Congress members Tom Suozzi, Kathleen Rice and Peter King sponsored a bipartisan March for Our Lives rally at Farmingdale State College on March 24, organized and promoted by students from high schools across Long Island. The event drew more than 1,500 participants who packed themselves into the college’s Nold Hall Athletic Complex, all brandishing powerfully-worded signs lending their support to the cause of firearm control and protecting the lives of America’s youth from the scourge of gun violence.
Last month, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, with an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle—when he left, 17 people had been killed and 17 more wounded, making the tragic event one of the worst school mass shootings in history.
The surviving Parkland students had decided that the death and mayhem they and countless others have been forced to endure is enough, and became outspoken advocates on common-sense gun reform and curbing school violence in the United States. Noting the power that lobbying groups such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) hold over lawmakers, which has resulted a standstill in terms of passing any meaningful gun control legislation on a federal level, students nationwide—inspired by their Parkland brethren—have decided to take to the streets to make an impassioned plea for real change.
Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas was one of the speakers at the Farmingdale event and noted how impressed she was by the students across the country that had set up similar anti-gun events in their communities in order to try and to the job that they say the adults have thus far failed to accomplish.
“You are so inspiring…every day I wake up and read stories about these kids and every day I’m inspired by this movement, this feeling that the adults are holding the reins and they’ve disappointed everyone,” she said. “It’s time for us to step aside and let these kids do what they need to do. It’s time for us to listen to their voices because they speak with such clarity and such purity and such mission. I can’t even imagine what it’s like walking into your classroom and have to look around to try to find the quickest way out if a gunman comes in. None of us ever had to deal with this before.”
Suozzi was especially animated when he stood up to speak to the gathered audience, loudly leading them in a rousing chant of “enough is enough” before addressing the growing support for what he called long-overdue changes to current gun regulations in this country, as well as warning those standing in its way that there is a new generation of young voters in this country that they will have to answer to soon.
“There are over 700 matches going on throughout America today. Twelve marches going on in Long Island alone. We have to thank our young people throughout the country, throughout the island, thank all of them. This is a bipartisan issue…regardless of your politics, we need Democrats and Republicans to pass legislation, and if they don’t support it, we need to kick them out,” he said. “Ninety percent of Americans support common sense gun reform. Background checks for commercial sales, gun violence restraining orders for people that are mentally ill or that have domestic violence issues or felons who have guns in their house and shouldn’t. This kind of legislation is universally supported in this country, but we can’t get it brought up to the floor of the house because our politicians are beholden to special interests. That has to change.”
Rice and King were unable to attend the rally due to previous commitments.
A special speaker at the event was Kevin McCarthy, a survivor of the 1993 Long Island Rail Road Massacre. McCarthy, whose father Dennis was killed during that shooting, still suffers from the physical effects of the shooting—the tragedy inspired his mother, Carolyn McCarthy, to serve as a U.S. Congresswoman and fight for gun reform from 1997-2015.
“I’m a victim and a citizen,” he said. “I’m calling on all elected officials to stand up for the citizens and not for the special interests.”