Council Member Jumaane D. Williams (center) stands with Senator Bill Perkins (left), Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (right) and tenant advocates during Monday's rally. (227094)
Credit: Vania Andre, NYC Council

Since even before the election when No. 45 came into office, he has used the very real threat of terrorism to help fuel his bigotry. He has launched an assault on Muslims and immigrants, citing them as threats to Americans’ safety. And yet, since the beginning of this year, there have been more than 26,000 incidents of gun violence across this country, nearly 7,000 of them fatal. In fact, from 2001 to 2014, including the horror of 9/11, there were 3,500 Americans killed by terrorism. In that same time, 440,000 Americans have died by gun violence.

American deaths by handgun violence exponentially outpace deaths by terrorism, and still there is little talk about this pandemic on the national stage. Trump and the people who embolden him have barely mentioned anything about the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have died because of gun violence. A simple look at these numbers should be enough for everyone—from the dogcatcher up to the president of the United States—to place importance on how to eradicate this pandemic from our country.

There is no doubt about it. Gun violence is the pandemic and health crisis of our time, and more inexcusably it is arguably the most preventable. We have to focus everything we have to address it. Despite the urgent need for commonsense gun laws to help curb this widespread problem, we are still unable to have smart legislation on this issue because of legislators who don’t have the courage to stand up to the National Rifle Association. Toddlers, for example, will kill more Americans this year than terrorists, yet we can’t even get safe storage laws for homes with young children.

This health crisis is compounded by the supply and demand for guns. On the supply side, there are too many guns coming into our city from states with lax gun laws. Every illegal gun on our streets was legal at some point because of our loose gun laws. Gun control measures deal with supply, but we still have to deal with the demand for guns and address the penchant for gun violence that exists and treat it as the public health crisis that it is.

We cannot continue to push only law enforcement to the front lines to tackle an issue as complicated and multilayered as gun violence. This level is where localities can do the most work. We have to be able to take away the demand for violence in our communities, so that even if those guns are out there, our young people don’t pick them up because they have been given the tools and resources to understand the trap that has been made for them. It is not an excuse from personal responsibility, it is a necessary addition.

I’m proud to lend my voice alongside so many in trying to deal with the supply and demand side of this ever-growing issue. On June 2, Gun Violence Awareness Day, I stood with my colleagues in government and advocates, dressed in orange, because we want people to remember not just this day, or this month, but to remember this issue affects hundreds of thousands of people every day.

In a time where we see just how widespread the epidemic of gun violence is, this dedicated month will aid in continuing the focus on how we can make an impact and prevent senseless tragedies from taking place.

I applaud all who join these efforts, including the crisis management groups, through the city’s Office of Gun Violence Prevention, who work every day on the front lines to make sure that conflicts aren’t escalated to a point where someone needlessly loses a life. They deserve recognition and support so they can continue with the important work that they do. One life lost is one too many, yet during a seemingly willful pandemic such as this one, condolences become hollow without any action behind them.