to the US.
“Abraham was told to leave his home, go to a place he did not know and build and live there.
HIAS – Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society – provided finances to help Jews, and today, HIAS helps non-Jews become part of the American tapestry, “because we are Jews, we welcome the stranger, the immigrant,” she said.
“God forbid this act of violence deters us from that, puts us into bunkers. That’s what the terrorists, anti-Semities want…. We must respond to anti-Semitism with deepened strength of Jewish identity. We must not let fear, despair control us.
At the end of the service, members of the synagogue’s board read the names and something personal about each of the 11 victims at Tree of Life Synagogue, murdered for no other reason than being Jewish. Most notably, was the personal remembrance of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, 66 years old, who was one of the first to treat people with HIV. The gentleman had grown up in Pittsburgh and was treated by Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, until he left Pittsburgh in 2004. “He was the one to go to. He was known in the community for keeping us alive the longest. He held us without gloves. You will be remembered by me always. You are one of my heroes.”
It is also notable that the first to treat the assassin at the hospital were Jewish, including a doctor who was a congregant at Tree of Life.
“I refuse to give up on the dream of what this world could be,” Rabbi Kleinbaum said, “[to be a victim of] the violence, hatred unleashed by this administration. I refuse to give up on the power of human beings. We who are Jews, have a deep and proud tradition. There are those who would want us to turn inward. Don’t believe that.
“Before the immigration laws, a young boy whose mother couldn’t speak English, came with no money, worked very hard cleaning other people’s homes and would tell him, ‘God bless America,’ not because it was perfect but it was better than the place she fled. The son grew up in New York City, became one of the greatest songwriters. Irving Berlin wrote “God Bless America,” not as a militaristic, triumphant chant. He wrote it as a prayer. He wrote it understanding her dream, coming to this country without skills, language or money, for her son to grow up away from a land that hated Jews. God Bless America. We won’t give up. And remember to vote. Sing it, as a prayer.”
And the congregation sang.
Founded in 1973, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST) is a progressive synagogue that attracts and welcomes gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender, queer and straight, individuals and families who share common values. Hochul had participated in the opening of the building in 2016.
Following the deadliest assault on the Jewish Community in US History, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo delivered remarks at an Interfaith Prayer Vigil at Central Synagogue in New York City with Rabbi Angela Buchdahl and other interfaith leaders including Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Reverend Amy Butler, Pastor Amandus Derr and Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz.
Earlier in the day, Governor Cuomo announced that the $10 million grant program to help protect New York’s non-public schools and cultural centers, including religious-based institutions, against hate crimes is now accepting applications. Additionally, the Governor directed that flags on all state government buildings be flown at half-staff until sunset on Sunday, November 4 in honor of the victims of the shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and at a supermarket in Jeffersontown, Kentucky.
Cuomo began by evoking Rabbi Angela Buchdahl’s extraordinary background as exemplifying America and New York State:
“The Rabbi was born in South Korea, to a Japanese-born Korean Buddhist mother, and a father who was an American Ashkenazi Reform Jew. Her father’s ancestors emigrated from Romania to the United States. At the age of five, she moved to the United States with her family.
“She was raised Jewish, attending Temple Beth El in Tacoma, Washington, which her great-grandparents had assisted in founding a century before. Rabbi Buchdahl is the first Asian American to be ordained as a cantor and as a rabbi in the world. My friends, that says it all – God Bless America. Only in America. She is the first woman and the first Asian-American to be the Senior Rabbi of Central Synagogue in its 175-year history. God Bless the state of New York.
“But we gather tonight on a somber moment, because this is a dark and frightening time in our nation. Our better angels are being overpowered. The character of America is being perverted. And yes, the power of hate is overtaking the power of love. We mourn and we embrace the families of the 11 victims in Pittsburgh and grieve with them. We mourn and grieve for the African American community in Kentucky. And, we suffer with those who endured the anxiety and threats of mail bombs last week.
“But we would not be here tonight if these were isolated incidents. They are not. There is a frightening pattern developing on many levels of American society. Anti-Semitic incidents have increased 57 percent nationwide. Neo-Nazi groups have increased 22 percent in this country. Nativists and white supremacy groups are on the rise. At the demonstration in Charlottesville in August, 2017, members of the Ku Klux Klan felt so empowered they didn’t even need to wear hoods to hide their faces. The societal fabric of America is stressed and frayed. We gather this evening to pray and to marshal the voices of support and love as an antidote to the forces of division and hate.
“Elie Wiesel said, ‘there may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.’ As Governor, I pray with you this evening. But as Governor, I also state in the strongest terms that we are a nation of laws and we are a state is a state of laws, and we have zero tolerance for discrimination or hate in the state of New York. Hate is not protected by our law, not in speech and not in action. Quite the opposite. And our state has the most aggressive hate crimes laws in the county and I announced today that we are doubling both our security efforts and our prevention efforts. You have my word as governor that we will stamp out the evil of discrimination wherever it rears its ugly head. The Jewish community is an important member of the family of New York and we will protect our family–all together, all united.
“But I am afraid that enforcing the law, while an essential important step is not the only step. Being prepared to fight the fire is necessary, but we must work to prevent the fires from starting in the first place. I feel as if we are standing in a field of dry grass with smoldering embers surrounding us. And a strong wind is shifting directions. We must stamp out the embers before they become flames and we must reduce the winds of hate that threaten the fields of peace.
“There are those who now will wrap themselves in the flag of America and then go out and do violence in the name of America. But they could not be more wrong or more misguided. They do not begin to understand the character of America, and they disgrace the very flag they carry. Our founding fathers would be repulsed by these ignorant acts of violence.
“In school, one of the first lessons we learn about America is when we are asked to raise our hands to the Pledge of Allegiance. I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Indivisible. With liberty and justice for all. Whatever your religion, whatever your race, whatever your creed, we are indivisible.
“Our founding fathers anticipated that there would be differences because we were born as a collection across the globe. But we would have, as Jefferson said, “a decent respect” for the opinions of others. One of our Founders’ first acts was to pass a law to make the motto on the seal of the United States, “E Pluribus Unum”—out of many, one. It set the tone of unity and commonality. The very same founders didn’t fear immigration, they embraced it. It was the British government’s bid to block migration to the colonies, that was among one of the reasons cited for the Revolution and the Declaration of Independence.
“The tremendous right to practice your religion of freedom was a powerful magnet drawing many to America. The Pilgrims were separatists from the Church of England, the Huguenots settled the Hudson Valley, French Protestants fleeing persecution in Roman Catholic France, English Catholics under George Calvert colonized Maryland, Quakers in Pennsylvania, Jewish people in Rhode Island, seeking the religious freedom established by Roger Williams.
“One year into his presidency, George Washington visited a synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island as the first amendment was being debated. To his Jewish hosts, Washington wrote a remarkable letter. He reasserted that the Government of the United States, quote, ‘gives no sanction to bigotry, no assistance to persecution, and requires only that the people who live under the protection of the government conduct themselves as good citizens.’
“Washington quoted the bible to remind them that, in effect, they had reached their Promised Land: ‘May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.’
“That was George Washington. There was no period that tested our unity more than the Civil War. And as the war closed, President Abraham Lincoln pointed the nation to the future in his Second Inaugural Address, saying: ‘With malice towards none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds — to achieve and cherish a just, and lasting peace.’
“Lincoln’s invoking god is relevant and instructive. We are one nation under God. It is not just our government that instructs peace and tolerance, but our religious heritage as well. We are gathered in a house of worship today. Christianity teaches us tolerance. Matthew 25 instructs us Catholicism to do for the least of our brothers. Judaism speaks to the concept of Tikkun Olam, to reach out and heal the breach, and the concept of Tzedakah literally charity, but more broadly meaning the concept of social justice. Buddhism, Islam, virtually every religion speaks of tolerance, acceptance, and condemns violence.
