‘Losing entire generations’: Brooklyn honors National Gun Violence Awareness Month

End Gun Violence March
Members of Moms Demand Action call for an end to gun violence at the ‘Walk with Survivors’ march earlier this month.
Photo courtesy of Marie Delus

June is National Gun Violence Awareness Month — and Brooklyn organizations are using the four weeks to amplify their continued efforts to stop gun violence and promote firearm safety.

This year’s Gun Violence Awareness Month comes as the community is still healing from the shocking April 12 mass shooting inside Brooklyn’s 36th Street subway station. Since then, and in the wake of a tragic mass shootings at a supermarket in Buffalo, and an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, tensions around gun control have grown across the five boroughs — and so has pressure on government officials to make change.

Moms Demand Action, a self-described “grassroots movement” advocating for public gun safety, commemorated June 4’s National Gun Violence Awareness Day, also known as Wear Orange Day, with a weekend of rallies, marches and other events.

Marie Delus, a member of Moms Demand Action, serves as the New York state and city “survivor lead,” meaning she works directly with those who have lost loved ones due to shootings and provides them with resources and platforms to tell their stories, promote their events, and speak with local leaders.

Delus also helped organize the group’s annual march, held in collaboration with other anti-gun violence community groups on June 4, from Foley Square to Cadman Plaza.

“The march means a lot to us because not only are we stopping gun violence but we’re showing the faces of those who lost their loved ones,” Delus told Brooklyn Paper, noting that the march was once simply known as the “March Across the Brooklyn Bridge.”

Marie Delus with photo of deceased nephew, who was a victim of gun violence
Marie Delus, Moms Demand Action survivor lead, with a photo of her nephew Pierre-Paul Jean-Paul, who died due to gun violence in 2008. Photo courtesy of Marie Delus

“We changed it to ‘Walk With Survivors’ because, as we move forward and we started noticing more gun violence survivors, we wanted to actually make sure that our focus was not only gun-violence but gun-violence survivors,” she said.

A survivor herself, Delus is passionate about giving people space to share about their lost loved ones.

“I lost my nephew to gun violence. His name is Pierre-Paul Jean Paul and I lost him November 11, 2008,” she said. “I believe that in order to put in empathy and to tell the story is to show the people out there that gun-violence has an impact, that we’re losing families, loved ones, losing entire generations. That’s what that means to me.”

Delus and her group were also present on June 6, when Governor Kathy Hochul signed a landmark legislative package to immediately strengthen the state’s gun laws. The slate of bills signed by Hochul will close critical loopholes exposed by shooters in Buffalo and Uvalde, and “protect New Yorkers from the scourge of gun violence that continues to infect our nation and endanger our communities,” according to her office.

“Gun violence is an epidemic that is tearing our country apart,” Hochul said. “Thoughts and prayers won’t fix this, but taking strong action will.”

Man Up, another advocacy group, concentrates on anti-violence development with an emphasis on the city’s youth. Man Up participated in a rally that took place on Friday, June 3 and joined in on the June 4 “Walk With Survivors” across the Brooklyn Bridge. 

Another New York City-based group, the Lay The Guns Down foundation, commemorated National Gun Violence Awareness Month by hosting an event as a part of their youth series called ‘Unity in the Community’ on June 5 at Pier 17. The civic group invited young men in the area to play basketball games and enjoy food together. 

That same day, St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Academy in Windsor Terrace wore orange to commemorate National Anti-Gun Violence Awareness Day. According to the Brooklyn Diocese, the school community raised over $3,000 in support of the Robb Elementary School community in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 students and two teachers were killed on May 24.

The national movement during June brings awareness during a time where tensions toward gun-control are increasing, Delus said. On the heels of an apparent uptick in violent shootings — and when New York City is still fighting to combat an uptick in shootings over the last decade — the community at large is applying pressure to government officials. 

“Everyone is coming together to try to really push legislative to make sure that we have gun-safety laws,” said Delus. 

Moms Demand Action discuss gun violence with Governor Hochul
Moms Demand Action featured with Governor Kathy Hochul at a bill signing on June 6. Photo courtesy of Marie Delus

According to the New York Senate, 10-bill package recently signed by the governor, will “strengthen gun safety measures and ensure deadly weapons stay out of the wrong hands.”

Among other measures, the bills look to update the criminal code to make the threat of mass harm a crime, require microstamping of ammunition, strengthen measures to prevent those with criminal backgrounds from obtaining guns and ammo, allow health care providers to file extreme risk protection orders, and strengthen regulations for high capacity ammo, feeding devices, and body armor.

Thomas DiNapoli, New York’s comptroller, stood in agreement with a majority of state legislators.

“Gun violence in our nation has gotten worse and hurts too many families. From a grocery store in Buffalo to an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas; this scourge knows no geographic boundaries,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “The gun control bills signed into law by Governor Hochul today are common sense measures that will help keep our communities safer and give more tools to law enforcement to prevent easy access to guns.”

He added that the bills’ signing was “an important step,” but there’s more work to be done.

“We must take many more steps forward to confront the gun violence, racism and mental health issues that contributed to these tragedies,” he said.

And though the governor has garnered support from various state and city electeds for pushing through the legislative package, some opponents feel it is nothing more than “election-year talking points.”

“This package of bills does nothing to actually address the underlying mental health crisis at the center of the problem nor does it invest in securing our schools,” said New York Republican Party  Chairman Nick Langworthy in a statement. “If Hochul and legislative leaders cared about shooting victims, they would vote today to repeal their disastrous bail laws that have turned our streets over to violent criminals.”

Citywide, crime is on the rise year-to-date, according to Police Department data, but shooting incidents are down slightly across the five boroughs. Still, those numbers — 592 reported shootings so far this year, in comparison to 535 during that same time last year — stand out against the historic lows New York City hit in 2018 and 2019 (the number of shootings in the second half of 2019 was the lowest number for any six-month period in the era of CompStat, the online metric used to track crime across the Big Apple).

Less than one month into his mayorship, Mayor Eric Adams released a “Blueprint to End Gun Violence” in New York City, a roadmap which calls for both intervention and prevention “to end the gun violence epidemic affecting New York.”

St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Academy support Wear Orange.
Faculty members at St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Academy show support on Wear Orange Day. Photo courtesy of the Brooklyn Diocese

And since his inauguration, hizzoner says he’s been a part of countless crucial conversations about gun safety.

“So far this year, our nation has witnessed nearly 250 mass shootings, including recent ones in Buffalo, Uvalde, and Philadelphia,” the mayor said, speaking in favor of the “Protecting Our Kids Act” — a slate of eight bills passed by Congress on Thursday, June 9 meant to tighten the nation’s gun laws. “This epidemic affects everyday people, in every corner of New York City and across the country.”

With June far from over, there’s still plenty of opportunity for Brooklynites to become a part of the local anti-gun violence movement. March for Our Lives — an organization started by students — will host its annual rally this Saturday, June 11. 

According to organizers, a central march will take place in Washington D.C. with simultaneous gatherings taking place nationwide. The Brooklyn rally will be at Cadman Plaza Park from 12 to 4 p.m. 

For more information, visit the official march sign-up site.