Hundreds of people marched across the Brooklyn Bridge demanding stricter gun laws and offering a litany of violent stories to show why they are needed.
Held on the eve of Mother’s Day, the third annual march from Brooklyn to Manhattan was organised by the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Fashion designer Donna Karan was among the supporters.
“Progress is being made, one day at a time,” said Abbey Clements, a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults in December 2012. She said about 40% of all gun sales were completed without a background check and accused congress of lacking the courage “to vote on their conscience instead of allowing themselves to be bullied by the gun lobby”.
But she noted some states had tightened background check requirements. Connecticut already had strong gun laws, with relatively fewer gun deaths, she said.
Just walked over the Brooklyn Bridge for gun sense in America! The rally is about to start. pic.twitter.com/rJutMwNkQ9— adinataubman (@adinamom) May 9, 2015
The National Rifle Association, America’s largest gun rights lobbying group, opposes expanding background checks, saying many people sent to prison because of gun crimes get their weapons through theft or the black market, and no amount of checks can stop those criminals.
Legislation that sought to expand background checks to all commercial firearms sales failed to get a hearing in the House of Representatives’ last session. With Republicans expanding their House majority and winning control of the Senate, prospects for the bill may be even more unlikely this session.
Under the current system, cashiers at stores selling guns call in to check with the FBI or other designated agencies to ensure the customer does not have a criminal background. Some politicians want to expand such checks to sales at gun shows and purchases made through the internet.
The US averages over 80 gun deaths each day, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We have more gun-related deaths than any other developed country. Gun deaths now outpace traffic fatalities in our country,” US congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said. “It may take years, it may take decades, but the tens of thousands who senselessly lost their lives at the barrel of a gun will not be forgotten.”
As they crossed the bridge, participants yelled: “Not one more!” and the march ended with a rally outside City Hall in lower Manhattan.
Christopher Underwood, eight, addressed the crowd three years after losing his 14-year-old brother to gunfire in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighbourhood. “It made me sad, because he was the only one who dropped me off at school, and I miss him,” said Christopher, whose brother was killed when a bullet ripped through his brain. “I’m still scared.”
Edwin Guzman sat behind the stage holding a poster with photos of his daughter Samantha, 18. She left a Bronx party in 2006 with friends on Mother’s Day and was shot dead in the street.
“New York has come a long way; the gun laws have gotten stronger,” said Mr Guzman, but he noted, many of the guns used in New York were smuggled from out of state, including the one that took the life of policeman Brian Moore last Saturday.
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