“The victims in Pittsburgh were engaged in a sacred Jewish naming ceremony of a newborn—a bris—celebrating the joy of a new life, only to perish in the face of hate. We will not let them die in vain. We must once again, in Lincoln’s words, “bind up the nation’s wounds.” We must rise above our traditional political divisions. We must refrain from fanning the embers of hate before the flames are out of control. Our American values override our political, partisan differences. Intolerant voices of division must be condemned by all, and not episodically, but consistently. Not only for public consumption but genuinely with personal commitment. Political debate must honor Jefferson’s mandate of civil discourse. Our political leaders must heed this wisdom today.
“At this time of chaos, confusion, ignorance and fear, this nation needs a light to follow. And Let that light be the torch that is held by the great lady in our harbor. Let New York State once again serve this nation as an example to follow. That is the legacy of this great state: throughout history, a beacon of progressive values. We are home to 19 million people from every nation on the globe–New York State is the laboratory of the American experiment in democracy. We are not threatened by diversity, we celebrate diversity. Generations of immigrants stepped off ships and planes onto our shores. This state has thrived because we have no tolerance for discrimination. Not in our laws, and not in our spirit. We are a people of differences, but we have forged community through chords of commonality. This state exemplifies the best of the American spirit.
“The Rabbi asks us what we can do. Let us commit ourselves this evening to a constructive course of action. Let New Yorkers exemplify what it means to be a true American patriot. Let New York show this nation what the flag actually means. Let us lead forward in the way of darkness. Let us lead as a government, as a community and let us lead as individual citizens. Let us lead this nation at this time of confusion by the power of our example. There is no place for hate in our state and New York lives by the credo: that the most powerful four-letter word is still love.”
In her remarks, Rabbi Buchdahl noted that she expressed concern of the rise in anti-Semitism during Rosh Hashanah services. “I never expected, six weeks later, the worst attack on Jews in the United States ever. It is the Jewish community’s worst nightmare, impossible to believe here in America. Not just as Jews – Muslims, immigrants – day after pipe bombs against prominent Democrats, and two Blacks shot dead. Charlottesville. A gay nightclub in Florida. A Sikh Temple in Wisconsin. There is a systemic environment where hate can grow.
“Anti-Semitism is the oldest, most adaptive hatred in history. But where tolerance for anti-Semitism, there is tolerance for hate of all kinds. This is not an America we want to leave to our children.
Rising Anti-Semitism, demonization of immigrants and refugees, gun violence, fake news on social media and the dark web.
“But now, we call to our higher selves. We ask, how do we make sure love wins, solidarity and faith and goodness win. There are hundreds of vigils taking place all over the nation and the world.
“You may have needed courage to show up in a synagogue. You will need more courage to build alliances even with people with whom you don’t agree and to people who hate us, in order to build bridges and rise above cynicism.”
The bimah was lined with representatives of the spectrum of faith in New York.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan noted that the gospel on Sunday, the day after the massacre at Tree of Life Synagogue began, “It was the Sabbath and Jesus went to the synagogue to pray.” “The people in St. Patrick’s gasped at the profound nature of that: “it was the Sabbath and Jesus went to the synagogue to pray.” Jesus, he said, “the faithful Jew.”
Reverend Amy Butler pointed to the power of words. “The violence we saw did not begin at 9:54 on a Saturday morning. It was generations of hate, lies that has found refuge in the political climate where words are weaponized for political gain. Language that dehumanizes, foments suspicion and fear rather than love and compassion. That’s what resulted in a gunman walking into a synagogue. We reject discrimination and hatred.”
Pastor Amandus Deer noted that he has spoken from Central Synagogue’s bimah dozens of times to mark “Shoah,” which marks the beginning of the Holocaust, with a call to “Never Again.” “I am heart broken,” he said, leading a reading of the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd… Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me…”
Rabbi Buchdahl pointed to the ancient Jewish custom of tearing cloth to mourn a close relative. “We lost 13 innocent souls [11 in Pittsburgh and two African Americans gunned down in Kentucky] to acts of hate and violence. We are all mourners. They might want to t3ear our community apart; they can’t tear what binds us together as Americans. The ribbons remind us of the work we have to do.”
Each of the dignitaries then lit a candle for those who were taken and a special prayer of memory was recited. Noting the obligation to remember those who have died, Rabbi Steinmetz remarked that one of the murdered, Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, would say kaddish for those who died but did not leave family to recite the prayer. “His reason was that they would not be forgotten. “
The synagogue, which dates from 1872 and is the oldest synagogue in continuous operation in New York City, packed some 1,250 people into every seat.
Participants included Governor Andrew Cuomo, Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, Cantor Dan Mutlu,Cantor Julia Cadrain, Rabbi Mo Salth, Cardinal timothy Dolan, Reverend Amy Butler, Pastor Amandus Derr, Iman Shansi Ali, Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, Iman Tahir Kukaj, Reverend Bertram Johnson, Dianne Lob, Rabbi Deborah Joselow, Rabbi Lori Koffman, Rabbi Nicole Auerbach, and Dr.Simran Jeet Singh.
The interfaith service concluded with a prayerful singing of a song which begins, “It is a tree of life to those who hold fast to it.”
Governor also Announces Legislation to Extend Background Check Waiting Period from Three Days to 10 Days
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation to remove guns from domestic abusers and close a loophole in state law that will ensure domestic abusers are required to surrender all firearms, not just handguns. The Governor also announced he is advancing new legislation to extend the waiting period for individuals who are not immediately approved to purchase a firearm through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System from three days to 10 days.
“In a time when gun violence continues to relentlessly torment communities across the country while our federal government refuses to act, New York must lead the charge to end this epidemic once and for all,” Governor Cuomo said. “With this legislation, we can sever the undeniable connection between domestic abuse and deadly gun violence, and continue to build upon the strongest gun laws in the nation.”
“My mother dedicated her life to helping victims of domestic violence and our family started a home to help these survivors,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul.“We’ve seen firsthand the fear created when a gun is present in the home of an abuser. This new law today is a dramatic step forward eliminating the vulnerability of these women and their children. While the federal government fails to address the issue of gun violence, we continue to fight to keep guns out of the hands of those who could devastate our communities and our residents.”
Removing Guns from Domestic Abusers
Previously, New York law narrowly prohibited the possession of firearms for individuals either convicted of a felony or a limited number of misdemeanor “serious” offenses, excluding many misdemeanor offenses that are undeniably serious. This bill (S.8121 Phillips/A10272 O’Donnell), which the Governor signed in ceremony today, expands the list of “serious” crimes that require the loss of a gun license and the surrender of all firearms to ensure no domestic abuser in New York retains the ability to possess a firearm once convicted of a disturbing crime.
In addition, this legislation will preclude any individual wanted for a felony or other serious offense from obtaining or renewing a firearm license. Under previous New York law, despite being subject to an arrest warrant, an individual was still legally eligible to obtain a firearm license even as police worked to locate and detain them. This change ensures that the law enforcement who are actively seeking to arrest a wanted individual, as well as innocent bystanders, are not needlessly endangered by a wanted individual who has been able to obtain new firearms.
