Represent NYC: Gun Reform with Senator Jackson

October 20, 2019

The Democratic primary debates have held discussions on serious issues from immigration to healthcare. One major topic has been gun regulations. All Democratic candidates seem to agree on one thing: universal background checks, and a ban on assault rifles. Some candidates are even offering money in return for the weapons, in aim to keep people safe.

Mass shootings have been an ongoing problem in our country. There are more mass shootings in the United States than anywhere else in the world. Over 500 people were shot in New York City by mid summer of this year alone. And, despite the increasing number of attacks and deaths, all political parties cannot agree on gun regulations. How many more families will be in our “thoughts and prayers” before gun regulations are set in place?

Represent NYC guest-host, New York State Senator Robert Jackson, is joined by Jackie Rowe Adams, Founder of Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E., and Sheffali Welch, Activist with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America to discuss gun reform.

Aired October 20th, 2019.


ENGLISH TRANSCRIPT:

DISCLAIMER:  Please be advised that this transcription was done from an audio recording by an out of house service; therefore the accuracy of the transcript may be impacted.  If there is an issue please contact MNN info@mnn.org

Robert : Hello and welcome to this edition of Represent NYC on Manhattan Neighborhood Network. I'm State Senator Robert Jackson, and I represent the 31st Senatorial District that includes 13 miles of Manhattan spanning Marble Hill, Inwood, Washington Heights, parts of Hamilton Heights, West Harlem, Morningside Heights, the Upper West Side, Hell's Kitchen and Chelsea. And you see, I was checking my head from side to side because that's how much of Manhattan that I represent. But in the state Senate, I chair the Cities Committee. And today we'll be talking about gun reform. This summer, my office and I put together a public forum on gun reform that brought together leading voices from across my district and beyond. That forum was unfortunately very timely, the mass shooting in Virginia Beach, Gilroy, California, and El Paso brought the conversation of gun safety roaring right back to the floor. And we must keep that conversation going in order to keep up the pressure for reform.

Robert : I'm joined today by two activists who have dedicated so much time and energy of their life to just that fight. Jackie Rowe-Adams is the founder of Harlem Mothers Save Another Violent End or Harlem Mothers SAVE. She created the organization after losing two of her sons to gun violence and today Harlem Mothers SAVE continue to prove much needed counseling, support, and advocacy. Sheffali Welch is an activist with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a national grassroots advocacy organization of mothers founded in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre in the late 2012. Together these mothers are a force to be reckoned, so don't mess with them. And I'm so glad to welcome both of you to the show today.

Sheffali: Thank you.

Jackie : Thank you.

Robert : Thank you for coming.

Jackie : And thank you for having me.

Robert : So let me ask you, as an introduction, why did you, Jackie Rowe-Adams, along with others, found the organization Harlem Mothers SAVE. And I'm going to ask you, Sheffali, the same question, but as soon as Jackie finishes.

Sheffali: All right.

Jackie : Well, first let me say thank you for having me on your show. Senator, as you know, for many, many years we've been having gun violence problems. And you really never pay attention to it unless you're involved or something. And it's sad to say it took something to happen to me to really get involved. And I think I know... you had a forum that was awesome, and one of the things you did say is, "Would you get involved if you did not lose a loved one?" And I think I said to you and I answered the question and I said, "Honestly, I don't think so." Well, something happened to me. So after my second son got killed... Because as you know, I lost two sons. After the second one got killed. I said, "Enough is enough." And then after hearing all these shootings in our community, one labeled Memorial Day, I said, "All these guns, who's giving our kids these guns?" Enough is enough.

Jackie : It's time for us to take the stand and stop blaming the elected officials. Stop blaming the churches, stop blaming the schools, stop blaming the police. And that's what made me get started with five mothers. We walked in at that time it was Assemblyman Keith Wright's office and said, "We need help," crying all over the floor. We need help. Who is giving our kids these guns? And that's how it got started.

Robert : What year was that?

Jackie : And that was 2006.

Robert : 2006.

