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Transcript: Mayor Adams Joins U.S. Representatives Goldman and Frost and DOE Chancellor Banks for Gun Violence- and Youth-Related Announcement

June 6, 2024

U.S. Representative Daniel Goldman: Thank you very much, everyone, for coming today. I'm Congressman Dan Goldman here in my district, the 10th District of New York, for a really exciting announcement that we're honored to be here today to deliver.

We have many advocates, gun safety advocates who are here with us, and I want to make a special acknowledgment of my Congressional colleague, Maxwell Frost from Florida. Maxwell's been a tireless advocate for gun safety since he was in high school, and he is now the only Gen Z member of Congress. He's a freshman, that is a freshman in Congress, not a freshman in high school. Of course, here with Mayor Adams, Chancellor Banks, to discuss today's safe storage.

We talk a lot about gun safety legislation, gun safety regulation, common sense laws that will simply make America safer and will help to minimize the scourge of gun violence that we see around our country every day. There are many other ways that we can tackle the gun violence epidemic, and one of them is safe storage, safe firearms storage. That is something that everyone should be able to get behind.

Now, as a father of five, I know the fear that we all have, we all of us parents have when we send our kids to school. We used to wonder if they were going to make a friend on the playground, now we have to wonder whether they're going to come home at all. The vast majority of school shooters, about three quarters, get their weapons from family members at home. 4.6 million children live in homes with loaded and unlocked guns, and that's why safe gun storage is so important to stop unintentional gun firings. Safe storage lowers the chances of children being shot by 85 percent.

We will continue to work on the federal level on Ethan's Law, which requires safe storage, and I think Representative Frost will talk about that a little bit more, but what we're talking right now here is that there are 350 children under the age of 18 who either unintentionally shoot themselves or others with a firearm every year. That's almost one per day. 70 percent of those incidents happen at home, and just within this last week in Brownsville in New York City, we have experienced a similar tragic gun accident where a 12-year-old fired on a 14-year-old cousin and killed him. The majority of children who commit suicide do so with a family member's gun, and more than three quarters, as I mentioned, are school shooters.

Today we are here proudly to jointly announce that the Department of Education of New York City, the largest public school system in the country with over 1 million students, will be disseminating safe storage information to all parents and their communities to inform anyone who has a firearm at home how to keep those guns safe, how to keep the ammunition safe, how to keep the guns locked, and how, therefore, to prevent unintentional shootings.

The Office of Gun Violence Prevention at the White House through the Department of Education sent a letter earlier this year to a number to all superintendents around the country, and it is truly a testament to the mayor, Chancellor Banks, and New York City's leading efforts to keep our communities safe from gun violence that New York City has jumped on this opportunity and will be disseminating this information to all of our families. It's an exciting day and we're really proud to be here. Teachers Unify, which is represented back here with their shirts, they will, Sari and Abbey will be speaking in a minute, but they've been really strong advocates. Sari is a 22-year public school teacher here in New York City. Without further ado, I'd love to introduce Mayor Adams to say a few words.

Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you so much, Congressman, and I want to thank you and Congressman Frost for really reaching out to the chancellor and his team, and I really want to thank the chancellor for understanding how important this issue is.

It breaks our heart. I spoke with the dad who was the victim of the shotgun death to his child, and he was traumatized. He was traumatized and just trying to find some type of rationale as his son told him about his plans he wants to do in the future, how he would like to go on to become a lawyer, and how excited he was. It's unimaginable for any of us that, if you have children, of just getting that call, that call is so chilling. I remember after the death of, after we buried Detective Jonathan Diller, going up to the Bronx, that same, after the funeral, going to the Bronx where a two-year-old was shot. It's just, you never change if you are a parent. It's never normalized. You never really recover.

We often spend a lot of time talking about the gun violence that takes place on our streets, and we sometimes [inaudible] through delegation and with Congressman Goldman saying, and those who are watching this, and if you have guns at home, get safe locks, get storage. Really think about the inquisitive nature of a child to pick up a gun, and oftentimes they don't realize the seriousness of it because the gun culture is all around us. Video games to television programs, they don't realize the sensitivity of this.

