New Castle’s Gun Violence Awareness Day: ‘We Have Had Enough’

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Erin Fuller Brian speaks at the New Castle Gun Violence Awareness Day program on Friday in Chappaqua. Brian survived the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed 58 people.

By Nora Lowe

On Friday, New Castle observed National Gun Violence Awareness Day at the gazebo in downtown Chappaqua.

This year’s annual “Wear Orange” event was held against the backdrop of the shooting in Uvalde, Texas that claimed the lives of two teachers and 19 elementary school students, as well as other recent shootings in Buffalo and Tulsa.

The atmosphere at the gazebo oscillated between solemn moments of silence and frustrated, impassioned calls for political action. Speakers included clergy, elected officials, activists and police personnel.

“We mourn for the loss of schools and workplaces as safe harbors and peaceful environments of gathering,” said Temple Beth El Rabbi Jonathan Jaffe during the opening prayer.

New Castle Town Supervisor Lisa Katz welcomed attendees but wished it was for another occasion.

“I love gathering with our community, but I’m not really happy to be gathering here today,” Katz aid. The event served as “a stark reminder of the horror” taking place around the country, she said.

Uvalde, Tulsa and Buffalo join a long list of other communities that have been torn apart, names of places that have become synonymous with gun violence, such as Newtown, Parkland, Aurora, El Paso, Dayton, San Bernardino, Las Vegas, Charleston and Virginia Tech and Columbine, among others.

“When it comes to the safety of our children and fellow citizens, the toxic, hyper-partisan politics of the day must be set aside,” Katz said.

Keynote speaker Erin Fuller Brian recounted her own harrowing experience as a survivor of the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting in which 58 concert-goers were murdered.

The Pleasantville resident and mother of two described the aftermath of the experience: struggles with PTSD, nightmares, panic attacks, social isolation and survivor’s guilt. Anxiety is an ongoing battle.

She points to “Washington gridlock” as a root cause of the issue.

“This is unacceptable. This is negligence…We have had enough,” Brian said.

She urged attendees to donate to organizations such as Brady: United Against Gun Violence, attend March for Our Lives events, vote and call representatives to “remind them that they work for us.”

County Executive George Latimer emphasized that “Sandy Hook could have easily been any suburban town in Westchester County.” Despite pride over county and state progress, he said he was concerned about the ease with which firearms are illegally transported across state borders.

State Sen. Peter Harckham (D-Lewisboro) announced the recent approval of 10 bills in the state legislature, which he soon expects the governor to sign into law. Some changes include raising the minimum age to purchase a semi-automatic weapon from 18 to 21 and banning the purchase of body armor.

New Castle Police Chief James Carroll lamented how “gun deaths in our country are occurring at a staggering pace” and how in the U.S., “children are far more likely to die of gun violence than any other cause.”

Moms Demand Action volunteer Naomi Marrow said the rash of mass shootings has altered her routine when visiting movie theaters. Previously, she would make note of where the bathrooms were located.

“Now, I make sure I know where the exits are,” Marrow said. “That is obscene. It has become a dangerous world.”

During the late afternoon program, a boys’ baseball team played in the field adjacent to the gazebo, and children fiddled with symbolic orange pinwheels.

“They are our future, and they’re the ones we need to protect,” Katz said.

At a recent meeting, the New Castle Town Board adopted a proclamation designating June 3 as National Gun Violence Awareness Day in the town.

 

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