Jackie : 2006 and we stood on the steps of City Hall with Assemblyman Keith Wright, at that time, calling the question with 100 law enforcement, who's giving our kids these guns? And found out when we did that first cry out to the community and to the world who's giving out kids these gun, the two bodegas in Harlem and a watermelon truck selling collard greens was giving our kids these guns in Harlem.

Robert : Crazy, crazy.

Jackie : Crazy.

Robert : Sheffali Welsh. Thank you for coming. And Harlem demands action against gun violence.

Jackie : Moms Demand Action. Yes. So first I echo what Jackie said, thank you so much for having us and for your focus on gun reform because it's tragic what we're facing today in the US. And as you mentioned, Moms Demand Action was founded after Sandy hook and it was founded by a woman named Shannon Watts. And Shannon went online onto Facebook and started a group that initially was called A Million Moms for Gun Control and learned quickly that that's not going to get all the support needed. And so working with partners, she formed Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which today is the largest grassroots effort in the country and we are for gun violence prevention. I got involved fairly recently with Moms and I'm the New York City re-engagement lead for New York City Moms Demand Action. And one of the issues that really scared me was what's called concealed carry reciprocity.

Jackie : So I'm glad that we have a legislature in New York state that takes this issue seriously and that we are passing laws to have universal background checks, that we support red flag laws, that we closed the boyfriend loophole in New York. But what scares me to death are these laws in Congress right now, or these bills in Congress, I should say, that try and say, "Well if you live in a state that doesn't have strong gun laws, you can port your guns and your license and your permits up to another state." So if you're a Florida or a Texas resident, Texas has the highest number of gun deaths in this country, that you can take your handgun and you can just bring it to New York City because you're a Texas resident.

Robert : Wow, crazy.

Sheffali: Scares the heck out of me. I have two children in elementary school and I am comforted somewhat by the fact that teachers are not allowed to have guns in schools in New York state. But that's not the law in every state in this land. And it scares me to death that somebody can say, "Our weak gun laws where our children are getting killed, we'll just let those come up to New York."

Robert : And in fact, I heard recently that in Florida teachers are allowed to participate in bringing their weapons to school as long as they have the training on that.

Sheffali: Yes, it's just ridiculous.

Robert : But so in my opinion, all of this is the type of stuff that we must stop.

Sheffali: That's right.

Robert : So let me ask a question. I was at a press conference where, Jackie, that you along with Moms Demand Action... Were you at that press conference at Foley Square?

Sheffali: Yes, I was.

Robert : You were there, also. Forgive me for not knowing exactly what you're doing.

Jackie : That's all right.

Sheffali: It's okay.

Jackie : That's all right.

Robert : And I heard the speakers, I spoke, you spoke, you spoke, but you know what really hit on point for me was that Eric Adams-

Jackie : Say it again.

Sheffali: Yeah.

Robert : He's the Borough President of Brooklyn.

Sheffali: Yes he is.

Robert : And this has nothing to do with politics.

Jackie : That's right, let's make that clear, let's be clear.

Robert : Put the electoral process aside, okay?

Jackie : That's right.

Robert : Now mind you, people need to know who he is. He's a retired NYPD captain who was the head of, or the name of 100-

Jackie : 100 Black Law Enforcement.

Robert : Blacks in law enforcement.

Jackie : Yes he was.

Robert : But he said that that New York city does not have an assault weapons problem.

Sheffali: That's right.

Robert : New York city has a hand gun problem and that over 70% of all of the killings in New York city are the result of handguns.

Sheffali: That's right.

Robert : And it is crazy and it's so happens to be in communities of color. But the bottom line is it doesn't matter who you are, you know, if you have a child or a brother or a mother or a father or a sister shot by gun violence, it stays with you for the rest of your life.

Sheffali: That's right.

Jackie : The rest of your life.

Robert : I know that because I had a younger brother that was killed in 1974, 75 he got stabbed to death and got when he was in a fight. But I... That's so fresh in my mind. Even when I was campaigning as a state senator, I was giving an interview and I started crying because it's here in my heart and is in my mind. Let me just tell you that. So tell me then, what in your opinion, as advocates in the field, what do we as legislators need to do and do you think that New York legislatures and the governor is doing enough? So let's start with you. Moms Demand Action.

Sheffali: That's right.

