Officials Respond To Newtown Shooting
BY NATALIA KOZIKOWSKA
As Americans are struggling to cope with the tragic shooting in Newtown, Conn., that claimed the lives 20 children and six adults, many Republican and Democratic leaders in Queens are weighing in on the gun debate.
Just hours after 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot his mother to death and made his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School where he opened fire on students and teachers, President Barack Obama held a press conference and first expressed a need for change in gun control in the United States “regardless of the politics.”
Queens politicians have since openly spoken out about gun laws and regulations in New York.
Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) shared a suggestion of banning assault riffles.
“No one needs target practice with assault weapons. Those were weapons that were made for war,” Meeks said. “The only ones who should have those types of weapons should be in the military. It doesn’t make any sense, we should ban them.”
Others, like Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), expressed concern with regulations set forth to obtaining firearms in America, arguing the process is far too easy and there are too many loopholes. “There’s no excuse for being able to buy a gun without a background check,” Vallone said. “The Federal government hasn’t done anything about it. Any weapon at all – there needs to be background checks and there aren’t right now. That’s crazy.”
While most local leaders advocated stricter gun laws, Kevin Ryan, a spokesperson for Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), said that the issue of mental health also needs to be addressed.
“I know [Halloran] feels we should never take away rights from individuals because of the behavior of other individuals,” Ryan said. “I think Councilman Halloran’s first point would be to put focus on the mental health issue. The shooter clearly had mental problems and something probably could have been done and should have been done to address that behavior.”
In response to the Newtown shooting, DOE Chancellor Dennis Walcott wrote a letter to NYC principals asking them to re-evaluate visitor control procedures and General Response Protocols, which cover shelter-in, lockdowns and evacuations.
“The Department of Education, the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, and the United Federation of Teachers are working together to make sure that our schools are safe and that staff and students have the support they need to move forward following this tragic event,” the statement read.
David Pena, a spokesperson for the DOE, also attributed the City’s school safety procedures and security officers as a primary reason that school shootings are not common in New York.
“We have the office of school safety and school safety officers in every school,” Pena said. “Visitors must present ID and sign in when they arrive.”
Reach Reporter Natalia Kozikowska at (718)357-7400 Ext. 123 or email@example.com.