The mood in U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s virtual town hall was somber as the weight of the country’s ceaseless mass shooting epidemic weighed heavy on the minds of both the two-term congressmember and her Bronx and Queens constituents.
Parkchester native Lisa Hamilton, who watched the Thursday evening town hall with her six-year-old daughter, told the Bronx Times they felt compelled to, largely, because they said Ocasio-Cortez wants to fix this country’s issue with gun violence.
“I’m sick of thoughts and prayers. AOC is sick of thoughts and prayers. My daughter is scared of what’s happening to kids her age and younger,” she told the Bronx Times. “It’s refreshing to see someone get mad, get upset at what’s happening to these babies, because enough is a enough.”
In the month since Ocasio-Cortez’s last town hall with her District 14 constituents, four high-profile mass shootings — an anti-Asian shooting in Dallas’ Koreatown, slayings in a Taiwanese Church in California, a white supremacist attack on Black patrons in a Buffalo supermarket and the horror inside a Texas elementary school in Uvalde on Tuesday — have all but dominated the fears of her constituents and reignited a gun control conversation, nationally.
While the topics of redistricting, a trip to Puerto Rico and options for status compromise for the territory were also on AOC’s town hall agenda, it was clear Thursday’s town hall was an unfiltered place for the progressive to reflect on America’s gun culture and frustrations with unsuccessful measures to pass gun control legislation.
Ocasio-Cortez reiterated to her near 100 constituents that gun control measures have cleared the House but are being obstructed in the Senate — placing a wealth of the blame on Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, and Kyrsten Sinema, of Arizona — who have refused to consider reforms to the Senate cloture (filibuster) rule, which requires 60 votes to limit debate and move to a vote on non-budgetary legislation.
AOC highlighted three bills of note: H.R. 8 — a measure that would make background checks stricter — as well as H.R. 1808, which would ban “semi-automatic assault weapons,” and H.R. 1454, which would expand the definition of firearms to include custom-built firearms termed “ghost guns.”
The proliferation of ghost guns has been a focus in the crime strategy for New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ administration, and a day after the Uvalde shooting, a ghost gun was found outside the Street Academy School in Brooklyn.
The weapon was found around 11 a.m., when officials at the Bedford-Stuyvesant school were told by a female student that her 16-year-old boyfriend had put the firearm in a duffel bag outside the school, according to a law enforcement source.
“Every time you hear about a mass shooting happening at a school, you imagine it could be yours,” a teacher from PS 106, a school in AOC’s district, told the Times. “I think every teacher has had that thought in the back of their head since Sandy Hook, and nothing has changed since.”
The Parkchester progressive did not hold back on her criticisms of the two senators and urged the Senate to “eliminate or amend” the filibuster necessary to get gun control legislation on the desk of President Joe Biden.
Both Manchin and Sinema — unpopular figures in the eyes of progressives and accused of blocking Democratic-backed bills in the 50-50 split Senate — have also received money from billionaire donors linked to the firearms industry and National Rifle Association, according to the New York Times.
“This is not just a Republican problem. We have obstructionists,” she said. “All this blood is spilling, and yet the filibuster is more important … they are complicit in the violence and I will not make excuses for Democratic senators who refuse to act on this issue.”
In reference to Thursday’s unspeakable shooting at Robb Elementary School, she said “19 babies’ lives were not worth the dark money they are receiving to preserve the filibuster” in calling out her two Democrat colleagues.
Neither Manchin’s nor Sinema’s offices had responded to the Bronx Times requests for comment as of the time of publication.
Reach Robbie Sequeira at firstname.lastname@example.org or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes