March over Brooklyn Bridge protests mass shootings

2,200 people gather in Cadman Plaza Park

June 13, 2022 Beth Eisgrau-Heller, Special to Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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On Saturday, an estimated 2,000 people gathered in Cadman Plaza Park and marched over the Brooklyn Bridge to Foley Square in Manhattan. 

The rally was one of approximately 450 nationwide organized by March For Our Lives in reaction to the most recent high-casualty events in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas, and the overall proliferation of gun violence in the United States. 

An incident is considered a mass shooting if four or more individuals are killed. In 2022, the United States has endured 243 mass shootings to date.

After a brief ceremony memorializing lives lost to gun violence, the crowd streamed toward Tillary Street and onto the Brooklyn Bridge. 

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The Susan E. Wagner High School marching band from Staten Island brought up the rear. Signage pointed fingers squarely at politicians who have failed to pass stricter “common sense” gun reforms at a federal level. 

Twenty-seven-year-old entrepreneur Caity Begg marched in honor of Grace Audrey McDonnell, age 7, who was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012. Grace wanted to live on Martha’s Vineyard and become an artist when she grew up.

One standout said, “Our children cannot be replaced, but our senators can be!” Another, “Vote out NRA puppets.” Many placards demanded bans on semi-automatic AR-15-style weapons with sentiments like “Books not bullets!”

Caity Begg carried a poster of 7-year-old Grace Audrey McDonnell. Grace was one of 20 first-graders murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. 

Caity marched as a proxy for the McDonnell family, sharing they could not bear to attend yet another protest. “[I’m] friends with the family. [Grace] dreamt of being an Artist…And [almost] 10 years later things have not changed and it’s just senseless.”

Thirteen-year-old seventh-grader Jocelyn told the Brooklyn Eagle, “I’m marching today because guns are going out of control and kids aren’t feeling safe in their own schools.” 

Thirteen-year-old seventh graders and friends, Kinverlin (left) and Jocelyn (right), each estimated they have participated in the at least 20 safety exercises.

Christopher C., a 15-year-old high school freshman, was marching “to support ending gun violence because… it could happen in my school.” Each has participated in four drills this academic year. In total, they have experienced more lockdown drills than the number of years they have been alive, 20 and 25 respectively.

The mounting pressure from the public and massive protests may have moved lawmakers in Washington to act. On Sunday, Sens. Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, and John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, released a joint statement announcing the outline of a bipartisan agreement sponsored by ten Republicans and ten Democrats. 

The announcement also coincided with the sixth anniversary of the shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando that killed 49 and wounded 53 in 2016. The framework proposes funding for the implementation of Red Flag laws and expanded mental health and school safety resources. 

Damien C, age 10, came from Far Rockaway to march with his family. He enthusiastically handed out signs to onlookers along the protest route.

Red Flag laws enable law enforcement to confiscate guns from an individual who poses a threat to themselves or others. It would also mandate advanced background checks for buyers under the age of 21, and bar domestic abusers from owning a weapon.

But, unlike the 1994 Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act aka the Assault Weapons Ban, this proposal stops short of banning AR-15-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. It does not raise the legal purchase age to 21, nor does it provide for universal background checks or Red Flag laws at a federal level. 

The Assault Weapons ban was allowed to expire in 2004, or “sunset,” under President George W. Bush.

The names of children killed in Uvalde, TX adorned crosses arranged around a sculpture of a child hiding under a desk, remnants of the memorial service held prior to the march. The United Federation of Teachers was a visible presence at the event.

This is the most promising gun reform proposal put forward in almost thirty years. Yet it remains to be seen if the parties can find common ground on this hot potato issue. 

An NRA spokesperson told the Washington Post in part, that the group “ will make [their] position known when the full text of the bill is available for review.” President Joe Biden remarked, “It does not do everything that I think is needed, but it reflects important steps in the right direction.” 

In the meantime, school children continue to practice hiding under their desks, and talk of arming teachers continues.

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