Robert : Sheffali.

Sheffali: And at Moms Demand Action, we are firmly in the camp of changing policy and changing laws. We need universal background checks, we need red flag laws. And having these in place has proven that they reduce gun deaths. Now our problem in New York City, if we think about trafficking, if you are in a state with universal background checks, your rate of trafficking is 30 to 50% lower depending on whether you're talking about guns coming cross state or city lines. So as legislators, not only do you need to focus in New York, where as I say, I am thankful that our legislators here have a solid head on their shoulders. But what about our neighbors in Pennsylvania, Maine, Vermont, Virginia. I realize these don't all border us directly, but the flow of guns coming up from Virginia into New York City is a problem. So how do you use your efforts in New York to help pressure legislators in other states and talk about that? Their problem is our problem.

Robert : So Jackie, you've heard... You know what the situation is. Tell me about, in your opinion, do you think that we're doing enough in New York state? And what about the, the pipeline, they say that come up from down south, from Virginia and North Carolina and South Carolina and other places like that?

Jackie : Oh absolutely not. We not. The legislators are not doing enough. They can do more. Take for instance, like you Senator, you done jumped on the bandwagon. You jumped on long time ago, but you see the seriousness of this. You are putting funding into this so we can continue to do the fight and do the rallies and do to cry and get the word out. That enough is enough. Some of these legislators... Let's take for instance, and you really don't want to get into names, but some of them that have the power to deal on the federal level because when you talk about this flow of guns coming in, it's the federal.

Jackie : We met with the ATF, we meaning Harlem Mothers SAVE and NYPD. We met with NYPD but the ATF-

Robert : What's the ATF?

Jackie : Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Robert : That's at the federal level.

Jackie : That's on the federal level.

Robert : Go ahead.

Jackie : And we called the question, what is y'all doing? What are you doing to make sure you could... It's never going to stop. Let's be honest. It's not going to stop, but you could put a little shortage on it. You could pay more attention from the easy access of coming in here. What are y'all doing? So one of the things that ATF did say, their hands are tied. It's the federal legislators. It's on a federal level. Now, who deals with the federal? So the question is who deals with the federal? Who do we really go to and hold accountable for these guns coming from the south, from Philadelphia, I understand. From all over. Who do we deal with? So that is the problem. So is the legislators doing enough? No, they don't think this is, I mean they know it's serious, but they're not... We're not hearing their voices or their fight.

Robert : Well for me, I'm sold based on my experiences in dealing with you and dealing with just hearing the news about gun violence in our country. Let me talk about New York City very quick. So when I'm listening to the news and watching the news in the morning and you hear about a shooting here and a shooting there... And in my opinion, and I know some people would disagree with me, it's okay. But then if that brings about a dialogue and it brings about positive change, then it's good. But most of the shootings that I hear about are in Brooklyn and in the Bronx. And when I think about, admit I'm born and raised in New York city, so I know New York city and then the Bronx we basically talking about in some of the poorest areas. Okay. The South Bronx is, it's a poorest congressional district in the country. In the country.

Robert : And so the poorer the communities and more communities of color, it's happening more than anywhere else. So I think that we have an obligation to try to stop this gun violence. By one, education is very important in the process. And number two, by passing laws that are going to try to keep all the families safe.

Jackie : Absolutely.

Robert : But what I said to others, as you know, on a national night out against crime, I went to like five or six different precincts in Northern Manhattan in my district and on upper West Side. And I talked about the fact that their NYPD has a gun buy-back program because as you said, and as you know, every gun off the street saves a life.

Jackie : That's right, it does. Saves a life.

Sheffali: That's right.

Jackie : Saves a life.

Robert : Every gun off the street saves a life. So if you have a gun at home and that you need to get it off the street because you know that every gun off the streets saves a life.

Jackie : Yes.

Robert : Then dial my office, (212) 544-0173, and leave your name and number for me to call you back. Robert Jackson, state senator.

Jackie : That's right.

Robert : And then I will arrange and come and make that change for you so that you can get it off the street and get $200 if it's an operable gun. Yes. Now, and I say that to all of you understanding, tell us what the message that you want to give, both of you, to people that are watching this program. The average person that's just trying to take care of their family.