Extending the Waiting Period
Governor Cuomo has introduced legislation to establish a 10-day waiting period for individuals who are not immediately approved to purchase a firearm through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Current federal law requires gun dealers to conduct the NICS background check on a potential purchaser prior to selling a firearm, which immediately provides the dealer with one of three possible notifications. These notifications include “proceed”, “denied”, or “delayed”. In the case of a “delayed” response, the dealer must wait three days before the sale is eligible to go through, even though the FBI continues to investigate these individuals past the three-day timeframe. Oftentimes, by the time it has been determined that the potential purchaser was, in fact, ineligible, the individual has already been sold the firearm upon completion of the three-day waiting period. Extending the waiting period to ten days would allow sufficient time to complete the expanded background check and builds on legislative efforts to ensure that only those eligible to own a firearm are able to do so.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said,“Today, New York continues its inspirational leadership in addressing the gun violence epidemic by enacting legislation that recognizes the deadly connection between intimate partner abuse and the tragedy of gun violence. Yet, while New York leads, Republicans in Congress refuse to act. As gun violence and domestic abuse exact a daily toll of horror and heartbreak in communities across the country, saving lives and protecting families shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Democrats know that there is a commonsense, bipartisan path forward and we will continue to press for progress on this critical issue.”
Congressman Jerrold Nadler said,“I am proud to stand with Governor Cuomo as he signs legislation to remove all guns from domestic abusers. These measures will close dangerous loopholes in our gun laws and enhance public safety. There is simply no reason why one who has committed an act of domestic violence should maintain ownership of a firearm. Since the Republican Congress has failed to address the national epidemic of gun violence, I commend Governor Cuomo’s leadership in working to enact reasonable gun safety legislation that will protect New Yorkers.”
Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney said,“We know that individuals with a history of domestic violence are five times more likely to murder an intimate partner when a firearm is in the house. This bill, to remove guns from domestic abusers, is just commonsense. I was proud to stand with Governor Cuomo today as he signed this important bill that will save lives into law.”
Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez said,“Gun violence is a plague on our nation and our city that too often shatters lives. The steps being announced today will help keep firearms away from those who should never have access to them. We must do more and Congress must act at the federal level. Nonetheless this effort is a good start and shows New York is leading the way to tackle this horrible problem.”
“Domestic violence affects all communities,” Congressman Adriano Espaillat said. “ commend Governor Cuomo on today’s announcement to remove guns from domestic abusers and close a loophole in New York to ensure domestic abusers are required to surrender all firearms. Domestic violence impacts each of our communities, and today we are standing united with victims, survivors and families of domestic abuse to say enough is enough. I vow to continue my work in Congress to end domestic abuse and violence. Today’s landmark legislation is a historic step in our efforts to protect the victims of domestic violence and help keep individuals and our communities safe.”
Connie Neal, Executive Director of the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence said, “The connections between domestic violence and gun violence cannot be clearer. We applaud Governor Cuomo and the members of the New York State Legislature who voted to take a strong stand to remove firearms from domestic violence offenders. The urgency to act was irrefutable, and New York has now made a significant step forward in preventing domestic violence homicides. Because of Governor Cuomo’s leadership, we will now have a strong safeguard in place for protecting countless New Yorkers.”
Kris Brown, Co-President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said, “The numbers are very clear. Abused women are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser owns a firearm, and domestic violence assaults involving a gun are far more likely to end in death. By requiring domestic abusers to surrender their firearms, Governor Cuomo closed a glaring loophole in state law. I applaud the Governor’s action, as his advocacy for common sense gun laws will help save the lives of vulnerable people all across our state and prevent family fire.”
“As our nation grapples with how to confront the spread of gun violence, we are proud to work and live in a State who has such a leader on this issue: Governor Cuomo,” said Amy Barasch, Executive Director of Her Justice. “At Her Justice, where we provide free legal assistance to thousands of victims of partner violence every year, we know all too well how dangerous guns are in the context of abuse in the home. This new legislation will ensure guns are taken out of the hands of more convicted domestic abusers. Thank you, Governor, for moving us forward.”
Cicely Fields, Domestic and Gun Violence Survivor said, “As a domestic violence survivor, I am a living testimony to why the signing of this bill today is so important. I know firsthand the connection between domestic violence and gun violence is undeniable, as my abuser was able to possess a firearm that injured me within inches of my life. The wound may have healed, but I will still be physically damaged for the rest of my life and my four children, who rely on me for support, will continue to suffer due to the actions of this domestic abuser. I thank Governor Cuomo for ensuring the passage of this law.”
June Rubin, Volunteer Co-Leader for the New York Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America said, “Today we took another important step towards protecting New Yorkers from gun violence. While this is a meaningful day, we know this legislation is just one of many steps needed to prevent future acts of gun violence. We look forward to working with lawmakers and Governor Cuomo on future steps such as the passage of lifesaving Extreme Risk Protection Order legislation.”
“Under previous law, where people convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor were able keep their firearms, the lives of both their victims and the general public were unnecessarily put at risk,” Rebecca Fischer, Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence said. “Thanks to Governor Cuomo, this legislation ensures that everyone convicted of a domestic violence crime is held to the same standard, guaranteeing that these dangerous individuals will lose their gun license and their firearms. This is common sense legislation that was long overdue, and we applaud the Governor for seeing it through.”
“Domestic violence victims are five times more likely to be killed when their abuser owns a firearm,” Senator Elaine Phillips said. “I thank the Governor for signing this legislation into state law, which requires the removal of firearms from individuals convicted of domestic violence. This commonsense legislation keeps firearms out of the hands of those who are convicted of domestic violence, closes the gap in federal law, protects women, men and children from their abusers and will prevent further tragedies.”
Senator Diane Savino said, “This legislation continues our work to strengthen New York State’s nation-leading gun laws. We are closing a loophole that allowed people convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor to keep their firearms, and by doing so we are further protecting the victims of domestic violence across this state. No one should have to live in fear of their abusers, and thanks to working with Governor Cuomo on this legislation, we are helping to ensure that they no longer have to.”
Under Governor Cuomo, New York has passed the strongest gun control laws in the nation and with the passing of this legislation, New York’s gun laws have been further strengthened to ensure that the well-known link between domestic abuse and deadly gun violence can be eliminated. In nine of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in United States history, including Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, the shooter had an existing record of committing violence against women, threatening violence against women, or harassing or disparaging women. In addition, when an abusive partner is permitted to access firearms, the risk that the other partner will be killed increases fivefold. In 2016, firearms were used in 35 domestic homicides in New York.
In addition to continued progressive improvements to New York’s gun legislation, Governor Cuomo led the creation of the “States for Gun Safety” coalition in February of this year to combat the gun violence epidemic in the face of continued federal inaction. Together with New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, New York State entered into an agreement to trace and intercept illegal guns, better share information on individuals prohibited from buying or owning firearms, and create the first-in-the-nation regional gun violence research consortium. Massachusetts, Delaware, and Puerto Rico have also joined the coalition, which now represents over 35 million Americans.
It doesn’t matter that Donald Trump and the NRA-toadies in the Congress had all skipped town ahead of the onslaught of an estimated 500,000 who joined the March for Our Lives in Washington DC calling for sane gun control. After Sandy Hook, Pulse Nightclub, Las Vegas, and the five school shootings that took place just since Parkland, the advocates for commonsense gun regulation are done trying to appeal and cajole lawmakers. The overriding theme of the event, called out in every interlude between the teen and t’ween speakers who so eloquently made the argument for banning assault weapons and high-capacity ammo clips and universal background checks was “VOTE THEM OUT.”
The call would come from down a mile-long stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue, and crescendo, until the buildings would shake.
Gun control advocates are done expecting tragedy to prompt action to protect public health and safety. They are done asking. They are demanding change – whether it be the policy or the politician.
“Either represent the people or get out … Stand for us or beware: The voters are coming,” was the manifesto from Parkland student Cameron Kasky to lawmakers. “To the leaders, skeptics and cynics who told us to sit down, stay silent and wait your turn: Welcome to the revolution.”
