Tag Archives: gun violence

Queens community comes together to stop the violence


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

QC05162013.pdf - Adobe Acrobat

As politicians at all levels try to combat gun violence through legislation, local groups seeing issues within their communities have taken a grassroots approach to keeping neighborhoods safe.

“Upon my release from prison, I wanted to make sure today’s youth didn’t fall into the same traps that I fell into,” said Lance Feurtado.

He and his brother co-founded the King of Kings, an anti-violence group in southeast Queens. They started the group in 2005, a year after Feurtado was released from prison. Their main goal is to reduce shootings and killings.

Feurtado set his sights on the Redfern Community Houses in Far Rockaway. After a shooting in broad daylight took place there, he hit the ground running.

King of Kings also goes on anti-drug and anti-gang tours to educate young people about the consequences of a violent lifestyle, the hidden dangers of drugs and what to do if you are pulled over by police.

I am “a former drug kingpin. I’m an ex-gang member,” Feurtado said. “We can relate first-hand to what the youth are going through. We lived it, we survived it.”

Feurtado also hosts a series of community events such as an annual “Friends for Life” breakfast.

Reverend Phil Craig is another activist active in the borough. The president of the Queens chapter of the National Action Network hosts youth town halls about violence in the community.

“The children, you can tell they’re dealing with a tug-and-pull situation,” he said. “A lot of their friends are attracted to this violent type of lifestyle. It makes them feel important.”

Craig and others in the chapter work to instill a different type of importance in young people—one where they can see themselves being successful off the streets.

“They can make a difference,” Craig said. “Negativity is contagious, but if we can change it around, the positive could become contagious.”

Craig said a big part of reducing violence among youths is getting parents involved and establishing a balanced household structure—something he said many homes in his area lack.

“There’s a gap they can’t fill at home, and these kids are out running around in the streets to try and fill it,” he said.

Out there, young people get territorial, said Manny Fiallo, the outreach coordinator for the Police Athletic League (PAL) in Far Rockaway. Fiallo is also a parent coordinator at the Department of Education (DOE).

“Kids feel like they can’t go to certain places,” he said. “But it’s one peninsula, it’s one Rockaway.”

Last year, Fiallo worked to put on a basketball tournament in memory of Stack Bundles, a local rapper who he said youths respect. The event was so successful that Fiallo is hosting it again and hopes to make it an annual event. The tournament travels throughout the peninsula. Fiallo said it helps break barriers by putting participants in areas they may not usually travel to.

“It involves the whole community, it’s about the whole community,” he said.

Aside from the tournament, Fiallo’s group has hosted teen job fairs and is trying to get a GED program expanded to accommodate 23- to 28-year-olds.

On summer weekends, Craig and the National Action Network occupy corners and try to get young people off the streets.

“One of the things I’ve observed, at 1 a.m., you have kids walking in the streets in packs. They can’t be more than 13 or 14 years old,” he said.

Organizations like Craig’s are trying to stop the violence once and for all.

“When people know each other, there’s less of a tendency [toward] tension” in the community, Feurtado said.

-BY MAGGIE HAYES & TERENCE M. CULLEN

 

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Long Island City murder leads to calls against gun violence


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

The shooting of a 27-year-old aspiring hip-hop artist near the Queensbridge Houses is raising clamor among politicians and community activists fighting against gun violence.

The victim, Francisco Leal, 27, suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the chest around 10 p.m. on Saturday, February 2 at the corner of 21st Street and 41st Avenue. While the NYPD has released surveillance footage of a suspect, Leal’s killer has yet to be caught.

When Suga Ray, a teacher, activist and childhood friend of Leal’s heard his friend had been fatally shot in the neighborhood where they grew up, his first reaction was “heartbreak.” Ray said Leal had a great personality, loved creating music and cared deeply about his community.

“Since we were kids, he always said he wanted to make a better way for his family, himself and the community,” said Ray. “He always wanted better than what we had.”

According to the NYPD, there have been 99 shootings citywide from January 1 through February 3, 2013.

