By Grace Bennett
Congresswoman Nita Lowey expressed her frustration over the lack of progress in protecting children and teens from gun violence, as she accepted an “Apple Pie” Award during a private Bedford event celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Million Mom March and promoting the Brady Campaign, which advocates universal background checks, to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
“We are not seeing progress,” Lowey told those gathered. “It’s hard to believe we are celebrating 15 years.”
Lowey didn’t mince her words regarding mainly Republican legislators (“and the few Democrats who strayed”) voting down key gun control measures, at different points stating they are “fearful of the NRA.”
“After Newtown, we thought that battle was over, but there are members of Congress who are a little thickheaded,” she said.
Lowey also added that the fight was far from over and is the co-sponsor of ever more proposed legislation (see below). “As a mom, I know our voices are powerful,” she stated.
Lowey recalled that the founder of the Million Mom March, Donna Dees-Thomases, had originally imagined a turnout of 10,000.
The group swelled to a whopping 750,000 who assembled in a rally at the National Mall in Washington D.C. on Mother’s Day 2000. A release from Lowey’s office noted Secretary Clinton’s attendance that day too and former Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, and that approximately 200,000 additional activists in more than 70 cities across the country also participated.
Prior to the Congresswoman’s arrival, some 25-30 guests enjoyed tea and lemonade and treats under a tent sharing stories of their activism…or their horrific loss.
A volunteer with Moms Demand Action and Gun Sense in American, Natasha Natalie Christopher, related that her 14-year-old son Akeal Christopher was shot on June 27th, 2012, by indiscriminate gunfire on the streets of Bushwick, in Brooklyn. “He died in the hospital on July 10th, on his 15th birthday…
“No parent should ever know this kind of pain. While other people are planning their kids’ high school graduations, I am planning a June 26th vigil for my son.” She had arrived with her 8-year old son, Christopher, who has become a “Junior Amabassador” sharing his feelings about what it is like to lose a brother at age five.
Congresswoman Lowey thanked Natasha for “turning your grief into activism,” and commended Christopher, too. “Your personal story maybe can convince some people.”
Po Murray, chairperson of the Newtown Action Alliance, raised four kids who attended Sandy Hook. She works to advocate for legislative changes, and to build awareness, including organizing an annual national vigil in December to remember all victims of gun violence.
“There’s been a total lack of action from Congressional and State Reps given 30,000 gun deaths a year and 700,000 injuries,” she stated. Some wondered what would be “the tipping point,” or wake up call for legislators while others advocated intiating lawsuits against gun manufacturers. “They are always creating little fires to thwart our efforts,” one attendee noted. “Maybe we need to create a few fires for them too.”
Colette Martin, a volunteer from Queens, described a “silent majority” of gun owners who want to see common sense measures passed. “I have more guns in my home than people,” she stated. “The NRA does not represent me. People leave loaded guns lying around like umbrellas. What the hell does that have to do with the Second Amendment?”
Along with Lowey, also honored during the Bedford event were three individuals central to the first Million Mom March in Washington, DC:
• Donna Dees-Thomases established the original Million Mom March in 2000 after she was deeply affected by coverage of the Los Angeles Jewish Community Center day camp shooting in Grenada Hills, CA, in which five people, including three small children, were killed.
• Jill Brooke, aauthor of “The Need to Say No” and the Editor in Chief of Premier Traveler.
• Elise Richman was an original organizer of the Million Mom March.
Gun violence prevention and gun control are important issues for the New York City area. Suspects on the terrorist watch list tried to buy guns from licensed dealers 2,233 times between 2004 and 2014, threatening national security. Gang members used Metro-North trains to engage in a gun-running scheme to bring weapons bought in Port Chester into New York City for resale. A four-year-old Westchester girl recently accidentally shot herself in the face with a handgun.
In the 114th Congress, Lowey is a cosponsor of:
• The Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act (H.R. 752) that would ban the importation, sale, manufacture, transfer, or possession of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition;
• The Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act (H.R. 2283) that would require federally licensed dealers to confirm the identity of individuals who arrange to purchase ammunition over the internet by verifying a photo I.D.; and
• The Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015 (H.R. 1076) that would give the Attorney General the authority block suspects on the terror watch list from purchasing firearms.