The NRA has succeeded, despite easily 90% of Americans who want sensible gun regulations – keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, the severely mentally ill, felons and terrorists, and want to keep weapons designed for war off city streets where 80 percent of Americans live – because they 1) buy politicians, but 2) because they manage to shepherd single-issue voters, fear-mongering the call for “sensible” gun regulation into “confiscate your guns” – and there are some 350 million of them in the hands of just 22% of the population (3% of gun owners own 50% of guns).
Now, the single-issue voters will be gun regulation. That will be the litmus test for support or opposition to a candidate. And that’s okay, because it seems that those who embrace sensible gun laws tend also to support climate action, women’s rights, justice, health care and education. They tend to support diplomacy over war. They see gun control as a public health issue – an epidemic of lethal violence that must be addressed – and so also favor the other issues that support health and quality of life, or in the words of the Founding Fathers quoted on the stage: “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
And there will be 3.9 million high school seniors who will be eligible to vote, if not in the 2018 midterms, buy the 2020 presidential.
An army of volunteers were out with forms to register new voters here and in the hundreds and hundreds of “sibling” rallies held across the country – more than 800 in all including those that took place globally. (Several nations have issued advisories against traveling to the United States because of gun violence.)
This was quite literally a March for Our Lives. More children have been killed by gun violence in the five years since Sandy Hook than soldiers have died in combat since 9/11, reported Newsweek. According to Everytown, on average, there are 13,000 gun-related homicides a year (another 20,000 suicides); for every one person killed by a gun, two more are injured; seven children and teens are killed with guns every day. In 2015, Politifact confirmed a statement by Nicholas Kristof that “”More Americans have died from guns in the United States since 1968 [1,516,863] than on battlefields of all the wars in American history [1,396,733].”
There have been 5 school shootings just since Parkland on February 14 – including the murder just two days before the March for Our Lives of 16-year old Jaelynn Willey at Great Mills High School in Maryland, at the hand of a 17-year old former boyfriend, wielding his parents’ semi-automatic handgun.
It wasn’t just Parkland or Sandy Hook and school shootings represented. The speakers were representative of the spectrum of gun violence that is epidemic in America and no where else in the world: gang violence that steals so many lives in urban center cities like Los Angeles and Chicago, that snuffs out the souls in church, concerts, movies, shopping malls; the victims of domestic violence and robbery. And assassination, as the remarks of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 9-year old granddaughter, Yolanda Renee King, recalled.
“My grandfather had a dream that his four little children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” said Yolanda Renee King. “I have a dream that enough is enough,” she said. “And that this should be a gun-free world – period.”
Then there was 11-year old Naomi Wadler from Alexandria, Virginia, who led the walk-out from her school for 18 minutes – 17 to honor those killed in Parkland and 1 more for the girl who was murdered from her school. “I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper. Whose stories don’t lead on the evening news. I represent the African American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential,” she said. “For far too long, these names, these black girls and women, have been just numbers. I’m here to say ‘Never Again’ for those girls, too.”
On average, gun violence kills 96 people each day, who don’t warrant media notice. American women are 16 times more likely to be shot to death than women in other developed countries; When a gun is present in a domestic violence situation, the woman is 5 times as likely to be murdered. But in states where a background check is required for every handgun sale, 47% fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners, according to EverytownResearch.org.
The speakers, an extraordinary array of the most extraordinary young people, described their trauma, their loss of siblings, parents, best friends, the constant anxiety they must now live with (187,000 school children today have been witness to gun attacks in their schools, according to a Washington Post study; an entire generation since the 1999 Columbine massacre lives with Live Fire drills just as the 1960s kids drilled for nuclear bomb attacks; 40% of Americans know someone who has been a victim of gun violence). They made their case with such clarity, poise, reason and most of all, authenticity, you had to contrast that with the absurdity and stupidity that is heard from many of the current electeds, like Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert.
When Emma Gonzalez, with her poignant, piercing 6 minutes and 20 seconds of silence that mimicked the time it took for the Parkland School Shooter to kill 17, injure 17 more with his AR-15 assault rifle and simply disappear amid the fleeing students, you had the feeling of seeing a future leader, much as those who heard Hillary Clinton’s Wellesley commencement speech. And so many more on that stage. And then there was Malala, in her taped message, who defied the terror attack on her by Taliban determined to prevent girls from attending school.
But more: you realized in a flash what was lost – to society, to civilization – the potential of what these young people could have been, their lives snuffed out by the dreck of our species. Did we lose a Steve Hawking, a Malala, an Obama, a Steve Jobs, a Bill Gates? And what of the hundreds of thousands who must live with life-altering injuries – what of the cost to society of their lost ability to fulfill their potential, of the cost of health care that might otherwise have been spent on education, professional training, investment in innovation? The high cost of trauma counselors after an event, of security officers, technology and construction to harden schools against gun violence (diverting scarce funds from computers and actual teaching), pales in comparison.
These Parkland survivor-leaders weren’t trying to appeal to politicians with reason or emotion, authenticity or compassion, as the Sandy Hook parents had futilely done. They are done with that.
The pacing of the production – mixing personal stories with PSA’s and data – even the NRA’s “greatest hits” – and top-notch entertainment that included Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ben Platt ; Miley Cyrus; Ariana Grande; Jennifer Hudson; Andra Day with Cardinal Shehan School Choir; Common with Andra Day; Demi Lovato; Vic Mensa and an astonishing performance by the Stoneman Douglas drama club with a student choir of the song they wrote, “Shine” (www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrZiB2jV7dw), was as fast and explosive as an AR-15 firing. The audience filled in the interlude with chants of “Vote Them Out” – except after Emma Gonzalez spoke, when the chant was “Vote Her In.”
They want to know why a minority of people get to threaten the vast majority of people.
Enough is Enough, the speakers declared. Never Again, was the reply back, perhaps more hopefully, given that there are still more than 200 days before the midterm elections, and 250 days before a new Congress is seated. How many more will die until then? If the law of averages continues, 96 a day, or upwards of 24,000 lives will be snuffed out in this gun violence epidemic, with thousands of more suffering life-altering injuries, that sap their ability to fulfill their god-given potential.
“We’re done hiding, being afraid,” Ryan Deitsch, a survivor of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, declared. “That’s not what our Founding Fathers envisioned when they wrote of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ This is the beginning of the end. This is the fight for our lives.
“REV up America: Register to vote. Then educate. Then vote.”
About a million people attending more than 800 rallies across the country and around the world, were inspired to take action. And vote.
Here are more photo highlights of the March for Our Lives in Washington DC:
New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo issued an open letter to President Trump.
Dear Mr. President,
The old adage is right: “go with your first instinct.” Your White House meeting with bipartisan federal legislators right after the Florida massacre appeared and was unscripted and productive. You essentially had one question that summed up what every American was feeling: “why?” Why sell guns to young people who can’t yet buy a beer? Why sell assault weapons that are designed to kill so many people so quickly? Why not take guns from the mentally ill before they hurt someone or themselves? Why not make sure every gun purchaser goes through a background check?
There was no answer from the electeds assembled, because there is no answer – except the one you suggested – they are afraid of the NRA.
Major political change comes when a window of opportunity opens and a leader seizes the moment. There are brief moments in history where attention, passion and drive combine to unite the American people and overwhelm the forces preserving the status quo and create change.
The American gun crisis has long been a plague and scourge on our country. You can do something about it and the American people would support it. This is the moment. The Republicans will follow your lead. Yes, they fear the NRA, but they fear the enraged citizen majority more.
In New York, after the Sandy Hook massacre, the nation had a similar moment. It was a moment of grief and pain and anger. Sandy Hook touched the hearts and minds of every day Americans. It was anyone’s child – it was everyone’s child. In the immediate aftermath of Sandy Hook we passed the New York Safe Act – common sense gun safety. It has made a dramatic difference, it didn’t negatively affect any legal gun owners, and I believe it has saved lives.
