Here we go again.
Another gun control debate has spawned after the recent school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. The good guy with a gun vs. the bad guy with a gun. Arming teachers who have already protested over a lack of school supplies and are being criticized for allegedly teaching critical race theory.
So how is the teacher’s union handling the situation? Battling legislation.
A spokesperson for the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) said that UFT retirees in Florida and Pennsylvania target federal legislators to demand “rational gun control.” They will mobilize union members to press for gun control and safety here in New York City and New York State and help as much as they can nationwide.
“UFT members are joining national protests—this Friday wear orange, as part of National Gun Violence Awareness Day, and marching with students as part of the national June 11 March for Our Lives protest in NYC and in D.C.,” said the UFT spokesperson.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ solution to the school safety issue? More law enforcement.
“And yes, during the campaign trail, I was mocked over and over again by my video of examining backpacks,” said Adams during a recent news conference. “How dare Eric talk about examining backpacks? Looking in the rooms of your children, so if you see AK-47s, something is wrong. If you see boxes of bullets, something is wrong. Yes. Should we have to do that? No, we should not. But we have to stop living life the way it ought to be and live life the way it is. Guns are in the hands of our children.”
“Lives” is the word of the day, the week and the month for local organizations such as the student-led Urban Youth Collaborative (UYC) who are currently in Albany pushing for legislation that would replace punitive sentences with “restorative justice” in schools.
A spokesperson for the UYC pointed to a statement made on social media to explain the activist group’s stance on the latest shooting.
“Our hearts are breaking with the news from Uvalde,” read their statement on Twitter. “Schools should be a safe place for ALL children. Yet now, when students are already scared, the heavy police presence many politicians are calling for will be MORE traumatizing and make students LESS safe.”
Smitha Varghese, the New York campaign coordinator the Alliance for Quality, added to the idea that more cops isn’t the solution considering the actions of police in Uvalde.
“Since many of the marginalized people in New York come from communities that are police and have no idea what safety could look like beyond policing because it’s their communities that are policed,” said Varghese. “So a lot of our parents are, like, literally the Black and Brown mothers who live in these communities. And so there’s a lot of unlearning when it comes to, you know, what really means safety in our schools. So we make space for those conversations, and you know, we’re ultimately supporting the youth. It’s the youth who are demanding cops out of schools.”
“We have caring adults in all of our buildings who have the resources to help our kids when they’re down,” said New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks. “Every school at the very least has a school social worker, a counselor. Or some schools have a school based mental health center. And you know what every school has? Every school has caring teachers and principals. There are caring adults in all of our schools. We have to let them know when you see something that just looks wrong.”
But what does he mean by “looks wrong?”
“I grew up in New York City. I’m a child of immigrants, came from a low income family. And I was CUNY as well,” stated Varghese. “So, you know, I was suspended in high school. I went to a school that was largely Black and Brown and Jamaica, Queens. And I was suspended because a student hit me. We were both suspended and she was entered into the carceral system, because after the suspension, the school called me back, and they wanted to identify the young woman. They had these pictures and identify them with the police with like actual NYPD.
“She ended up going to juvie. And I think about that now, and I’m like, ‘That was like a violent interaction and nothing was solved,’” continued Varghese. “Like our city is not solving any of the problems at all.”
But all issues don’t exist in a vacuum.
The New York State legislature tacked on another issue with gun rights, believing that the shooting and the lack of access to improving their situation are one and the same. This week, the New York State Senate passed the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York and asked for the State Assembly to pass the law on June 2. It’s the state’s attempt to re-install elements of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 post-2013’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Shelby v. Holder. This includes protection against voter intimidation, providing help for those whose first language isn’t English, and access to the tools that’ll help them in court should cases arise.
One activist felt that it was necessary to help the community with actions instead of pontification.
“In the wake of the white supremacist shooting in Buffalo, we applaud the New York legislature for continuing to work to give Black communities what we truly need—not thoughts and prayers, but the power to ensure government is responsive to our needs,” stated Karen Wharton, Democracy Coalition coordinator for Citizen Action of New York. “Power at the local level determines how our youth are educated, and the NYVRA will help Black and Brown communities get fair representation on school boards, city councils, and more.”
To State GOP Chair Nick Langworthy, this is just another way for Democrats to get in the way of the freedoms Americans hold dear and turn attention away from the issue at hand. He believes that the problem resides elsewhere.
“In typical Albany fashion, Kathy Hochul is following in the footsteps of her mentor, Andrew Cuomo, and focused on making cheap headlines for her primary…,” said Langworthy in an emailed statement. “Case in point: the Domestic Terrorism Task Force that was established and hasn’t even met once since its creation more than two years since its establishment.
“This package of bills does nothing to actually address the underlying mental health crisis at the center of the problem nor does it invest in securing our schools. If Hochul and legislative leaders cared about shooting victims, they would vote today to repeal their disastrous bail laws that have turned our streets over to violent criminals.”