This is such an important, simple step we can take. We're proud to do so, and it is important for us to realize that when you think about it, guns are the leading cause of death among ages 1 to 17. Firearms suicides among young people ages 10 to 24 is the highest rate in 20 years. The over proliferation of guns in our community really impacts us.

As we look at Gun Safety Awareness Month, this is an additional step we can take. A simple letter, a simple notification, a simple communication would make parents who have guns in their homes think differently. Then when you look at the Supreme Court ruling that is going to encourage, we must think how this can impact our families. When we know that we give people the tools that they need, they're able to safeguard their weapons and safeguard the lives of their loved ones.

We are really pleased and enthusiastically behind this piece of legislation. We're going to do our job, Congressman, and I'm going to thank our educators that are here for 22 years and 32 years in the school system. These educators do more than ensure that our children are academically smart. They make sure that they're safe. They see the tragedies. They have to go back into schools and explain when a child is lost prematurely to violence. It traumatizes the whole school. This is why we're doing this great job, Congressman Goldman, Congressman Frost, and whatever we're going to do, we want to be partners with you on this. Thank you very much.

Representative Goldman: Thank you. Now I'm going to introduce Congressman Maxwell Frost, who was instrumental in helping stand up the White House's Office of Gun Violence Prevention, which is the first of its kind that has an executive branch-wide focus on stopping gun violence prevention. The materials that will be going out as part of this messaging were compiled by that office, and Congressman Frost has worked so closely with them. Thank you for being here up in New York City. Why don't you come say a few words?

U.S. Representative Maxwell Frost: Thank you so much. Good afternoon, everybody. I'm Congressman Maxwell Alejandro Frost. I have the proud honor of representing Florida's 10th Congressional District, Orlando, Florida, in the United States Congress. It's pretty hot up here, and humid, not necessarily Florida hot. I was expecting something a little different, but it's all right.

I'm proud to be here with my friend and colleague, Congressman Dan Goldman, proud to be here with the mayor, New York City Mayor Adams, and our amazing advocates and teachers behind us. Thank you so much for your work. My mom just retired as a public school educator of 37 years, teaching special education. Now that she's retired, she's busier than ever because she's a Moms Demand Action volunteer. She told me the other day she's going to be in D.C. next week, and she has a meeting with me to lobby me.

Listen, y'all, as the first member of my generation in Congress, and something I always say is Gen Z is defined by many things, but unfortunately, we're also the mass shooting generation. I got involved in politics at the age of 15 for one simple reason. I didn't want to get shot in school. It was actually the Sandy Hook shooting that pushed me to come up here, where I became close friends with Sarah Clements, her daughter. That's part of the reason I got involved in politics in the first place. A few years later, I had become the national organizing director for March for Our Lives, the movement that really changed this country and the world after the horrible shooting that happened in Parkland, Florida. Fighting for common sense gun prevention and gun solutions is something that's been the fight of my life.

I'm really proud to be here for this announcement. It doesn't matter if you're a Democrat or Republican, bullets don't discriminate. No matter if you're white, Black, Latino, rich, poor, bullets don't discriminate. The sad reality is that we lose 100 lives a day due to senseless gun violence. Too many of us have seen our communities and even our families personally touched by this. Gun violence, like it was mentioned, is the leading cause of death for children in this country. I like to put it bluntly for people watching at home, if God forbid you lost your child, the leading reason in this country is because of a bullet.

That's why today's announcement is so critical. How many more tragedies do we have to have our communities go through? How many more mass shooting drills do our students have to go through? I just had an elementary school in D.C. a few weeks ago and I asked a six-year-old, what laws would you pass thinking, breakfast before or dessert before dinner, no homework. She raised her hand, six-years-old, and said, I would ban assault weapons so I don't get shot in school. How much more trauma and death do we have to allow our students and teachers to go through before doing something? That's why I'm proud to be standing here together with advocates and for folks who are doing something about the problem.