Mentally ill and dangerous people shouldn’t have guns so we need universal background checks. When a person shows signs of mental distress or violence, there should be a provision for police to investigate and determine the facts – a “red flag bill.” Domestic violence offenders should not have guns. Assault weapons are too dangerous in the wrong hands and not worth the risk. In 1938 we outlawed machine guns in this Country precisely for the same reason: they were too dangerous if obtained by the wrong person. Does anyone miss not owning machine guns?
For those of us who serve in government, if we are lucky, we may have a few moments that present a real opportunity to make a lasting difference. There are brief openings where transformational progress is possible and you have that opportunity now. The moments are rare and fleeting. They are leadership moments: don’t squander it.
The political advisers are wrong. NRA members will be nervous about any government change and intervention but they will ultimately realize a functioning system vindicates legitimate gun owners rather than demonizing all. If you lose this moment, I am sad to say there will probably be another shooting and the Country will be in the same place, and it will once again pose the question that you posed – “why?” “Why didn’t we do anything about this after Florida?” You have the responsibility to stop that from happening.
New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island Enter into Agreement to Create Multi-State Database That Will Share Information on Firearms, Law Enforcement Efforts and Supplement Federal NICS Database
New Multi-State Coalition Will Trace and Intercept Firearms to Stop Flow of Out-of-State Guns
Nation’s First Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium Will Conduct Studies to Better Inform Policy Makers
New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo today announced the formation of the new “States for Gun Safety” coalition to combat gun violence. In the face of repeated federal inaction, the coalition will enter into a Memorandum of Understanding to better share information and tackle this devastating epidemic through a comprehensive, regional approach. The coalition will advance a multi-pronged effort that will create a multi-state database to supplement the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System, trace and intercept guns that are used in crimes as well as guns transported across state borders and launch the nation’s first Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium that will study the issue across multiple disciplines to better inform policy makers nationwide.
“Here in New York, we’re proud to be home to the nation’s strongest gun safety law. However, the federal government’s continued inaction on this issue has not only allowed the epidemic of gun violence to spread, but it has actually prevented the laws like the SAFE Act from being fully effective,” Governor Cuomo said.“Rather than wait for the federal government to come to its senses and pass responsible gun safety legislation, New York is joining with New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island to take matters into our own hands. Not only will this groundbreaking partnership take new steps to prevent illegal guns from crossing state lines, but by forming the nation’s first Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium, we will be able to better inform policymakers nationwide on how to keep their communities safe.”
“We refuse to allow federal inaction to enact commonsense, gun safety laws endanger the lives of our residents,” Governor Malloy said. “Despite the best efforts of powerful lobbyists from special interest groups, we will work together as a coalition of states to keep our communities safe. We cannot sit back and let guns get into the hands of those who shouldn’t have them, and we cannot simply watch almost daily tragedy occur. One thing remains clear: we would be better off if every state and the federal government enacted sensible gun safety rules. We will not wait for Washington to act – the time for action is now.”
“Gun violence is not a New Jersey problem, or a New York problem, or a problem for any particular state or region – it is a national problem,” Governor Murphy said.”However, we cannot wait for Congress to act. As states, we must work together to take the steps and enact the measures to protect our residents and our communities. But, even more importantly, a collective of states can take these steps together broaden the reach and impact of commonsense gun safety laws.”
“Rhode Island has some of the nation’s strongest gun laws, but our nation has some of the world’s weakest. Kids in Florida and across the nation are taking action, and it’s not a surprise: We’ve forced them to lead because for years elected officials in Washington have refused to,” Governor Raimondo said. “We will stand up with our students and with parents to strengthen our gun laws and combat gun violence.”
As part of the coalition, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island will share information about individuals who are prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm within each state. By sharing this information, states can more effectively prevent certain individuals from purchasing a gun, obtaining a weapon and/or getting a gun permit. The agreement, in accordance with federal and state privacy protections, will provide state law enforcement agencies with details on the firearm purchase or permit denials for those who are disqualified. People may be disqualified from owning a firearm for several reasons, including an arrest warrant, order of protection, debilitating mental health condition, or criminal history.
Despite the passage of gun safety laws restricting the purchase and carry of firearms across the four states, the lack of federal regulations preventing individuals from purchasing guns in other states and transporting them across borders has undermined state legislation. To combat this practice, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island will direct their law enforcement intelligence centers to work cooperatively to trace the use of out-of-state guns in crimes and share information in order to intercept criminals transporting illegal guns across state borders. The four state fusion centers that will jointly share information under this agreement are the New York State Intelligence Center, the Connecticut Intelligence Center, New Jersey Regional Operations Intelligence Center, and the Rhode Island State Fusion Center.
The four states will also designate institutions of higher education to partner and create the nation’s first Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium. The consortium will be comprised of dedicated public health, social welfare, public policy, and criminal justice experts who will share and examine data to better inform policymakers nationwide. This groundbreaking consortium will fill the void left by the federal government’s 1996 ban on the use of federal funds to study gun violence which has obstructed research efforts across the nation, including at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.
“We have to remember that the federal government has had a provision in place now for over 20 years that effective bars the Center for Disease Control and Prevention from studying gun violence. So it has devolved to the states, now for over 20 years and our thought is perhaps if we can do it in a coordinated way, the more of us at it, hopefully the better result and meaningfully propelling things like smart gun technology,” Governor Murphy of New Jersey said during a telephone press availability with al four governors.
“We can’t wait for the federal government to act. We have states with good intentions, with good laws, let’s take it to the next level. Let’s work across our borders. Let’s not just advocate for better laws in our own state, but advocate for better laws in our region. Let’s not just try to make our own borders as safe as possible. Let’s try to make our region as safe as possible.” We’ll reach out to other governors,” Governor Malloy of Connecticut said.
Building on these efforts, the states will also work to push the federal government to adopt common-sense gun safety measures. In order to protect families and communities across the region, the group will call on the federal government to swiftly enact universal background checks, an assault weapons ban and a federal waiting period between the purchase and delivery of guns.
The multi-state coalition builds on years of progress spearheaded by Governor Cuomo to combat gun violence in New York. Following the tragedy at Sandy Hook, Democrats and Republicans came together in New York to pass the nation’s strongest gun safety law in 2013. The New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013, more commonly known as the NY SAFE Act, banned the sale of assault weapons and high capacity magazines and helps keep guns out of the hands of the dangerously mentally ill, all the while safeguarding the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners.
In addition to the SAFE Act, New York has continued to invest in the SNUG and GIVE initiatives which engage with community members to help get guns off the street. Under SNUG, specially trained individuals are employed to reduce violence from occurring when tensions arise within their community, while also connecting high-risk individuals with essential social and support services. The GIVE initiative provides funding to support technical assistance, training, equipment, and personnel – such as prosecutors and crime analysts – to help communities reduce gun violence and save lives. The funding for both initiatives is administered by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.
Most recently, Governor Cuomo proposed new legislation as part of the 2018 State of the State which will remove all firearms from those who commit domestic violence crimes. Given the inextricable link between domestic violence and lethal gun violence, this legislation will require all firearms be removed from those convicted of domestic violence crimes, including misdemeanors. It will also add measures to keep firearms out of the hands of those who commit domestic violence with the goal of preventing additional tragedies.
