Torres and gun violence victims and families urge congressional action

Congressman Ritchie Torres demands gun violence be declared a public health emergency .
Photos by Jason Cohen

With recent mass shootings in Atlanta and Colorado, lawmakers are fed up and want change. Among those is Congressman Ritchie Torres who wants gun violence declared a public health emergency.

On Tuesday, Torres, vice chair of the House’s Homeland Security Committee, was joined by Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson, Council Candidate Pierina Sanchez, the families of victims of gun violence, gun reform advocates and Bronx residents as they called for immediate Congressional action on life-saving legislation to prevent mass-shootings and require background checks for firearm purchases.

“The shootings in Georgia and Colorado represent a wakeup call,” Torres stated. “There are too many guns and there’s too much access to guns.”

Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to require a background check for every gun sale and to end the “Charleston Loophole,” which allows gun sales to proceed even if the three day FBI investigation into a buyer isn’t complete.

“We know that background checks save lives,” he stressed. “We have the legal tools to prevent history from repeating itself, all we need it the political will.”

According to the Gun Violence Archive, in 2021 there have been 118 people injured in mass shootings, seven killed in mass murders and in total, 10,327 gun violence deaths this year.

What’s even scarier is that there are an estimated 393 million guns in this country, with only 330 million people.

Torres stressed that the government must treat gun violence like a pandemic. However, unlike COVID-19, this is a manmade problem.

“Time has come to choose people over guns,” he stressed.

The congressman explained that if gun violence was declared a public health emergency it would trigger funds that could be used to drive down gang violence. Torres is also calling on President Biden to classify ghost guns as firearms, so they can have universal background checks down on them.

Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson demands gun violence be declared a public health emergency .

He is also asking the Senate to make a homeland security and public health and safety exemption to the filibuster, meaning that legislation pertaining to public safety will not be obstructed by the filibuster.

Lastly, the congressman is demanding a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines.

“If we allow these weapons of mass destruction to circulate freely on our streets and to freely fall in the hands of dangerous people then the number one cause of gun violence will never be broken,” Torres explained. “If we refuse to protect our citizens and children from gun violence then we are failing as a government. If we fail then we will continue to have the blood of our people on our hands.”

City Council Candidate Pierina Sanchez demands gun violence be declared a public health emergency .

One person who knows the gun violence in the Bronx far too well is Community Board 3 member and local activist Linda Kemp. Kemp has witnessed bloodshed over the years, including her own grandson.

She is glad Congressman Torres is urging the president to declare gun violence a public health emergency and hopes universal background checks are approved as well.

“If that gun is registered then that youth may think twice because it leaves a paper trail,” she said as she held back tears.

She stressed that people should not fear going to the store, the park or walking the dog. Sadly, in the Bronx and many inner cities that is the case.

Kemp hopes politicians and President Biden can feel like what it is like to be in the shoes of the families who have lost people to gun violence.

“I not only speak for my grandson, but I speak for all the children,” she commented.

Bronx resident Linda Kemp ,who lost her grandson to gun violence, demands gun violence be declared a public health emergency .

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