“There’s an epidemic of gun violence, both here at Queensbridge and the city and across the country,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, who organized a rally following Leal’s death. “How do we bring young people away from guns, away from violence and into a better place?”

The councilmember believes increased programs for young people, including after-school programs, partnerships with libraries and cultural and athletic programs keep kids out of trouble. Last year, the Bloomberg administration proposed to eliminate all after-school programs and according to the Campaign for Children, after-school programs faced cuts of around $170 million. While after-school programs were saved in 2012, discussions about slicing programs in 2013 continue.

“Those kinds of programs are absolute life-savers, especially for low-income families where there aren’t more available options,” said Van Bramer.

The city’s flailing unemployment rate, Van Bramer added, is a factor in the upswing of violence.

“If there’s no help, if there’s no jobs, if there’s no economic self-sufficiency, people can gravitate towards things they shouldn’t be involved in,” said Van Bramer.

April Simpson, the newly elected president of the Queensbridge Resident Association, said ending violence is not just the responsibility of the police, but rests on residents as well.

“Someone lost a child last night. That could be my child tomorrow. That could be your child tomorrow. We need to say something. We need to take back our communities. We need to come together as one. We can’t protect our children if we’re sitting around and we’re not saying anything.”

Ray believes the key to ending youth on youth violence is to provide more opportunities which teaching people about inner peace and channeling aggression into positive outlets such as art and music — a passion of his late friend’s.

“That another young person would want to take another young person’s life is disheartening,” said Ray. “It happens so much. It’s happened to so many of my friends. It’s heartbreaking.”

 

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School shooting in California, one injured


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

According to the Associated Press, a student was shot at a high school in Taft, California. The shooting suspect is reportedly in custody. No other injuries have been reported thus far.

Enough


| qceditorial@queenscourier.com

It is time to put aside partisan politics, reach across the aisle . . . and tackle gun control.

Last Friday’s massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, inside Sandy Hook Elementary, took the lives of 20 children and six adults. It should serve to galvanize pundits, politicians and the nation to embrace tougher legislation on guns.

Maybe it’s time to look at the Federal Assault Weapons Ban that was in place from 1994 to 2004 – and reinstate it.

President Bill Clinton signed into law the ban that prohibited the manufacture of 18 models of semiautomatic guns as well as magazines that could hold more than 10 rounds.

It expired in 2004 and, despite several attempts to reinstate it, our politicians foolishly let the ban go by the wayside.

Up until a few days after the shooting spree, you could purchase the Bushmaster Patrolman’s Carbine M4A3 Rifle, a military-style assault rifle, on the Walmart website.

Since then, Walmart officials have apparently thought better of it and pulled the gun from their site.

But the fact still remains: you can buy a gun at the same store you can purchase groceries, and gun violence takes the lives of 34 Americans every single day.

Now there is rhetoric from Texas Governor Rick Perry that individual school districts should have the ability to determine whether teachers and administrators carry guns.

ENOUGH!

Fighting fire with fire is not the answer.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) – suspiciously quiet in the days since Sandy Hook and whose Facebook page has been deactivated – has many politicians in its corner, thanks to campaign contributions.

On its homepage, in an article titled “More Guns, Less Crime in Virginia” and dated November 27, the author writes, “The point is, gun owners and the NRA have been right all along. It’s the criminals, not the law-abiding gun owners, who are the issue.”

Really?

To our knowledge, Adam Lanza was no criminal until the morning of December 14, when he used his mother’s own gun to execute her and the 26 other innocent victims.

In response to the massacre, former Congressmember and current MSNBC anchor Joe Scarborough, a self-proclaimed “conservative Republican who received the NRA’s highest ratings over four terms in Congress,” spoke out:

“Our Bill of Rights does not guarantee gun manufacturers the absolute right to sell military-styled high-caliber semi-automatic combat assault rifles with high capacity magazines to whoever the hell they want.It is time for Congress to put children before deadly dogmas. It’s time for politicians to start focusing more on protecting our school yards than putting together their next fundraiser. And it’s time Washington stops trying to win endless wars overseas and instead starts focusing on winning the war at home.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Obama taps Biden to head task force on gun violence


| brennison@queenscourier.com

In an effort to prevent another tragedy like last week’s massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, President Barack Obama appointed Vice President Joe Biden to head a task force to develop a concrete plan no later than January to curb gun violence in the country.