“We’re not waiting for federal action,” said Governor Cuomo of New York, a former Attorney General who laid out an indictment against the Trump Administration and the Republican-controlled Congress over its measures that not only don’t mitigate against gun violence, but go backwards. “All of our states are already ahead of the federal government when it comes to laws on this issue. The Florida Parkland massacre, one would hope that it would spur responsible federal action but we’re not going to hold our breath and were not going to risk our children’s lives. Sandy hook happened, I remember speaking with Governor Malloy at the time, and since then 1600 people have died. After Sandy Hook was when New York passed the SAFE Act because people were so outraged and change comes when people demand change. After Sandy Hook, especially in this region of the country, people demanded change. Columbine 1999, since then there have been 200 school shootings, 25 mass school shootings, so no I’m not especially optimistic that the federal government will be a response.
“Let’s be honest, this a federal government has gone backward on the issue. President Trump has pledged allegiance to the NRA and he’s delivered for them. He defunded, in part, the NICS background check system, he stopped last February the Social Security Administration from providing information that the Obama administration put into place that would have given more information on mental health for the NICS system and the solution here is not rocket science. In many ways it’s harder because it takes political courage and this is not just about the NRA, this is a politically charged issue and I think we understate the opposition when we say it’s just the NRA. To be responsible on this issue you have to pay a political cost.
“Governors on the phone all understand that. I have the political scars from what we did and that’s why it really is a test of leadership and I think right now you have the high school students showing more leadership than the leaders in Washington. What they said on TV was it shouldn’t be a democratic or republican issue, it’s an issue in life and death and they’re right.
“Your Florida elected officials showed up at the town hall like Senator Marco Rubio, who I think should be ashamed of themselves because he had nothing responsible to say and rather than proposing baby steps, which is the worst type of political pandering, he should have at least been honest and say we have nothing meaningful to propose on this issue. At least that would have been honest.
“To say this is a mental health issue is a sham and a fraud because if you really believed it was a mental health issue, then you have to say, the way to combat mental health is we will have s universal background check system to make sure a person who is mentally ill cannot buy a gun. We’re going to have a NICS system that has a comprehensive mental health database that is in the federal NICS system. You will then have to have a federal reporting system where people could actually report people to police, people who they believe has a mental health problem. Teachers would have to be able to call police, family members would have to be able to call the police and say investigate this person because I think they are mentally ill and they shouldn’t have a gun and they still have to answer why you wouldn’t support an assault ban. 1934, this nation outlawed machine guns because the nation said the risk outweighs the reward. The damage that can be done with a machine gun outweighs the individual’s right to own it. That is an assault rifle today. It’s doable, it’s feasible, we did it in this country. It’s just that we’ve gone backwards,” Cuomo said during the press call.
“The answer is not to make the schools armed camps. That’s where they’re going to go in Washington. Why? Because that’s where the NRA wants them to go. Because it means selling more guns. And the NRA is in the business of selling guns. Arm every teacher. Oh that makes sense. The only thing it would do is bring more guns into a school, more money for gun manufacturers, which is what the NRA is really trying to say…
“Today, we take the next step in the evolution of state action. We are limited by our borders so we can put in laws but then our borders are porous. Governor Malloy spoke about the I-95 corridor. That guns literally come up the I-95 corridor. Share your databases and your information so if a person can’t buy a gun in New York, they don’t drive to Connecticut or New Jersey or Rhode Island and buy the gun. Come up with a coalition of state actions. And then share that information. And that’s what we’re going to be doing. We have a mental health database in New York that now exists that didn’t exist before the SAFE Act that has 77,000 people who are on the database who are mentally ill who could have bought a gun in this state the day before the SAFE Act. Share that information.
“On Governor Murphy’s point about research, I was HUD Secretary in the Clinton Administration. At that time, the manufacturers said they could manufacture a smart gun. They could manufacturer a gun where the trigger read a finger print. We’ve done absolutely nothing on the research and the technology because they haven’t been forced to do it.
“So do what you can and that’s what we’re doing. This is not a substitute for federal action. And we hope and we will push for federal action. I would like to see the national democrats put a real sensible gun control bill on the table so that people have a real choice and we have a real debate because this is not about baby steps, this is not about bump stocks and moving the age from 18-21. Those are just political crumbs to throw forward to end the political discomfort for some of the elected officials. Let’s do something real and let’s make a difference. This has been handled by countries across the globe. We can handle it if we want to. If we have the political courage and the political will to do it. It’s that simple. But it’s that difficult.”
You would think after the unimaginable carnage at a country music concert in Las Vegas, that would have been enough, at least to ban bump stocks which Republicans signaled they were receptive to. Then nothing. Well not really nothing: instead of banning bump stocks, Congressional Republicans adopted Conceal Carry Reciprocity, which would essentially negate every state’s gun control regulations (so much for sacred State’s Rights). Imagine someone whipping out a concealed semi-automatic handgun in the rush hour crowd at Penn Station. Even with the heavily armed national guardsmen who patrol, 50 could be dead in the spate of seconds before anyone even realized what was happening. Now imagine another 10 people whipping out their concealed carry guns and firing in all directions.
You would think after an ex-Air Force gunman, court-martialed for domestic violence, killed 26 people at a smalltown Texas church, there would have been legislation to beef up background checks, which the vast majority of Americans, including NRA members and Republicans support. Dream on.
You would think that after Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Congress would have reauthorized the assault weapons ban that George W. Bush allowed to expire in 2006, or enacted universal background checks. Or, given that Republicans and the NRA always fall-back to mental illness, not the easy access and availability of semi-automatic high-capacity guns as the cause of massive carnage, to stiffen restrictions against those with mental illness, including veterans with PTSD, to acquire guns. Oh yes, Obama actually did that, only to have Donald Trump and Senator Charles Grassley (who ironically reflexively called for more controls to prevent mentally ill from acquiring guns), to rescind the regulation. Or after the San Bernardino terror shooting, Congress would have adopted the “No Fly, No Buy” rule. Or after Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot, would have limited the capacity of ammo clips.
An ongoing Washington Post analysis has found that more than 150,000 students attending at least 170 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. After each, there is a spurt of “thoughts and prayers” and then nothing.
Seventeen school shootings, 34 mass shootings, 2008 deaths from gun violence. That’s just the body count for the first 7 weeks of 2018.
As a New York Times editorial noted, “The journal Pediatrics reported last June that gunfire, each week, kills an average of 25 children ages 17 and under. A 2016 study in The American Journal of Medicine calculated that among two dozen of the world’s wealthiest nations, this country alone accounted for 91 percent of firearms deaths among children 14 and under.
Instead, the only “solution” Congress seems to be interested in is mandating Conceal Carry Reciprocity nationwide, to “harden” schools and allow (even require) teachers to carry guns, effectively deputizing them as soldiers in this war-of-choice. (If that is the case, teachers should get battlefield pay.) The only response has been to do the NRA’s bidding: more guns.
But now, perhaps after this latest school shooting, something is different. Because the survivors are 17 and 18 year olds – a cohort of 3.9 million – who will be eligible to vote in the 2020 presidential election if not the 2018 midterms. They know how to marshal the power of social media and organize an ongoing campaign; they are articulate, passionate, and have the energy to keep this going. And they are still idealistic enough to think they can actually force politicians to do their will, naively unaware or underestimating the political perils.
It is reminiscent, in fact, of the anti-Vietnam youth movement of the 1960s. By the time it ended, 58,200 Americans had lost their lives in a decade of fighting a war predicated on politically expedient lies.
But this is war on the homefront. This is a public health scourge in our neighborhoods: guns kill 33,000 Americans a year, the equivalent of a 9/11 each month and injure another 100,000 each year whose lives, like the 14 injured Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. will be forever altered – sports scholarships lost, college savings lost, career track altered. Since Sept. 11, 2001, 95 Americans have been murdered on US soil by terrorists (every one an American citizen or legal resident), but in that same timeframe, guns killed 561,000.
Will this stab at activism be different?