Jackie : Absolutely.

Robert : Make sure their kids get to school, make sure you're paying your bills, just trying to survive in the Asphalt Jungle, in some respects. Jackie Rowe-Adams.

Jackie : So, and I'm glad that you asked that question because one of the things I want to say, it is important that in our community... Because we talk about the flow of guns coming in, but once they come in, who's putting these guns in the kid's hand? We are killing each other, Senator, we are killing each other. So if you see something, say something. You see something, say something. A lot of times the kids are getting away with murder because you got people that's scared to speak up and they know who's doing these shootings. And that is the sad part. We have to save a life. We have to do prevention and education.

Sheffali: That's right.

Jackie : My organization, one of the things we do because we know the pain and hurt, we are a support group. We deal with trauma. We know, we know. And it's grown and grown. When we, I said we started off with five mothers, now we have 50 plus mothers and fathers. So each day-

Robert : Wait, how did Mothers Harlem SAVE become mothers and fathers?

Jackie : Oh, fathers say we coming in too. And I have, actually, six fathers now, seven fathers that have joined our group. So now we have to say Harlem Mothers and Fathers, and when we forget to say it, they remind us and that is so... Of course, the fathers are there too. Because they hurt too. And if you know grandfathers, aunts, uncles, they're all there. And we deal city-wide. We have Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island mothers, we have Bronx mothers and fathers. So we are city wide. But my message to our viewers out there let's stop being scared to tell or say something. If you see something, it is important that we save our children and let's stop blaming the police and this one, that one.

Jackie : Let's take ownership and take back our community and take back our kids because enough is enough. We are losing our families. And Senator, once again, thank you. I'm so glad for a partnership with Moms Demand Action. They're doing a wonderful job. They're fighting legislation. We're fighting in the community to make sure that we bring in these parents that's hurting and let them know we understand your pain. You're not alone.

Robert : Sheffali, so-

Sheffali: I pick up so much on what Jackie said for a couple things. One, when you were saying earlier about the gun buy-back program, parents should also know 70% of children know where those guns are hidden in your house. To parents who say, "Oh, I've hidden it quietly. My kids don't know." You're lying to yourselves. And do you know that the leading cause of death among black children is gun violence? Gun violence. That's the second leading cause of death of children in America.

Jackie : Yes.

Sheffali: So let's take a step back and think about why do you need that gun and who hurts most from that gun? You're your own children. Our children are dying. Second leading cause of death in America, gun violence for children. It's just, it's shameful. So the message is not only protect your children and your families by not having guns, but what Jackie said, there are resources out there. So there's Harlem Mothers SAVE. If I think about Moms Demand Action, we have a whole survivor network and community where we can provide support. If you have been directly impacted by gun violence, if you have lost a loved one.

Sheffali: We also are mothers and others, we like to say. We have a number of fathers, brothers and sisters. We have a number of people who are not parents who have been impacted by gun violence. They've lost their own parents to gun violence. So it's important to know that there are resources out there to help you if you are grieving. As you said, there are resources in the state and the city to help get rid of your guns, get them out of your home, and then it's also important, I think, when you're ready to turn that grief into action.

Jackie : Yes.

Sheffali: Join us. Join Jackie in the fight. Join Moms Demand Action in the fight.

Jackie : Yes, yes.

Sheffali: We can take on the gun lobbies. We are more powerful. We are better organized. We want to elect gun-sense candidates so we can change the laws. We want to partner with our community. I am equally grateful for all the work Jackie does in the community so that we show support and we show our communities that we are there for you to help you heal.

Robert : And your group, Moms Demand Action, the New York City area or New York City.

Sheffali: That's right.

Robert : How many activists? How many parents? How many relatives? How many members?

Sheffali: Yeah, it's, we have-

Robert : What's the size of the organization?

Sheffali: Yeah, so there's over 60000 active moms nationwide.

Robert : Nationwide?

