March 23, 2013
Hundreds gathered across the street from the Harlem State Office Building on Thursday afternoon to rally for the end of gun violence. Different speakers called for fighting off efforts by the National Rifle Association to impede legislation that would restrict the availability of high-capacity guns. The legendary crooner, Tony Bennett, a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge, said there should be no automatic weapons publicly available in the United States. Although New York City witnessed the lowest numbers of murders in 2012 since the 1960s, Steven Safyer, CEO of Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, said more than 50 people in the Bronx in the first three months of 2013 were killed. (Read More/Watch Video)
“Gun violence is a plague. It haunts our communities. It chills people’s ability to get out into the community, walk around and exercise. The nation needs to confront it. I’m sad to say that in the Bronx, we have the highest rates of homicide in this city, twice as high as New York City. That’s not something I’m proud of. It’s something that we need to turn around," said Safyer.
He credited Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor Andrew Cuomo for taking action to strengthen gun laws and curb gun violence. Three months after the horrible tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, New York has the toughest gun laws on the books.
On January 15, Cuomo signed the New York SAFE Act (Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act). Some of the key provisions of the act call for a tougher assault weapons ban (an immediate ban of defined assault weapons), a mental health alert (mental health professionals will be required to report to local mental health officials when there is reason to believe a patient is likely to engage in conduct that will cause serious harm to themselves or others) and stronger regulations on ammunition (limiting high-capacity magazines from 10 to seven).
Reverend Al Sharpton said just as there was a movement to defeat segregation and a movement to overcome apartheid there’ll have to be a movement for a gun-free society.
“This is not about Democrat or a Republican, Liberal or Conservative, this is all about us having a right to live.”
He challenged the opponents of gun regulations.
“People are living in terror. People are afraid in their own homes. We need to stop the fear and we need to take on the NRA; they don’t have the right to give our communities this kind of siege we live under,” said Sharpton.
He also challenged the community.
"Let us bury the mentality of thugism and hoodlumism and guns. A gun doesn’t make you a man or woman.”
Singer Tony Bennett, who became a pacifist after fighting in World Ward II, said he’s committed to eliminating all assault weapons in the county.
"Assault weapons are for war. We shouldn’t have people fighting one another with weapons so strong.”
Dr. Vanessa Gorospe, a physician in training at Harlem Hospital, cited a recent report by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention that reveals the gravity of gun violence in the United States.
“When the CDC reports 73,505 injuries and 11,493 homicides from gun violence in the last year alone, the evidence is unmistakable. And when we realize that gun violence is most likely to strike at our most vulnerable, the evidence is now tragic: the number of children under five killed by guns in 2010 was more than the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty,” said Gorospe.
Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said he received a lot of hate mail when he directed the union to divest its pension funds holdings in publicly traded securities of gun and ammunition manufacturers.
On February 15, three teacher representatives on the city’s Teachers’ Retirement System board voted to sell $13.5 million worth of holdings.