On June 29, the Town of North Hempstead passed a resolution ''urging the United States House of Representatives to reconsider and enact the Mandatory Gun Show Background Check Act (H.R. 2122), together with H. AMDT. 216.''
Town Supervisor May Newburger, along with town board members Doreen Banks, Tony D'Urso, and Angelo Ferrara, all voted for the resolution. Town Councilperson James O'Connor abstained, according to Supervisor Newburger, stating that he was not voting against the amendment, but he did not believe that this is a town issue.
The town again addressed this gun issue at a July 8 press conference, where Supervisor Newburger spoke, along with Michelle Schimel and Joyce Gorycki, co-chairs of the Long Island chapter of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, a citizens group dedicated to reducing gun related violence.
The supervisor opened the session, stating that she ''felt very strongly'' about the amendment, and though the town is not able to directly legislate, at least they could be advocates. ''Our purpose is to speak out as a town government on behalf of the issue,'' she said. ''And this should be a bipartisan issue, as it was in our town vote,'' added the supervisor.
Ms. Gorycki, whose husband was murdered in the Long Island Rail Road massacre in 1993, has explained that she has ''dedicated my life to the gun control movement in memory of my husband.'' And she stresses, ''If this could happen to me, it could happen to anyone, at any time.''
Speaking at the press conference, Ms. Schimel, a Great Neck resident and co-founder of the Long Island chapter along with Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, told of attending her son's high school graduation recently, looking up on the stage and realizing that ''one incident could change my life and everyone else's.'' Though ''not a victim of gun violence,'' she added that she is a victim of what has been going on ''in the sense that I have children.''
Ms. Schimel has been involved with gun legislation for 10 years, the last few years focusing on state and federal legislation. ''The excitement is coming from the grass roots groups,'' she said. ''It's trickling up, and it's happening all over the country.'' And then she spoke of a trigger lock law, for storage purposes, just passed in New York City.
As to why it is so difficult to pass gun control legislation, Ms. Gorycki stated, ''It's the NRA...they're opposed to everything!''
Ms. Schimel then addressed child access prevention, with the supervisor interjecting the fact that guns kill 14 youngsters every day (and additional statistics show that children in the United States are 12 times more likely to die by gunfire than are children in all the 25 other major industrialized countries combined). Other important facts to note about child access prevention include the fact that guns that children shoot usually come from the home, and a child access prevention bill promotes safe storage of guns and ammunition.
Ms. Schimel reported that 16 states have already passed child access prevention laws, but it is a problem in New York State, especially in upstate areas and in Suffolk County. ''That's why I live in Nassau County,'' she emphasized.
Supervisor Newburger said that ''we all have much to learn'' about gun violence and legislation. ''There are many levels of addressing this issue and I am being educated now,'' she said. The supervisor also stated that she feels that, though education is important, in this case, legislation should come first. ''We must pass legislation, legislate behavior, and then we can educate,'' she said, ''People will learn to go by a law.''
Supervisor Newburger believes strongly in grass roots action being able to move government. ''We haven't seen this since the days of civil rights and the Vietnam War,'' she stated, ''We're lucky our citizens are taking this on...''
As far as enforcement, Ms. Schimel stressed, ''We need Carolyn's bill because laws do work.'' She stated that it is ''not an enforcement issue, but an issue of closing up loop-holes in the law.'' She told of the problems at gun shows, with 60 percent of the gun dealers federally licensed, with checking and waiting periods. However, 40 percent are unlicensed and under no regulations. ''You just show identification and walk out with a gun,'' explained Ms. Schimel. ''A rather large percentage of guns are sold at gun shows,'' she added.
Then, she said, there is the issue of unlicensed dealers ''having lots of guns.'' Said Ms. Schimel, ''All guns start out legal...but someone can come in and buy 50 guns...where are those guns going...how many do you need...'' In Virginia there is a law permitting a person to purchase only one gun per month, and, she said, a number of other states are looking into such a law.
Along with legislation, May Newburger supports an end to ''fictionalizing violence.'' She spoke of ''our society addicted to responding to violence...with the media focusing on violent episodes instead of other critical areas, and people accepting such stories, wanting to hear more...children viewing guns not as toys, as years ago, but as actual weapons to kill people...''
And while she is ''most definitely against censorship,'' the supervisor questioned why the media and the entertainment industry focus on violence, and why the public accepts this, actually looks for this. ''Why didn't we respond with laws immediately after the Long Island Rail Road massacre?'' she asked.
Michelle Schimel and Joyce Gorycki urge everyone to call their Congressman and ask for the amendment to be passed when they try to work it out with the Senate. ''We want to galvanize the people,'' said Ms. Schimel, ''It will pass if the pressure is there.''
Ms. Gorycki, who will not even go to a movie that features violence, said several times, ''We're not going to give up!''
Ms. Schimel ended, stating, ''We're not trying to take away any rights to a gun; we just want to lock them up. We are talking about the accountability of guns!''
For those interested in learning more about gun control and child access prevention, there is a website: www.gunfreekids.org.