New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Martin Luther King III held a press conference Monday in City Hall, joining those affected by gun violence, to organize support for background checks for gun purchases.
In a harrowing procession of those affected by gun violence, one by one people approached the City Hall podium and gave their personal account of how guns touched their lives. A trauma surgeon who'd seen many victims pass through his operating table, a teacher who was shot by teenagers, family and friends of those murdered and community organizers begging for help against violence.
A few of the testimonials of those present include Sharon Sherry, whose son George White was murdered on September 24th in Harlem. Or Rebecca Pryor, whose friend Alex Wake was killed by her step father when he killed her mother, her grandparents and himself.
Diana Rodriguez, a Staten Island mother who lost her daughter, Samantha, on mother's day five years ago, said, "No one knows the pain that we feel, but we're here to let it be known. Something has to be done." Rodriguez mentioned that the person who killed her daughter has still never been brought to justice.
The emotional testimonials continued for over 20 minutes, and included 34 victims from all around the country, including family of the victims of the Virginia Tech, Columbine high school and recent Tucson shootings. Many of those who spoke pointed out that the gunmen, who had exhibited signs of mental illness, would still be able to buy a gun without a background check.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg took the stage after the testimonials and said, "34 people have spoken. That's because there are 34 deaths from handguns in America every single day." The Mayor went on to speak about Martin Luther King, Jr and Bobby Kennedy, both of whom were gunned down by assassins. "There is one major area that we have gone backwards -- gun violence. Since 1968, more than 400,000 Americans have been murdered by guns."
Bloomberg called on President Obama to lead the charge to enforcing the existing laws. "No rational person thinks you should be able to sell a rifle that's advertising as able to bring down a commercial airliner. Nobody thinks we should be selling armor-piercing bullets -- you don't need that if you're hunting deer or elk."
The mayor, standing with Martin Luther King III, said the issue of gun violence had become an urgent problem that needs immediate fixing. The press conference was not a call for repeal, but rather a plea to fix the loopholes regarding the background checks that could have prevented massacres like Virginia Tech and in Tucson, Arizona.
"We need a comprehensive national background check system with no loopholes," the mayor said. "The new Congress should set a goal of getting his job finished within three years, and should enact the necessary legislation and appropriation to make that happen."