My question is how soon will they become frustrated and beat down by the political song-and-dance? Or will they be snuckered by promises, as hollow as the bullets that the NRA defends that can pierce police protective vests?
Indeed, after traveling by bus for six hours to plead their case at the State House in Tallahassee, 100 of the Parkland students were promptly shut down by a swift 2 to 1 vote to table any discussion of banning assault weapons.
Trump, who made a show of visiting two victims in the hospital and praising first responders (not heroic teachers who now as part of their duties have to make themselves human shields, like the three murdered in Parkland), said he might “consider” a bipartisan bill improving background checks, a statement so remarkable, it warranted front-page headlines.
He is talking about the Cronyn bill, which came out of the Texas massacre, but it only requires the military to do what they were legally supposed to have done: notifying the federal database of military who committed domestic violence and shouldn’t be able to buy a gun anyway. He made a show of ordering the Department of Justice to “examine” the possibility of new regulations banning bump stocks or any device that turns a semi-automatic weapon into a machine gun. But automatic weapons are already illegal for civilian use. And heaven knows how long it will take Attorney General Jeff Sessions to come up with such regulations. Meantime, Congress is off the hook from actually doing anything that resembles even a modest stab at gun control. No slippery slope there.
And even in his phrasing, “I will be open to a bipartisan bill” to improve background checks sounds like the same bullshit he used when he betrayed Dreamers.
The reality behind his bullshit is that Trump’s budget would cut 19% from funding for background checks, and thanks to George W Bush’s Attorney General John Ashcroft, background checks have to be completed within just three days, and the records destroyed (that’s how the Charleston massacre was able to get his gun).
Over and over, Trump has pledged his fealty to the NRA, which apart and in concert with the Russians, did more to send him to the Oval Office than anyone or anything – $30 million in spending, split between pro-Trump and anti-Clinton campaigns. And even now, it compromises the bulk of his precious, unshakeable “base.”
In his State of the Union, he said, “My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans, to protect their safety, their families, their communities,” which sounded as if he might finally call for action to restrain the scourge of gun violence, especially after the two most monstrous massacres in history. Instead, his next line was, “We are totally defending our Second Amendment…”
The reality is, it is easier to buy an assault rifle than buy alcohol or access reproductive health care or register to vote; it is easier to get a gun license than a drivers license, to get a gun than register a car; there are more gun stores than grocery stores, McDonalds and Starbucks combined.
Young people, don’t be played! Here’s what should constitute gun reform:
Restore the ban on assault weapons; limit the capacity of ammunition clips; ban bump stocks.
Require universal background checks including gun shows and private sales and online sales; remove the artificial limit in time for the check to be completed or increase the waiting period beyond 3 day.
Require training and licensing and a national database of gun registration; and renewal program for license and registration (just as for a car).
Bar felons, domestic abusers, those diagnosed mentally ill, anyone under the age of 21 from buying a gun, and those on a terror watch list (“No Fly, No Buy”)
Tax purchases of guns and ammunition, the money going into a victims fund to pay compensation to survivors and for health care.
Require gun owners to take out liability insurance, just as automobile insurance.
Overturn Stand Your Ground laws; defeat Conceal Carry Reciprocity.
Make parents responsible for safe storage of guns; liable and subject to manslaughter prosecution if their children use guns to kill.
Treat gun violence as public health epidemic; end gag order on CDC to research gun violence and recommend protections.
Emma Gonzalez, one of the Parkland school survivors, properly called out the “bullshit.”
“The people in the government who were voted into power are lying to us. And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice and our parents to call BS,” she said in an impassioned and on-target speech. “Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this, we call BS.
“They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS. They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS. They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars. We call BS. They say no laws could have prevented the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS. That us kids don’t know what we’re talking about, that we’re too young to understand how the government works. We call BS.
“If you agree, register to vote. Contact your local congresspeople. Give them a piece of your mind.”(Crowd chants) “Throw them out.” (Listen to her powerful speech)
Ironically, this new student movement may have a dreaded “unintended consequence” for Republicans: if the NRA lackeys are swept out of office in favor of politicians who enact true gun reform, that might also result in campaign finance reform, overturning Citizens United and requiring Disclosure of who is supplying money, finally breaking the shackles the NRA (which may well have funneled Russian money in the $55 million it spent in the 2016 campaign, including $30 million spent to elect Trump) has on lawmakers.
That would be killing two birds with one stone, not an AR15.
On the first anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration and the first Women’s March that was the largest single day of protest in history, women came out in force again in New York City and more than 250 locations around the country.
They marched for womens rights, reproductive freedom, for health care; for #MeToo and #TimesUp to take a stand against sexual assault, harassment, rape and extortion. They marched for gun control and against domestic violence. They marched for families, for immigrants, for Dreamers, for the LGBTQ+ community. They marched for Mother Earth and the environment, for science and facts. They marched for voting rights, for a free press and for truth. They marched to assert basic American values- its better angels – of tolerance, diversity, and for economic, environmental, political and social justice.
200,000 was the official count in New York City – marchers were lined up from 63rd Street to 86th Street, but all along the side streets as well, where it took as much as 2 hours just to get onto the Central Park West march route.
And unlike last year’s march which brought out millions, reflecting the despair of the aftermath of the 2016 election and was supposed to send a message to Trump and the Republicans who controlled Congress and the Courts (they didn’t get it), this day of marches – some 250 around the country bringing out some 2 million – was about action: it kicked off a voter registration drive to add 1 million to the rolls, the candidacies of a record number of women running for office (16,000 women have reached out to Emily’s List for support in 2017), and a Get out the Vote drive for the 2018 midterms.
“My vote is my Super Power,” several announced in their signs. “My Button is Bigger than Yours,” echoed another.
The vulgarity, misogyny, bigotry and racism that Donald Trump brought to the Oval Office came down to the streets, with bursts of profanity in words (“shithole” was a popular one that Trump just introduced to the vernacular only a week ago) and gestures, with marchers giving the finger as they passed Trump International Hotel, the closest incarnation they would ever have. The tone was decidedly more angry, more outraged than a year ago.
“Over the past year, basic rights for women, immigrants, LGBTQ+, the religious and nonreligious, people of color and even Mother Earth have struggled to survive under the weight of the current administration. America’s First Amendment has been challenged and healthcare for millions has been threatened. We must stand together to demand and defend our rights. We will not be silent. We must remind everyone that red, white, and blue are the colors of tolerance,” stated Womens March Alliance.
And they marched with a purpose: to get people to register to vote, to run for office, and to cast their ballot.
“My vote is my Super Power,” several announced in their signs. “My Button is Bigger than Yours,” echoed others.
Hillary Clinton tweeted, “In 2017, the Women’s March was a beacon of hope and defiance. In 2018, it is a testament to the power and resilience of women everywhere. Let’s show that same power in the voting booth this year. #PowerToThePolls”
Abigail Adams, writing to her husband, John Adams, a Congressman at the time, in March 1776, warned, “Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.” That revolution clearly is still going on, despite finally getting the right to vote 144 years later and nearly a century ago.
Even after women staged the biggest protest in history exactly a year ago, swamping Washington DC and coming out by the hundreds of thousands in cities and hamlets across the country, Republicans did not get the message, but spent their first year in total control of all the levers of government systematically dismantling all the elements of a free and equal society, and specifically, waging a war on women’s rights, health and security.
Republicans went full throttle to attack women’s reproductive rights – the House has already passed a 20-week ban on abortion which is set to go to the Senate and is guaranteed of Trump’s signature, while dismantling health clinics.
