Apr. 12, 2023 By Ethan Marshall
Several local organizations came together for a rally on Wednesday, April 12, outside Congressman George Santos’ Douglaston office to protest against his sponsorship of a proposed bill to declare the AR-15 the national gun of the United States.
Among those represented at the rally were Robert Zimmerman, Santos’ Democratic opponent in the 2022 general election; Lynda Beigel-Schulman, the mother of Scott Beigel, one of the victims of the 2018 Parkland shooting; and members of MoveOn, Indivisible, Bend the Arc and Moms Demand Action.
This rally comes in the wake of recent mass shootings in Nashville, Tennessee, on March 27 and Louisville, Kentucky, on April 10. The first shooting left seven dead, including the shooter, while the second left six dead, also including the shooter. In both shootings, the perpetrator used an AR-15 style rifle.
“George Santos embraces assault rifles and Republicans embrace George Santos,” Zimmerman said. “They are complicit in this travesty. They are complicit in this injustice. We are here to stand together today united and strong, making it clear that we understand what’s at stake for our nation.”
According to Emily Raphael Schulman of Concerned Citizens of NY-03, most New Yorkers have supported gun control measures. A 2022 Siena College poll was cited, which showed that 76% of New Yorkers supported a law that would require a permit in order to get a semi-automatic rifle. In order to receive this permit, individuals would have to pass background checks, take a safety measure course and be at least 21 years of age.
“People in this district care about gun safety and rightly recognize that it should not be a partisan issue,” Raphael Schulman said. “It’s about safety. Santos is merely hoping to stay relevant by appealing to the most extreme elements in this country. We’re not those people and we won’t stand for it.”
A letter to Santos by the Plainview-Old Bethpage Central School District on March 22 was brought up to reinforce the fact that Santos’ own constituents were vehemently opposed to this bill. They expressed concern over Santos supporting the championing of a gun that is frequently used to perform mass shootings across the country, especially in schools.
“Co-sponsoring a bill that glorifies this semiautomatic assault rifle will only serve to glorify what has become a weapon of choice for mass shootings in schools, what should be a sacred place where students and educators feel safe,” the Plainview-Old Bethpage Board of Education, leaders of the Plainview Congress of Teachers, Association of Administrators, Parent/Teacher Association, Teamsters, Superintendent of Schools and Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School Student Government said in the letter. “Instead, we ask you to devote your time and attention to advocating for gun safety, supporting legislation that could help stop the massacre of our children and staff.”
Beigel-Schulman said that if a gunman enters a school building with an AR-15, it is almost certain that people will die, regardless of how fast the response is from police. She expressed the opinion that Santos sponsoring this bill shows he is of the opinion that the second amendment right takes priority over the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. She then used her time at the rally to attempt to address Santos directly.
“It’s bad enough that you hide behind the second amendment to prevent the enactment of reasonable gun safety legislation,” Beigel-Schulman said. “But why do you want to glorify death and pain, sadness and loss, by making the AR-15 the national gun? It makes no sense!”
Zimmerman credited Beigel-Schulman’s advocacy work as playing a big role in stricter and safer gun laws in the state of New York. This included red flag laws and the banning of ghost guns. He pointed out states with stricter gun laws experience less gun-related deaths. He also called out members of the GOP who have attacked the American school system, claiming teachers have created an environment harmful to kids.
“Teaching American history does not threaten children,” Zimmerman said. “The LGBTQ+ community does not threaten children. Assault weapons threaten and kill children. Signing up for gun safety legislation saves children’s lives, saves Americans’ lives, saves our communities and families from the horror and tragedy we’ve all had to confront in too many places.”
Despite Santos’ love of the AR-15, there’s a sign posted on the front door of his office stating nobody is allowed inside with weapons. Shortly after the speakers finished addressing the crowd at the rally, the police showed up, having been called by those in the congressman’s office. They ended up asking those at the rally to back away from the office building.