It was mentioned, my first bill when I got to Congress was to create a federal office of gun violence prevention. I was really proud to partner with many members of the Democratic coalition, including Congressman Dan Goldman, to fight with advocates. When I got that call from the White House and they said we're going to take that bill and use it as the framework to create the first ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, it wasn't just the culmination of work that we've done in Congress and that was a huge part, but the work of the advocates and the movement that have been fighting for years. I'm very proud that one of the first things that office did was send materials and work with school districts, superintendents, cities across the country to ask people to do this very thing.

A huge kudos to the mayor and to the commissioner to the City of New York for being one of the first cities to take this step. We know we got a lot more we need to do to end gun violence, but this is a very important step in making sure that our students are safe and that we have safe storage at our homes. Let's not let our kids and our families and our schools and communities become another statistic. In this country, we need to make sure that freedom is also the freedom to be safe. That's what patriotism is about. Patriotism isn't just about beer, bald eagle, and flag, as some people will have you believe. Patriotism is about loving the people who live in the country.

In the words of the late great, or of the great, not late, of the great, alive and well, Angela Davis, I'm no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I'm changing the things I cannot accept. We can't accept this sort of gun violence in our communities. That's why I'm proud to be here and we'll continue to fight. Thank you so much. I'm proud to be here with my colleague, Dan Goldman. Thank you. Thank you.

Representative Goldman: The fight against gun violence has to be taken from all angles. Congressman Frost and I are working at the federal level to pass gun violence prevention legislation. The mayor and New York City are doing many things on the city level. The State of New York is a leading state for gun safety legislation.

We also have to look for things that are not legislation. We have to look for opportunities to help protect our communities that don't require a law to be passed. That's why I'm proud that Chancellor Banks is here with us to talk about how he jumped at this opportunity to help keep his 1 million public school students safer by disseminating this information. Chancellor?

Chancellor David Banks, New York City Public Schools: Yes. Thank you so much, Congressman and Congressman Frost, welcome to New York. I'm not sure how long you're going to be hanging out here in the Big Apple, but it's a great place to be. Thank you that you are here. For everyone who's from outside of our city, welcome to New York. We hope that you stick around long enough to really enjoy our city.

This is something that we are going to lean into as New York City Public Schools. We have access to almost a million parents and families, and we are going to make sure that we get this word out to all of our parents and families around those who may in fact have guns. How do you safely secure those guns?

Gun violence in and of itself is an issue. Then what we had that happened in Brooklyn last week was not a matter of gun violence. We had a young man who killed his cousin accidentally because they had access to a gun that was not safely secured. Anything that we can do as deeper reminders to parents who do in fact legally possess guns, to give them more information around how to safely store those is critically important. My brothers and I are the sons of a New York City police officer. My dad did almost 30 years on the NYPD.

I remember when my father became a police officer and I was a little boy. One of the first things that he did with my brothers and I, he brought us together, he made sure that the gun had no bullets in it, and he had us hold the gun. He let us touch the gun because what he was doing, he was being very intentional in saying, I want to eliminate your curiosity about the gun. This is not a toy and it is not for you. This is something that I have to have that is part of my work. It will be safely secured. He put it out of view for us and out of reach for us. He was very smart about eliminating the curiosity that is a natural curiosity that kids have. I've never shot a gun a day in my life. My dad made sure that I wasn't even curious about doing that.

It is critically important that our parents and our families understand that the safe storage of the firearms that they possess, that they understand how to do that and understand that the kids are naturally curious. Sometimes it might not even be your own child. It may be a friend of the family who comes over, maybe one of your child's classmates who comes over. You have to ensure that firearms are not anywhere close to where kids can access them. They have to be secured safely. You're going to hear from some of the speakers here today about the specifics around how you do that and why that is so critically important.

I just want to say to both of the congressmen, I appreciate your leadership on this together with our mayor. We commit ourselves to working very closely with you and ensuring that this information is shared widely with all of our parents and families. The more information we have about how to keep our guns safe will keep our kids safe. We are here for it. We'll be partners with you. Thank you so much for leading on this. Thank you.

