Saying enough is enough, hundreds of students, educators, nurses, and community members gathered at West Capitol Park in Albany today to call for federal lawmakers to enact common sense gun reforms.
The event was one of many March for Our Lives rallies held in New York State and across the nation Saturday.
“No parent should have to wonder: ‘Is this the last day I will see my children?’” said NYSUT Executive Director Melinda Person, who spoke with her four children beside her. “This is not a red state problem or a blue state problem… we want these laws passed now.”
Students poignantly shared their stories on how gun violence has affected them and their learning environment. “Why should we have to talk about what we would do if there was a school shooter?” asked Albany High School student Jordan Johnson. “Why should a sixth grader have to talk about what they would do if there was a school shooter?”
“We are not safe anywhere,” Johnson said. “Not at a store, church, hospital, or even a school.”
Conor Webb, who started a March for Our Lives chapter at Guilderland High School, also called for immediate action. “We, the youth, are no longer asking politely for common sense measures that would quell the public health crisis that is gun violence… we are demanding it and we will not capitulate until policies are enacted and enacted now. Not when the grieving is over. Not later this year. Not with the next election. Now.”
Speakers and those who attended the rally called for universal background checks, an assault weapon ban, and stronger red flag laws. “We need more senators who will care about the people, not the profit [from the NRA],” said Mohonasen student Yuliano Camarena.
“I resent being here. I resent that you have to be here,” Albany Public Schools Teachers Association President Laura Franz told the crowd. “Not that what we are doing isn’t right and just, but because doing whatever it takes to stop mass shootings in our schools and communities should just be common sense.”
School shooting survivor Mike Bennett, who was a special education teacher when he was shot by an East Greenbush student in 2004, shared a sobering perspective in the current national environment. “The shooting at Columbia High School would not make national news today because it has become too commonplace, and no one died,” said Bennett, who is now superintendent of Greenville Central School District.
“The thoughts and prayers, though nice, do not help,” he said.
Safe Schools for All
NYSUT has launched a Safe Schools for All Task Force to hear from our members on the issue of school violence and get your input on next steps. The Task Force is charged with building a list of recommendations for how our state and districts can best support safe public schools at the center of every community. We will focus on several key areas most crucial to building safer school environments. LEARN MORE.
Several elected officials also attended the rally, including New York Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado; U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko; Assemblymembers Patricia Fahy and John McDonald; and Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan.
“The reason we are here saddens me, disturbs me, hurts my heart,” said Delgado. “Do not allow yourself to be overcome by evil. Evil manifests itself in inaction.”
Speakers reminded those at the rally that they are in the majority in wanting common sense gun reforms. Nearly 90 percent of voters support universal background checks, while 84 percent support stronger red flag laws. Nearly 70 percent support banning assault rifles like those used in Buffalo and Uvalde.