U.S. Rep. and House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D-Sunnyside, Astoria, College Point, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Corona, Woodside, The Bronx) came to the Renaissance Charter School in Jackson Heights today to join students in advocating for Congressional action on gun violence one month after the fatal shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Crowley, with students surrounding him wearing bright orange shirts with the March 14 demonstration title “March for Our Lives” on their apparel, explained that the shooting in Florida was a part of an “uniquely American phenomenon” of other mass shootings over the past few years that resulted in no immediate action from lawmakers in Congress.
Crowley said there existed reasonable proposals, such as thorough background checks and banning bump stocks.
“Who in their right mind would not want any of the measures I just mentioned?” he said.
Moreover, he praised the students not only in Florida, but also in the school for pressuring lawmakers like him to stop inaction on gun violence. Before addressing the press, Crowley had a brief roundtable with students about the issue.
“When rational gun legislation is passed, it won’t be the Congress, it won’t even be the parents,” he said. “It will be these young people.”
Tomorrow students across the country will participate in a walkout for 17 minutes, representing the number of people killed in the Parkland shooting.
A few Renaissance students participating tomorrow offered their insight on the Florida shooting and what lawmakers can do. Loren Francione felt officials should have addressed gun violence after the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, when two senior students fatally shot 12 students and a teacher.
“How many children have to not return from school for it to matter?” Francione said. “How many children and teachers need to be murdered across the country for the government to begin to care?”
Nico Cortez-Alvarez rejected calls to arm teachers, a solution proposed by President Donald Trump, and demanded more resources, such as social workers, for schools nationwide.
“We don’t want more thoughts and prayers. What we need is action and we need it now,” she said.
In addition to the students, S. Nadia Hussain, a Campaign Director with advocacy group MomsRising, spoke about the influence of the National Rifle Association, the gun-rights non-profit group, in Washington. She called on lawmakers in Congress to sign a “No NRA Pledge,” which she held up, to reject all money from the NRA for their campaigns.
“Promising that they will not accept campaign donations from an organization that has done everything in its power to oppose the gun policy reform that keeps our children safe,” Hussain said.
After Hussain’s speech, Crowley signed the document and joked that he would not be offered much from the NRA because of his low-grade from the organization.
“I think I have an F- [from them],” he said while students laughed.
Crowley criticized lawmakers such as President Donald Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) for not taking a bold stance. He cited Ryan’s call for no political discussions after the Parkland shooting as one example of this.
“I’ll give him that,” he said. “It’s too early to act after Parkland. But is it too early to act after Newtown? It’s been over five years.”