NEWARK, N.J. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker today rallied with local leaders and gun safety advocates and called on President Biden and Congress to take immediate action to address the nation’s gun violence epidemic. The call to action comes after two deadly mass shootings in as many weeks, leaving 18 people dead.
“When it comes to gun violence in America there is absolutely nothing normal about it,” said Sen. Menendez. “There is nothing normal about the fact that Americans own 42 percent of all firearms in the world, despite comprising just 4.4 percent of the global population. There is nothing normal about a country that accepts the routine slaughter of innocent people in their schools, houses of worship, grocery stores and workplaces as just a fact of life. And there is nothing normal about a democracy that time and again fails to respond to the will of the voters who overwhelmingly support gun safety reform.”
“We are a nation in mourning right now because of two crises-- a pandemic that has killed more than 544,000 Americans and an epidemic of gun violence that has tragically taken more innocent lives,” said Sen. Booker. “We simply can’t afford to stand idly by as the deadly epidemic of gun violence continues to plague our nation. With the majority of Americans supporting common sense gun safety measures, it’s past time for our federal government to take the necessary actions to save lives and keep our communities safe.”
On Monday, a lone shooter, armed with a military-style semiautomatic rifle and handgun, entered a grocery store in Boulder, Colo. and killed ten people, including a police officer. A week earlier, another lone shooter in Atlanta, Ga. killed eight people, including six Asian-American women at three separate massage parlors.
Gun deaths in the United States have reached their highest point in nearly 40 years, with more than 38,000 Americans dying each year, an average of 100 Americans each day, from gun violence, according to Giffords Law Center. Over 90% of Americans support stronger gun safety measures, including universal background checks.
Throughout their time in Congress, Sens. Menendez and Booker have been outspoken, leading advocates for commonsense gun safety reform. Since the start of the new Congress in January, they have introduced numerous pieces of legislation to reduce gun violence including the Assaults Weapon Ban, which would ban the sale, transfer, manufacturing and importation of military-style assault weapons and the Background Check Expansion Act, which would expand federal background checks on all gun sales.
And just yesterday, Sen. Menendez introduced the Gun Records Restoration and Preservation Act, which Sen. Booker cosponsored, that would repeal the Tiahrt Amendments – provisions that severely hamstring law enforcement’s ability to solve and prosecute gun crimes, stop illegal gun trafficking and hold negligent gun dealers and owners accountable, while also providing special protections to the gun industry that compromise public safety. Earlier this month, Sen. Menendez called on President Biden to take executive action to close the “ghost gun” loophole, which allows domestic abusers, prohibited buyers, gun traffickers and domestic terrorists to buy untraceable, unserialized firearms without a federal background check.
Sens. Menendez and Booker also cosponsored the Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act to help protect survivors of domestic abuse by closing the loopholes in current law that allow abusers to legally obtain weapons. They also called on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to enforce the “Lautenberg Amendment” which makes it a felony for anyone convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence to ship, transport, receive or possess firearms without exceptions for federal law enforcement officers.
The senators held today’s rally at Branch Brook Park in Newark and were joined by Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka as well as members from Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action
“How many violent events involving guns will occur before action is taken to control the sale of guns? Once again, we gather to share our outrage against these brutal acts of hate and destruction, and call for greater control of how guns are sold and manufactured. Violence against one segment of our population is violence against everyone, and it cannot be tolerated. I support our Senators, Cory Booker and Robert Menendez, for continuing their bold stance to institute common sense gun control laws and exercise greater regulation over the arms industry,” said County Executive DiVincenzo.
"When do we say now is the time to talk about reasonable national gun laws? When do we say 'no more' to the violence? When do we begin a meaningful dialogue? When do we honor the victims past and present? America wants sane policy when it comes to access to guns. I say the time is now. The public and our officers are clearly at risk. We cannot wait on this any longer,” said Sheriff Fontoura.
“As we mourn these victims, we should be equally disturbed by the day-to-day terror on the streets of our cities. Last year, the number of lives lost to gun violence in the U.S. was the highest in decades,” said Mayor Baraka. “As members of a civilized nation, we should not only be outraged but embarrassed by this continuing scourge, and past government’s abject failure to contain it. This call, for muscular, enforceable legislation is critical and we need all law-abiding citizens on both sides of the gun issue to get behind this effort."
"The time to act on gun violence is way past due, and that starts with passing lifesaving background check legislation into law. We still have over 400 people dying in an average year by gun violence here in New Jersey – without federal action, guns from states with weak gun laws are still wreaking havoc on our state,” said Theresa Turner from Moms Demand Action. “No community will be safe from the scourge of gun violence until there is meaningful federal action on this — we’ve needed it for the past 25 years, and we need it now.”
"Gun Violence has remained an unceasing epidemic inside an already deadly pandemic. 2020 was one of the deadliest years on record for the United States with estimates suggesting that total gun deaths will exceed 40,000— a 50-year record high," said Jai Patel from Students Demand Action.
Pastor Daeho Kim, Chairperson of the Korean American Sanctuary Church Network, also attended the rally to discuss the alarming rise in anti-Asian sentiments and violence across the country. Many view the attack in Atlanta as a culmination of a years’ worth of anti-Asian rhetoric associated with the erroneous link of COVID-19 to the AAPI community.
“I still believe America is not the place to destoy your dreams but it is the place to make your dream come true,” said Pastor Kim. “But the lives of Asian Americans communities are crushed by hate, ignorance, guns and violence We don’t want America to be the place where someone merely has to survive, but the place where everyone can thrive. So let us keep our communities safe.”
On Wednesday, Sens. Menendez and Booker joined their colleagues in introducing a resolution condemning all forms anti-Asian sentiment, racism and discrimination. The senators, along with Congressman Andy Kim (N.J.-03), held a virtual roundtable on Tuesday with New Jersey AAPI community leaders to discuss the rise in anti-Asian attacks.
April 22, 2021