Mothers Against Guns <br> Rally in New York City, <br>Start at Gaynor Statue
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What a spot from which to start an anti-gun rally — the statue of Mayor William Gaynor. He is the only mayor in the history of the city to have been shot. It was from in front of the bust of Gaynor that the second annual march for stricter gun regulation set out to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to a rally in front of City Hall.
The rally attracted hundreds of mothers — as well as fathers and children — carrying signs saying “Not one more” and “unarmed and unafraid.” It also brought out several eloquent survivors of gun violence. The rally was energized in part the latest major incidence of gun violence, in which a mentally-ill youth at California slew seven persons last month.
Sponsored by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, the rally was backed by funding from Michael Bloomberg. It is, in a sense, a test of one of the former mayor’s strategies, nursing grass roots movements designed to harness to the cause of gun control the anger of Americans horrified at tragedies like shooting at Newtown, Connecticut.
Erica Lafferty, a daughter of one of the heroes of the Newtown tragedy, told the crowd gathered at the foot of City Hall Park that 86 people are being killed a day by gun violence in America. Ms. Lafferty’s mother, Dawn Hochsprung, was the Sandy Hook Elementary School’s heroic principal, who died defending her students.
Shannon Watts, the original organizer of Moms Demand Action, opened the rally with remarks suggesting they protestors were part of the “Connecticut effect,” which is the impact on the nation of the Newtown tragedy. She led the protesters in changing “not one more,” the phrase made famous by Richard Martinez, the father of Christopher Michaels-Martinez, who was slain in the Santa Barbara shootings.
The crowd of several hundred was both polite and impassioned. A police line had been set up around the demonstration, but a better behaved or more friendly group of protestors would be hard to imagine. One speaker, actress Amanda Peet, reeled off a list of the mass shootings that has occurred in recent years, starting with the massacre on the Long Island Railroad in 1993. In that crime, a deranged man shot to death six passengers in the third car of an evening train, emptying two 15-round clips of a handgun he had purchased at Califorina.
Ms. Peet also spoke of the need for increased background checks. Yet the leading speakers made it clear they understand they are fighting a long struggle, noting that in the wake of the Newtown killings protection of gun rights has been expanded in some states. Hence the group’s focus on what Ms. Watts called a grass roots approach. It was such an approach that led to the passage in New York state of the Sullivan Act, the centerpiece of gun control in the state.
The Sullivan Act was passed in 1911, after outrage animated by the a wave of shootings in the city the year before, when a record 108 gun homicides were reported in the city. The attack on Mayor Gaynor, by a man who’d been fired form his job working for the city, occurred in Trenton, New Jersey, where the mayor had just boarded an ocean liner.
He survived the wound and died three years later of a heart attack; his would-be assassin died in prison. But the passions ignited by the wave of killings that year are still alive, as the mothers who marched against guns demonstrated today, starting out from the monument to Gaynor at the eastern end of the Brooklyn Bridge.