Representative Goldman: Given so many of the statistics that we have been talking about today about the rise in gun violence against children, there are a couple of teachers who realize that teachers also have a role to play. Teachers are often also suffer from gun violence epidemic through mass shootings at schools. It's really been a pleasure to work so closely with Teachers Unify to End Gun Violence on this initiative. We're honored to have several of the members here today. I'm going to call up the co-founder and executive director, Abbey Clements, to say a few words. Thank you. Thank you.

Abbey Clements, Executive Director and Co-Founder, Teachers Unify to End Gun Violence: My name is Abbey Clements, and I've been a teacher for 32 years. On December 14, 2012, my second grade students and I huddled, terrified at the sound of 154 gunshots blaring through our beloved Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut. Last year, those students graduated high school. Next week, I'll be attending graduation at Newtown High School, and 20 children and six educators will be starkly missing, those who were taken by gun violence on that fateful day.

Since the tragedy, I've spent my life outside of school working in gun violence prevention. I'm particularly proud of the work I've done with my union, the American Federation of Teachers, on raising awareness and amplifying outrage. All the while, gun violence rages on, and rarely, if ever, do we hear from the teachers, the counselors, the professors, the paraeducators, after school or community gun violence. Educators are the helpers.

We're the communication experts, the experts in our field and caregivers of our students and often of the families, and sometimes we're first responders. We walk through the aftermath with children and families. We see and we navigate the effects of trauma, and we know the signs of fear if there hasn't yet been direct impact, since we are a nation of survivors.

This is why Teachers Unify to End Gun Violence was launched two and a half years ago. Educators need to be invited to the table and to press conferences like this to have the conversation about what can we do to stop this. We have to talk about what it's like when kids are impacted by gun violence, when they can't concentrate, when they can't sleep. My students, these students who survived with me, there was a time they couldn't even be alone for five minutes. They didn't sleep in their own beds, they weren't eating right, they were all in therapy.

We want to avoid these empty desks in classrooms, right, moving these desks out when there's a community shooting. We want to avoid these empty seats at graduation. We are here thrilled about this letter because it's all about education and clarity and normalizing the expectations of safe firearm storage. Thank you so much for having us. This letter will no doubt save lives. Thank you.

Representative Goldman: Thank you, Abbey. Thank you. Now I want to call up Sari Beth Rosenberg, who is also a co-founder of Teachers Unify and a 22-year New York City Public School teacher. Sari?

Sari Beth Rosenberg, Co-Founder, Teachers Unify to End Gun Violence: Yes, I'm a proud New York City teacher, public school teacher. I'm so proud to have been working at the same high school, High School for Environmental Studies, for 22 years teaching U.S. history. I'm so thankful for Congressman Goldman, Congressman Frost, the mayor, the chancellor, and their amazing staff for taking the lead on this crucial part of this really important effort to keep us safe.

Since — as you've heard from everyone here, I'm going to say it again —, gun violence is the leading because of death for children and teens in the United States of America. As a result, I can't think of a more pressing issue for our city and our nation. My students take a stand on this issue. They are fed up and they're afraid. They made snowflakes to send to Abbey's school and students and teachers and school staff after the horrific Sandy Hook shooting. They demanded that they walk out of school after the Parkland shooting. They see these tragedies unfold from unintentional shootings at homes, stray bullets in parks, and the horrific mass shootings in schools, universities, public spaces that should be safe and can be safe.

I stand here today, proud co-founder of Teachers Unify to End Gun Violence, and the 15,000 teachers, counselors, paraprofessionals, librarians, I'm going to keep going on — school staff members, retired teachers, and everyone who work — in schools, because we're all teachers if we're in a school, as well as our supporters who have joined us, and also those who live in the surrounding communities who have been plagued by the gun violence epidemic.

