By Bill Parry
A day before they took part in the national walkout to protest congressional inaction on gun violence at schools, students at the Renaissance Charter School in Jackson Heights held a roundtable discussion with U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights).
The National Student Walkout occurred Wednesday to honor the 17 victims of the mass shooting that took place exactly one month earlier at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
“Today I stand with these students and teachers and their parents who are no longer going to tolerate inaction by Washington,” Crowley said. “Tragedy after tragedy has left our fellow Americans dead in classrooms, in churches and in their communities and quite frankly, enough is enough. An overwhelming majority of Americans support bipartisan common sense proposals that will protect out children.”
Among those proposals mentioned by Crowley are strengthening background checks, banning bump stocks and closing the gun show loophole.
“Who in their right mind would not want any of the measures I just mentioned?” Crowley said.
Renaissance junior Loren Francione said the federal government should have done more to address gun violence in schools following the Columbine School shooting in 1999, when two students gunned down 12 students and a teacher.
“How many children have to not return from school for it to matter,” she asked. “How many children and teachers need to be murdered across the country for the government to begin to care?”
Loren grew more defiant as she spoke, and dozens of her fellow classmates nodded in agreement when she implored them to participate in something larger than themselves.
“People have tried to hush the youth into submission, but as the next generation of voters in this country, we refuse to back down,” she said. “Our power lies in our unity and our willpower to push for change. It may not come quickly, but the way it will affect our nation is beyond what anyone thinks the youth are capable of.”
Nicoo Cortez-Alvareza, a senior at Renaissance who attended a summer camp run by the American Civil Liberties Union, rejected President Donald Trump’s school safety plan, suggesting instead more funding for social workers to work with troubled students.
“We don’t want more thoughts and prayers,” she said. “ What we need is action and we need it now.”
Nadia Hussain, the maternal justice campaign director with advocacy group MomsRising, railed against the National Rifle Association and its influence over members of Congress. She urged lawmakers to reject the organization’s campaign donations and sign the “No NRA Pledge,” which she held in her hand.
“By accepting NRA money politicians are complicit,” she said. “The real change has to come in Congress and that’s why we’re asking them to sign this pledge promising that they will not accept campaign donations from an organization that has done everything in its power to oppose the gun policy reform that keeps our children safe,”
Crowley signed the document.
“Truth in advertising be told, I don’t think I get that much from the NRA,” Crowley said. “I think I have an F-minus (grade) from them.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr