From The Grio — “It don’t even make a difference, miss. It’s like I don’t even need to go to school or nothing because I’m just gonna die before I can finish.”
These were not the words of a terminally ill child, but of a healthy teenager I met on a summer night in Harlem not long ago. On July 4, 2012, a 21-year-old college graduate named Matt Shaw was killed by a stray bullet on Lexington Avenue. He was getting ready to go to graduate school in the fall. When I visited with some local high school students after his funeral, I found an utter lack of surprise.
Mayor Bloomberg likes to trumpet the latest declining crime numbers, but his words are no consolation for the 1,600 shootings that took place in 2012. Today I will join hundreds of activist groups, including the NAACP, for a rally in Harlem to support the NY SAFE Act. The law, signed into law just last month, is already under fire in the courts from weapon manufacturers. Similar legislation is struggling in Congress and other states. Today we hope to show that New York stands behind strong gun control, and that others should too.
I helped work on the SAFE Act, along with other community activists, when Governor Cuomo’s office reached out to us shortly after the Sandy Hook tragedy. As an NAACP activist and the Founder of Street Corner Resources at Harlem Renaissance High School, I work with children who live in high risk of gun violence. I believe that this legislation will help prevent more tragedies like the murder of Matt Shaw.
Stronger background checks for guns and ammunition will keep weapons away from people who might sell them or use them for crime. A new system for reporting stolen guns will give police a heads up when another weapon finds its way onto the streets. A more frequent renewal system for pistol permits will provide law enforcement with more complete information to do their jobs.