Activists rallied to emphasize that gun violence is a daily reality in many communities and that raising awareness is only the first step.
On Thursday, anti-gun activists and elected officials came together for the beginning of Gun Violence Awareness Month. The crowd, which gathered on the steps of City Hall before an empty casket, a symbol for the lives lost to gun violence, was joined by various community groups including New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, Gangstas Making Astronomical Community Changes (GMACC) and LIFE Camp, as well as Brooklyn Councilmembers Jumaane Williams and Alicka Ampry-Samuel, among others.
“As Congress continues to offer mere thoughts and prayers, we urge our lawmakers to take action now and implement critical measures that will save lives and protect our families,” said Rebecca Fischer, executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.
This past year marked the safest year since the 1950s, according to NYPD statistics. Areas in which community models such as Crisis Management System, a network of mediators who connect high-risk individuals to services that can reduce the long-term risk of violence, and Cure Violence, a model that tackles violence as a health crisis, were implemented saw an even greater drop in the rates of homicide and gun crimes than did other areas. Advocates pointed to the programs’ effectiveness and the need for their expansion.
“The New York City Crisis Management System has made a major impact on bringing down gun violence in our communities. Because of our work, New York City is the safest big city in America,” said Shanduke McPhatter, CEO/ founder of G-MACC. “Yet, we are constantly overshadowed. It is time that our organizations and the work we do be properly recognized and supported. Similar to breast cancer awareness, we are seeking that same attention during the month of June as the city heats up for everyone to wear orange to raise awareness around gun violence.”
Advocates emphasized that while mass shootings draw the bulk of media attention, gun violence is a daily reality in many communities, especially low-income areas and communities of color. Raising awareness is only the first step, they stressed.
“While Parkland and Santa Fe are incredibly heartbreaking, Black and Brown communities suffer from gun violence every single day. Just this past Memorial Day weekend, there were over 200 incidents,” said Erica Ford, CEO/ founder of Life Camp, Inc. “We can not remain silent about this public health crisis. Legislation is critical, but we need multi-faceted solutions that include prevention and resources that get to the root of gun violence in our innermost cities.”
In 2014, Councilmember Williams introduced legislation that recognizes every June as Gun Violence Awareness Month, to shine light on the need to pass important gun safety legislation and to utilize community resources to combat the epidemic of gun violence.
“Gun Violence Awareness Month is an essential time to call attention to the plague of gun violence on our streets and to pursue comprehensive solutions to combat that epidemic,” said Councilmember Williams. “It is vital that the conversation extends beyond the mass shootings that make national news to confront the daily violence in our communities. Truly fighting gun violence means addressing each of these tragedies with passion and dedication.”