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Hundreds march across New York bridge for stricter gun laws

Hundreds of people carrying photos of loved ones killed by gun violence marched across the Brooklyn Bridge on May 7 to rally for stricter gun laws and chanted demands for action.

The fourth annual march, held on the eve of Mother’s Day, was organized by the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

“We are going to stand up and fight until our last breath because if we lose our children we have nothing left to lose,” said the group’s founder, Shannon Watts.

Natasha Christopher knows that pain all too well. Her son, Akeal Christopher, was shot in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood in June 2012 and died days later, on his 15th birthday.

“Gun violence destroyed my family,” Christopher said. “Nothing will ever be the same. But I’m here today to say that I have turned my pain and anger into action.”

The marchers, who went from Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn to City Hall in lower Manhattan, said they wanted stricter background checks for gun purchases and a ban on assault rifles.

“They keep saying we have good, strong gun laws, but for me, I don’t believe these laws are really that strong,” Christopher said.

Marchers, as they crossed the bridge, shouted, “What do we want? Gun sense!”

Oscar-winning actress Julianne Moore was among the crowd that rallied before the march. She said she was spurred to get involved to advocate for stronger gun laws after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults in December 2012.

“We’re really pushing for more gun safety regulations,” she said. “It is not an anti-gun movement. It is not a partisan movement. It is a safety movement.”

Other speakers at Saturday’s march and rally included Barbara Parker, whose daughter Alison Parker, a broadcast journalist, was shot and killed on live television in August 2015 by a disgruntled former reporter. Parker, whose daughter died alongside video journalist Adam Ward while working for Roanoke, Virginia, TV station WDBJ, said U.S. officials need to do more to enact a policy that background checks be performed for all gun sales.

The National Rifle Association, the nation’s largest gun rights lobbying group, opposes expanding background checks. The NRA says many people sent to prison because of gun crimes get their guns through theft or the black market and no amount of background checks can stop those criminals.

Under the current system, cashiers at stores selling guns call in to check with the FBI or other designated agencies to ensure customers don’t have criminal backgrounds. Some lawmakers want to expand such checks to sales at gun shows and purchases made through the Internet.

Education groups opposing campus conceal-and-carry legislation

Four national groups representing college educators and trustees said on Nov. 12 they would fight a growing push in state legislatures to allow people to carry concealed guns on campuses.

The groups also called for the repeal of measures in several states that already allow for so-called campus carry, arguing that academic institutions should remain “as safe and weapon-free as possible for students, faculty, staff, parents and community members.”

“Colleges and universities closely control firearms and prohibit concealed guns on their campuses because they regard the presence of weapons as incompatible with their educational missions,” said the statement, signed by the American Association of University Professors, the American Federation of Teachers, the Association of American Colleges and Universities and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.

The groups said students and professors wouldn’t be comfortable discussing controversial subjects if they thought there might be a gun in the room. “College campuses are marketplaces of ideas, and a rigorous academic exchange of ideas may be chilled by the presence of weapons,” they said.

Supporters such as the National Rifle Association argue that lawful gun owners should be allowed to carry on campuses for self-protection. They argue that having more law-abiding citizens with guns could potentially deter mass shootings or allow bystanders to intervene to limit the deadly consequences.

The statement from the four groups comes amid intensifying debate over how to prevent gun violence on campuses, following last month’s shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. Lawmakers in Florida are considering plans to allow concealed permit owners to bring their guns onto campus, and several other states are expected to consider similar legislation next year.

Texas recently became the eighth state to allow the carrying of concealed weapons on campuses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The change goes into effect next year, and colleges are considering how to implement it. The law contains a key concession for opponents, giving administrators the ability to mark off certain areas as gun-free.

Seven other states — Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin — now have laws or court rulings allowing the carrying of concealed weapons on some campuses, according to the NCSL.

The higher education groups rejected the argument that more guns could deter mass shootings. They called on colleges and universities to plan for critical incidents, and “rely on trained and equipped professional law-enforcement personnel to respond to emergency incidents.”

Students for Concealed Carry, a group that is pushing for campus carry laws in several states, said the laws don’t have as much of an impact as critics claim. Few students can qualify to carry weapons because they aren’t 21, and those who do have obtained licenses and undergone background checks, spokesman Zachary Zalneraitis said.

“The people in charge, the administrators and professors, are always resistant to it,” he said. “But after it gets passed, it just becomes a non-issue.”