By Akanksha Kar and Andrea Keckley
When local residents like Lucy Peters and Robert Gaffar spoke about the loved ones they lost to mass shootings at a modest gym in Westbury on Saturday, Rep. Kathleen Rice (D – Garden City) did not choose to remember them with a moment of silence.
“Every time there is a shooting, they have a moment of silence on the floor of the house,” Rice said to the over 250 people gathered there. “And do you know what I do when they do that? I walk off the floor of the house.”
The audience – some senior citizens, some not old enough to vote yet – burst into applause.
The issue of gun violence hit home for many of the Long Islanders who gathered Saturday at The Rally to End Gun Violence, co-hosted by Rice and Rep. Tom Suozzi (D – Long Island, Queens) at the “Yes We Can” Community Center. There, attendees sought to galvanize voters into sending a “#Orange Wave In November” by electing candidates who intend to push for gun safety laws in the midterms Nov. 6. This includes both Rice and Suozzi, who are running for re-election.
“It is so important that people get out and vote,” Suozzi said. “Don’t underestimate how powerful you can be.”
While many democrats throughout the country are calling for a “blue wave” (bringing more democratic ballots to the polls) at the midterms, the term “Orange Wave” is intended put the specific issue of gun safety into the minds of voters. Orange wave originates from the nonprofit Orange Ribbons for Jaime. The organization was founded by Fred Guttenberg, who’s daughter, Jaime Gutenberg, was killed in Feb. during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Jaime’s uncle, Paul Guttenberg, spoke at Saturday’s rally.
“The GOP and Trump is calling us an angry mob,” Guttenberg said. “We are not angry. But we need to remain a peaceful mob…and let’s work as an orange mob, and let’s vote for gun safety in November.”
Other rally speakers included Robert Gaffar, a survivor of the shooting that happened in Las Vegas in Oct. of last year, Lucy Peters, who’s relative Scott Biegel was killed in the shooting at Parkland, local students Rahul Ajmera and Lilly Molesky, North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth and of course, Suozzi and Rice.
“My grandson tells me that when they have a fire drill he walks into every room in his high school to check to see where he could hide,” Gail Jospa, a rally attendee who’s grandchildren attend high school at Hollow Hills in Suffolk County, said. “So this is not just Long Island. This is the country.”
School safety was a common topic of discussion at the rally. Several school districts across Long Island have recently increased their security provisions.
Rally attendees held signs reading messages such as “arms are for hugging” and “fear has no place in our schools” and chanted “enough is enough.”
“This issue has to be dealt with, we just can’t keep ignoring it,” Paula Dodge, another rally attendee, said. “So that’s really why I’m here, plus the fact that I know how essential this midterm election is.”