“The threat for women—and reproductive freedom—is greater than ever,” writes Ilyse Hogue, President, NARAL Pro-Choice America. “The consequences of this bill becoming law would be gut-wrenching. Women seek abortion care after 20 weeks for a variety of reasons, including medical problems, difficulty accessing care, and the fear that comes with rape, incest, and abuse.” The bill makes it a crime for a doctor to perform or attempt an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions for a woman’s health. The bill would leave a woman—and her healthcare provider—with no safe and legal option.
And hidden in the 429-page Republican Tax Law is a provision that establishes “personhood” by giving legal rights to a fetus for the purposes of college savings accounts. “That might seem innocuous, but once that legal precedent is established, it’s a short step to banning abortion outright.”
Let’s be clear: women’s reproductive rights are not just about the freedom to make choices about one’s body, but one’s future. It is nothing less than the right to self-determination which men claim. It is about Equal Protection under the Constitution. If men have a right to life and liberty, so do women and nothing less. Men don’t require government authorization to get a vasectomy or take Viagra (covered under health insurance). And women should not be made less of a person, less of a citizen than a zygote, with government as its unappointed “Regent”.
“It took us a while to figure out,” Gloria Steinem said in an interview with The Guardian, “but patriarchy – or whatever you want to call it, the systems that say there’s masculine and feminine and other bullshit – is about controlling reproduction. Every economics course ought to start not with production but with reproduction. It is way more important.”
The tax code Trump and the Republicans are so proud of attacks everything that makes the American Dream possible, and everything that women count on for their families. Republicans have yet to reauthorize CHIP, leaving 9 million children and pregnant women without access to health care. And what of that child after the Republicans compel its birth? They are stripping away access to child care, pre-K, health care, special education. Now Republicans will go use the mounting budget deficit – $1 trillion – because of their tax plan, to go after Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, food stamps and welfare – things that women, who live longer but have lower earnings throughout their working lives, or who are more apt to be single parents – depend on to a greater degree than men. (To see what a pro-Woman agenda would look like, read what Governor Cuomo is proposing.)
Not to mention Trump’s executive actions and his appointments to EPA, Interior, Education, Health & Human Services, Energy and the judiciary who are enacted policies that harm women and families, climate and public health.
In each and every category of concern to women: health care, immigration, climate change and environmental justice, domestic violence and gun violence prevention, criminal justice. Trump, who through words and actions has shown nothing but contempt for women, and the Republicans have sent a big F-U to women.
Republicans after the 2017 women’s marches, felt they were safe, that women would just forgive and forget, go away, be too consumed with the pressures of earning a living wage to keep their family with food and shelter, than to be politically active.
Indeed, the furor of last year’s Women’s March was quickly dissipated over addressing the Outrage Du Jour: Travel Ban, withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, unleashing ICE to round up undocumented immigrants, gun massacres of historic scale, horror over the government’s failure to address the climate catastrophe Puerto Rico, efforts to repeal Obamacare, then the tax code.
But then there was the #MeToo movement. I can only imagine that the furor has some quaking at the new-found power of Womanhood (but also fear that overuse, amounting to a Salem Witchhunt, will result in a backlash).
This year’s protests are different because 2018 will be the first significant opportunity for voters to take consequential action at the polls. That’s why these protests are so much more important than a year ago.
“[Last year] we marched for even bigger, more systemic issues. We marched because 1 in 4 women is sexually assaulted in her lifetime (as well as 1 in 6 men). Women make up half of the country but only 19% of Congress. Women earn 79 cents to a man’s dollar, and that percentage drops to 63 cents for Black women and 54 cents for Latina women. And there are more anti-abortion laws on the books now than at any time since Roe v. Wade,” writes Caitlin Alesio Maloney, Director of Campaign Operations & Technology.
“None of the issues went away in 2017, but we are seeing progress. #MeToo was a breakout movement that is bringing about real change. Emily’s List had 920 women interested in running for office in 2016, but 16,000 women reached out to them to run in 2017. And with the Women’s March Power to the Polls project launching the day after the anniversary marches, we know this movement can make the difference and get them elected in 2018,” she stated.
“We need to show up for #MeToo. For Time’s Up. For women’s reproductive rights. For equal pay. And we need to show up to remind Donald Trump, on the anniversary of his inauguration, that We. Will. Always. Resist.”
These are the issues but here is the action: March Into Action will be registering voters at the march to support a national effort to register 1 million women to vote by the 2018 elections.
(New York, NY) – Nearly one year after 750,000 people marched through Manhattan in support of women’s rights and civil equality, Women’s March Alliance is gearing up for a second Women’s March on January 20, 2018 in New York City. Dubbed a “March to Action,” and organized by Women’s March Alliance, the demonstration will join a coalition of sister marches from coast to coast in support of the shared vision that all humans are equal and deserve equal treatment.
The “March to Action” kicks off a year-long partnership between Women’s March Alliance, Vote.org, Rock the Vote, HeadCount, League of Women Voters, VotoLatino, and various local groups like Activists Against Apathy seeking to bring women’s voices to the ballot box by registering one million women to vote by the 2018 National Voter Registration Day. (Information regarding the voting initiative can be found here.)
“Over the past year, basic rights for women, immigrants, LGBTQ+, the religious and nonreligious, people of color and even Mother Earth have struggled to survive under the weight of the current administration,” Women’s March Alliance stated. “America’s First Amendment has been challenged and healthcare for millions has been threatened. We must stand together to demand and defend our rights. We will not be silent. We must remind everyone that red, white, and blue are the colors of tolerance.”
“The goal of January’s march is to defend and maintain the basic rights of women, immigrants, LGBTQ+, the religious and nonreligious, people of color, and the environment,” said Katherine Siemionko, founder and President of Women’s March Alliance. “Over the last year, we’ve heard an overwhelming call for a second demonstration. With each successive degradation of basic human rights, the outpouring of support for this form of social activism grows exponentially.”
The 2017 New York City march was one of hundreds held domestically and internationally, each organized and produced by local teams of activists who had never met nor spoken to one another. These individual, local efforts resulted in the public assembly of millions of people across the world.
“The 750,000 who marched in Manhattan last year, the 250,000 who walked in the ‘Women’s March on Chicago,’ and the millions around the world who participated at the local level, proved that our voices would not be muted or silenced,” Siemionko continued. “We’re proud to be part of a sustained global movement that defends human rights in the face of adversity.”
The march is slated to begin near Columbus Circle and continue south and west through midtown, culminating in an activism fair whose aim is to connect people with the causes they care most about. These logistical plans are currently under review by the NYPD.
MARCH AND RALLY LOCATION
Rally: 11:30-1:00 EST on 61st Street and Central Park West (speakers and musical performances occur in this 90-minute block; the stage is on 61st facing north)
Entry point for marchers: Main entrance on 71st & Columbus, overflow entrances on 64th/Broadway, 68th/Columbus and 75th/Columbus.
Entrance for disabilities and ASL: 61st and Broadway.
End Point: Exits on 6th Avenue and 45th, 44th, and 43rd Street (there are post-march events planned)
Route: The March will begin on Central Park West and 61st and move south; marchers will turn east on 59th Street and then South onto Sixth Avenue; exit long 6th avenue at 45th, 44th or 43rd Streets.
Rising out of the local Women’s March on NYC, Women’s March Alliance is a nonprofit whose focus is on building strategic alliances with grassroots organizations in order to provide our community with a wide range of opportunities that empower them to demand and defend their rights. WMA aims to unify the voices and resources of grassroots organizations to collectively foster an informed and engaged community that both understands the current state of human rights across the globe and has the tools necessary to defend and advance those rights. Our mission is to amplify the collective voice and resources of human rights organizations to foster an informed and engaged community.
WMA, which stands in solidarity with the mission of sister marches across the country, has no official affiliation with the Women’s March National Team or its team of organizers.