BY EDITORIAL STAFF
From faith leaders and community activists to elected officials, Queens leaders said that this week’s mass shooting in Las Vegas proved that action needs to be taken on gun control and that the nation should reconsider the purpose of the Second Amendment.
On Sunday, Stephen Paddock carried out the largest mass shooting in U.S. history from his hotel room overlooking a country-music festival in Las Vegas. A total of 59 people were killed and more than 500 were wounded during the incident.
In Queens, borough leaders said that a serious discussion on gun control was long overdue—although many leaders expressed doubt that Congress would take up such an initiative—and that the Second Amendment, which gives U.S. residents the right to bear arms, is currently not serving the purpose for which it was originally created.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that he believes New York State should be a model to follow for gun control.
“I think it is ludicrous for the White House to say, ‘Now is not the time to talk about it,’” he said. “Now is precisely the time to talk about it. When is enough, enough? Sandy Hook was the time to talk about it. Columbine was the time to talk about it. Fort Hood was the time to talk about it. It’s political fear. I passed sensible gun control and I paid the price for [the NRA’s] anger. It was the right thing. I believe we saved lives. I believe when they write the history books, they’re going to say, ‘New York got it right.’ And Congress, there was overwhelming cowardice and apathy—not to take on the issue because of political reprisal, in the face of total common sense.”
Pastor Robert Lowe, of Cambria Heights’ Mt. Moriah AME Church, said that he believed the Second Amendment “needs some adjustments.” He pointed out that at the time it was written, its purpose was to arm militias to defend the nation against potential attacks from a foreign power—such as the British.
“We’re living in a different society now,” he said. “When the Second Amendment was written, it was more needed. We were more of a rural society and people needed guns for hunting and protecting their homes. Now, we have police and the army. I don’t think that any self-respecting person should be denied access to a gun. In this day and age, we have to look at a person’s mental stability.”
Lowe said that he believed that Republicans, who control both houses of Congress, are preventing conversations about gun control.
“This is the time to open up this conversation,” he said. “Fifty-nine lives have been lost; 500 folks have been injured. We should focus on the victims—but the reason that they’re victims is that we haven’t focused on gun control.”
Community activist Kevin Living-ston, who is the founder of the Southeast Queens nonprofit 100 Suits for 100 Men, said although he believed that the right to bear arms should not be taken away, the Second Amendment needed to be updated to fit the current age.
“We’ve been saying this for years,” he said. “I think New York City has great gun laws. I wish they would adopt those laws federally. Guns are still too accessible in our community. They’re going into the hands of 11-year-olds, who are running around with guns because they have a beef. We need to educate our young people about the dangers of guns.”
William Byrne, an associate professor of government and politics at St. John’s University, said that he believed the Second Amendment remained relevant “at least as long as people think it’s relevant.”
“The Second Amendment, like every part of the Bill of Rights, reflected people’s mistrust of government,” he said. “And if you look at polling nowadays, people don’t trust government, so I don’t think that’s changed. Fifty percent of households have guns. I don’t think courts are going to really change where they stand on the Second Amendment.”
In the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, Byrne said that he could possibly see laws addressing bump stocks—a modification that allows a shooter to fire bullets rapidly—but not semi-automatic weapons.
“These incidents are horrific, so they get our attention, but people are killed every day by handguns,” he said.
However, U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) said he believes that Congress needs to take action now on gun control.
“Congress must come together to assess ways for us to prevent these heinous attacks,” he said. “The onus is on us to bring it to an end and ensure the safety and security of all Americans.”