Sheffali: Nationwide. And so we have 1000s of people who are active in the New York City community and in a cadre of 100s that turn out for our rallies, our events. Again, we have a strong survivor network. And that survivor network not only shows up to support people who have been impacted, but also to speak about what happens and what it's like. We also have a whole Be Smart campaign, which is how to make sure that your guns are stored safely, that you keep them away from your children. How do you talk to families about guns? Do you ask when your child goes to play if there's a gun in the home? And we should. It's not a judgment, it's not well, why do you have a gun in the home? I want to know if my child's going to your house. Do you have a gun? Is that gun stored safely, unloaded, locked so that my children can't access that gun?

Robert : Well, you know, my wife and I, we have three girls that are now 44, 39, and 32. And when they were growing up, no guns, no play guns, toy guns at all. And even when we went to my mom's house where my nephews and them, and they may have played toy guns, we did not allow them to play with guns, toy guns. Totally unacceptable.

Sheffali: When we talk about things like video games and we talk about things like mental illness, let's have our facts clear, which is every country has video games. Every country has mental illness and the US does not have any more video games or mental illness than other countries. However, you're 25 times more likely to die by a gun in the US than any other developed country.

Robert : Because they say that we have more guns in the United States than any other country in the world.

Sheffali: We have more guns than people. 393 million guns.

Robert : Than people? Wow.

Sheffali: So 121 guns for every 100 people in this country.

Sheffali: So we're getting ready to come to a close, but I want to ask each one of you, so if someone's ever wanted to reach out to your organization and do you have a website? Do you have a phone number and the same thing with you. Jackie?

Jackie : Yeah, absolutely. And I'm glad you said that. You touched on mental illness and I just want to say, in our support group, we deal with trauma. We deal with mental illness. We have Dr. John Palmer who does our bereavement counseling. He's excellent. We have mothers and fathers that have been wanting to commit suicide. So what we need to do is call Harlem Mothers SAVE, (212) 234-0112. Website is www.harlemmotherssave.

Robert : Harlem Mothers SAVE.

Jackie : Yes.

Robert : Okay.

Jackie : And we are at 306 West 128th Street.

Robert : Okay.

Jackie : Again, 306 West 128th Street.

Robert : Sheffali?

Sheffali: And for Moms Demand Action, the easiest way is you go to momsdemandaction.org and there'll be an ability for you to enter your information and you will get connected into the New York City organization. And since I'm re-engagement lead, you'll get connected to me.

Robert : Thank you for coming in. The message is loud and clear. We need gun reform and what's happening in Albany, I urge you to push us.

Sheffali: Yes.

Robert : Push us just to do more.

Jackie : Oh yes, oh yes.

Robert : Push the governor. Push our federal representative to do more.

Jackie : On the floor, yes. The floor defense, yes.

Sheffali: That's right.

Robert : So that we can make sure that our families are safe. Because I don't want to see another person shot and killed at all.

Jackie : Oh Lord.

Sheffali: And I agree. You asked what actions people can take. Call your senators, call your legislators. You can text checks to 64433 and you can be connected with your senator. We need to urge Mitch McConnell to bring a vote to the floor on universal background checks and red flag laws.

Jackie : Absolutely.

Sheffali: The House has passed their bill already. We're waiting on the Senate.

Robert : The House has already passed the bill, so we're waiting for the Senate.

Sheffali: February, yep.

Robert : But also, if you want to find out who your local representatives are, you can go to LWV, that's League of Women Voters, LWV.org and then you put in your address. It would tell your federal, state and local representatives, so we demand action from you.

Jackie : Yes.

Sheffali: That's right.

Robert : It's time for you to get busy. Any questions? Give me a call.

Jackie : Absolutely.

Robert : (212) 544-0173. Unfortunately, it's time for us to wrap up. This has been a thought-provoking and important discussion. I really want to thank my guests today, Jackie Rowe-Adams of Harlem Mothers SAVE and Sheffali Welch of Moms Demand Action. On behalf of all of us, the residents of New York City, we greatly appreciate your time, your insight, and your activism and thank you for watching Represent NYC on the Manhattan Neighborhood Network.

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Represent NYC

"Represent NYC" is a weekly program produced by Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN) that gives local elected officials and candidates the chance to update voters about the issues shaping the future of the city, and how they'll deliver on campaign promises. The show features a rotating cast of...

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