I just want to end by saying and reminding us all, I think we all know this by now and I hope so, this is not a political issue. Some folks want to make it one. It's not. It is a public health crisis. This is a public health crisis and this letter will save lives. I thank everyone who is in the chancellor's office, the mayor's office, the congressmen who are standing behind this letter. It's a step in the right direction and thank you so much.

Representative Goldman: Thank you, Sari. Now I want to introduce my friend, Community Board 2 of Manhattan member, public school parent, and terrific advocate for education and so many other things, Mar Fitzgerald to say a few words.

Mar Fitzgerald, Manhattan Community Board 2: Hi. My name is Mar Fitzgerald and I am a proud New York City Public School parent. My daughter is one of the almost 1 million public school students required to participate in multiple active shooter lockdown drills every year to prepare them for the fact that they might be or their friends or their beloved teachers may be a victim of gun violence at school. Add to that the everyday fear as a parent that there might be an uninformed adult that has not properly safeguarded their firearm in the home.

Today we're working towards a future where we send our children to school without fear, our kids go to school without fear, and lockdown drills are no longer necessary. Millions of children in the U.S. live in homes with unsecured firearms leading to hundreds of unintentional shootings every year. It's not just about the potential for accidents but also the risk that those firearms might fall into the wrong hands and be used for violence.

Safe firearm storage is a crucial prevention tool that can keep our homes, schools, and communities safe from gun violence. By providing families with clear, accessible information for safe gun storage to all New York City Public School families, the New York City Department of Education is taking a crucial step towards preventing tragedies and saving lives. I want to thank Congressman Goldman and Frost as well as the chancellor and of course the mayor. Today you took a step to keep our kids safe. Thank you.

Representative Goldman: Thank you very much Mar. Our last speaker but perhaps our greatest advocate in New York State for gun safety is Rebecca Fischer, the executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence who's been a terrific partner in so many different initiatives. Rebecca.

Rebecca Fischer, Executive Director, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence: Thank you so much Congressmember Goldman and also thank you Congressmember Frost for being here. Thank you of course to City Hall for having me and also to the survivors and activists who are here today. My name is Rebecca Fisher.

I'm the executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence which is a statewide state-focused organization that advocates for strong policies to prevent gun violence and also funding for programs that prevent gun violence. We also have a New York City Public School program that is implemented by our community-based signature program called Reaction and so I'm uniquely positioned every single day to speak to our credible messengers who are in New York City public schools working with young people and facilitating conversation around the trauma that they are experiencing.

I just want to say as a New Yorker and as New Yorkers Against Gun Violence that it's important to point out that what we're dealing with mostly here in New York City is a handgun trafficking crisis that is disproportionately impacting Black and brown communities and we have mass shootings here and the vast majority of them are happening in our communities in our streets in spaces that they should not be happening. But that does not mean that our schools and our Department of Education should not be a partner with our parents and our young people. Because not only is gun violence the leading cause of death for young people nationally, it is also the leading cause of death for young people in New York State.

And so even though we have some of the strongest gun laws in this state and some of the lowest death and injury rates in this state, we still have a public health crisis that's killing our children every single day. It is time and I'm so glad to hear from the mayor and the chancellor, to be partnering as much as possible in providing support to parents not only in the form of enforcement and implementation, but our policies strategies and our research can only be as effective as we know about it. And if we know that these practices exist and our parents know that these practices exist, they can lock up their guns. Frankly whether they're legal or not, they will know to safely store them and that's important, that's an important point to make here.

Finally I just want to say that I hope that this is a first step. We can continue to talk about gun violence in our schools and with our parents beyond safe storage and provide more trauma-informed support and mental health support to our young people. So thank you again to Congressmember Dan Goldman for having me here today, thank you to the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention for putting out these regulations and guidelines that we would not have without President Biden and thank you to City Hall for having me. Thank you.

Representative Goldman: Thanks very much we'll open up to questions.

Question: It's my understanding that this is a letter and is there a timeline for when parents will receive this information?

Representative Goldman: It is a letter but a multi-page letter with lots of information about different ways to keep guns ammunition safely stored, some general guidelines as to how to discuss guns with other parents if your children are going to someone else's house. I think the chancellor had to get back so I'm not exactly sure when they will be rolling out but I would anticipate that it would be shortly.

