Several hundred demonstrators took to the streets in Nassau County on Saturday, joining thousands of others across the country pushing for tougher gun safety measures.
The rally, organized by March for Our Lives Long Island, was spurred by two recent massacres that have beamed the national spotlight back on gun control.
Last month, 10 Black people were killed in a racist attack by a gunman who opened fire in a Buffalo supermarket. Another horrific shooting followed in Texas that left 19 children and two teachers dead at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. Both shooters used semi-automatic rifles, and Saturday afternoon demonstrators marched to the Nassau County Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola and made impassioned pleas for action.
One of the organizers, Sabrina Guo, a 16-year-old high school junior from Syosset, said: “We’re demanding stricter gun legislation. For example, we want to close loopholes. We believe in the second amendment, however we do not stand for the abuse of this bill.”
Speaker after speaker took aim at current federal legislation, at times interrupted by the fervent crowd who yelled “Vote them out.” Many held signs that read “Fear has no place in schools,” “Ban assault rifles,” and “Protect our kids.”
Last week, the New York State Legislature approved a package of gun control measures, including requiring that a person be 21 years old and secure a permit to buy a semi-automatic rifle.
The U.S. House has passed bills to raise the age limit to buy semi-automatic weapons and establish federal “red flag” laws. The House bill is expected to go nowhere in the U.S. Senate, where most Republicans oppose the age-limit rule.
However, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators had hoped to reach agreement this week on a framework for addressing the gun safety issue and held talks Friday, but no deal was announced.
At the Mineola rally, Linda Beigel Schulman, the mother of Scott Beigel, who was killed in the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, blamed “easy access to guns,” for much of the senseless bloodshed. She implored federal officials to pass common sense laws, including universal background checks, red flag laws, a ban on bump stocks, and outlawing ghost guns.
“We are all victims. We survive physically but we are still victims. Look at me, no bullet pierced my body, I have no physical scars, I was not rushed into surgery or had to do physical therapy for months on end. However, the emotional and psychological scars that I have are just as real, just as painful, and will continue for the rest of my life,” Beigel Schulman said.
“I live with the pain, I live with the grief and I live with the sadness every day,” Beigel Schulman later added.
Las Vegas shooting survivor Robert Gaafar recalled the horrific event that left 58 concertgoers dead in October 2017. “I will never forget the strange pressure on my body. It was the shock wave of bullets passing right over me. I’ll never forget the eerie silence of 20,000 people during the gunfire. The horrific screams of grown women and men in between each reload,” the Rockville Center resident said.
“The sheer amount of firepower unleashed by a bump stock, an AR-15, should only be seen in a war zone and never in an American city,” Gaafar said.
Risa Gold, a psychiatrist and member of Doctors 4 Gun Safety.org, a gun safety advocacy group, attended the rally with other doctors, calling it a public health crisis. "I think we have to dismantle the myth that mental health is the problem here," Gold said. "The mentally ill are less likely to commit gun violence not more and if they are going to commit gun violence it’s suicide, not homicide."
Many were fed up with the lack of action, including advocate Nicolette Carrion, 19, of Baldwin, who led the event.
“We have solutions but we do not have the policy makers who are willing to pass this legislation and save lives,” she told supporters.