Question: Somebody before talked about acceptance here and changing what you don't accept. Are you worried that to some parents this might be perceived as sending a mixed message that we got to the point where we accept the fact that people have guns whether it's legally or legally, at that we're sending out a letter like this?

Second question is why not, just the PD keeps a directory of who's registered to carry firearms right, so is this it seems, this isn't just directed at people who are registered legal gun owners but people who are holding a gun illegally. Is that a fair…

Representative Goldman: Yes, you're right it would apply. It would be guidelines that would apply to anyone possessing a gun because we will all work together on the city, state and federal level to get guns off our streets, to regulate them, make sure that those who have guns are competent and qualified to have them, but also to try to attack the demand for guns. Through community violence interrupters and other organizations on the ground who are trying to get into our communities and provide awareness and education and information so that people do not want to get guns.

So it's a 360 degree problem and our approach has to be from 360 degrees. So this is one aspect of it that provides really important information that can make a difference but it doesn't detract or take away from all of our other efforts to both reduce the supply, to reduce the unqualified, dangerous people who can access guns but also to reduce the demand and I think it was Congressman Frost who had the great Angela Davis quote so I'll ask if you want to say anything.

Representative Frost: I'll say this, you're right look. This is a letter and this these are resources to give to parents and not just parents, anyone living in the household and I think this is a huge step especially coming from the gun violence prevention movement. We're seeing governments whether it's municipal, state government, the federal government, taking the step to educate people to be safe about this and so that's a huge step.

Now the next thing we'll look at is and what Dan and I will continue to fight for in D.C. is how do we add more funding to the existing bipartisan Safer Communities Act so that way cities, municipalities and school boards can apply for the actual locks or safes and things like that. That way if you no matter what your economic status is you can keep the gun safe too. So this is a huge first step, this is the first city or one of the first cities to heed this call across the entire country and now we go from here.

Question: I'm not trying to criticize the good intentions behind it but do you think some parents are going to see it as the government putting up a white flag and saying like so many people have guns you might as well give instructions?

Representative Goldman: I think I answered that question, no, because it's one piece of a much larger puzzle. And we will keep working hard in Congress to elevate Ethan's Law which is a federal safe storage law. And one of the things that I think I've certainly realized being in Congress is if you can take small initiatives and generate data and evidence related to the effectiveness of those small initiatives, you then have much more persuasion in expanding a small initiative to a much larger initiative such as federal legislation. So if we can track what the schools are doing and what the response has been or will be to this information, it provides us with more evidence with more data to be able to convince our Republican colleagues to join us in advocating and passing a law to just keep guns safely stored. Having nothing to do with who owns them how you get them or where you get them.

Question: There was mention of the 14-year-old who was shot in Brooklyn. I guess I wanted to ask how effective this resource would be to prevent such a tragedy like that happening again and is there like a presumption that perhaps a parent was negligent in that situation and with a resource like this that could have been prevented?

Representative Goldman: Well the statistics are glaring, which is that 70 percent of incidents where children unintentionally shoot themselves or others happen at home. So by almost necessity, they're getting their guns from home. And I can say as a as a parent I'm always dumbfounded by how nosy my children are, and I think I'm hiding something and all of a sudden I come home and my son's eating all my candy.

But I have candy there. If there were a gun there, my six-year-old son could get a hold of that gun. And so the reason why we need safe storage is that parents think very frequently that they're hiding something out of reach or out of access to their child and they're not. And that's why we have almost one unintentional gun violence incident every single day in this country.

Question: Have you received any detailed update from DOE [inaudible] according to your letter.

Representative Goldman: From US DOE?

Question: [Inaudible] DOE, have you received any detailed update from DOE?

Representative Goldman: Yes. I think I mentioned before that we're excited that Chancellor Banks and the Department of Education has agreed to send out these resources and send out this information to parents and we expect that will happen very shortly. Thanks very much.

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