“The fact that we can’t prevent every act of violence, doesn’t mean that we can’t steadily reduce the violence and prevent the very worst violence,” Obama said at the White House five days after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The administration-wide effort led by Biden will include outside organizations and address an issue of gun control and violence that has not often been broached in Obama’s first term.

Biden’s hand in writing the now-expired 1994 bill banning assault weapons made him the right man for the job, said Obama.

The president said he wants a plan no later than January that he will “push without delay.”

“I will use all the powers of this office to help advance efforts aimed the at preventing more tragedies like this,” the president said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has long been critical of Washington’s lack of progress on gun control, said he is encouraged by the president’s statements and that it was a “step in the right direction.”

“The country needs his leadership if we are going to reduce the daily bloodshed from gun violence that we have seen for too long,” Bloomberg said. “The task force must move quickly with its work, as 34 Americans will be murdered with guns every day that passes without common sense reforms to our laws.”

Bloomberg demands a plan to end gun violence


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Photo by Edward Reed

Dozens of Americans affected by gun violence joined Mayor Michael Bloomberg at City Hall for the release of 34 videos renewing the call for the federal government to reduce gun violence in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The 34 videos each tell the personal story of survivors and family members of victims of gun violence, one video for each of the 34 Americans killed daily by guns.

“Gun violence is a national epidemic — and a national tragedy — that demands more than words. It demands immediate national action, from the president and from Congress. It needs to be at the top of their agenda,” Bloomberg said.

The videos can be viewed at demandaplan.org.

Survivors and family members of deceased relatives from shootings in Aurora, Tuscon, Virginia Tech and Columbine told their stories on the series of two-minute videos of the trauma they continue to face following the tragedies.

“While I was laying in my hospital bed and watching the news, I heard a lot of public officials offering their condolences, but I guess I’m still waiting for all of that to turn into some sort of policy that will prevent these mass tragedies from happening to anyone ever again,” said Stephen Barton, a survivor of the movie theater shooting in Aurora.

Among the legislation Bloomberg demanded passed when the 113th Congress convenes next year was closing the gun show loopholes and requiring all gun purchases to be subject to background checks, reinstating the ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and making gun trafficking a felony.

Enough is enough


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

When will the politicians listen? When will something finally be done to end the senseless violence?

Now it seems we are not even safe in our houses of worship.

The recents massacre of six inside the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin — the second such mass slaying in as many months — has hit home.

Queens, which prides itself on its multiculturalism, is home to a large Sikh community, a community now left wondering and worrying.

Why did shooter Wade Michael Page, identified in reports as an Army veteran and possible skinhead or white supremacist, target the Sikh community?

A tattoo on his arm was dedicated as a 9/11 memorial.

The irony is that 9/11 was executed by Muslim extremists — not Sikhs — and that the Sikh Coalition was formed on September 11, 2001, following backlash against the religion and its followers, often mistaken for Muslims.

And though, in the wake of the shooting, the NYPD has stepped up patrols outside Sikh temples, called gurdwara, we must be PROACTIVE, not REACTIVE.

Over the past few weeks The Courier has been urging you, our readers and advertisers, to let our legislators know that something must be done about gun control — and it must be done NOW.

Page was reportedly in a white supremacist band called “End Apathy.”

We say it’s time to put an end to our apathy and push our elected officials on gun control.

Write, call, email — TODAY — and tell your local senator and congressmember, even the president, that you are in favor of gun control.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

 

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

Phone: 202-456-1111

 

Senator Charles Schumer: 322 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington D.C. 20510

Phone: 202-224-6542

 

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand: 780 Third Avenue Suite 2601

New York, New York 10017

Phone: 212-688-6262

 

One teen, two others shot on Jamaica Avenue


| brennison@queenscourier.com

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One teenager and two 20-year-olds were shot on Jamaica Avenue in what was according to witnesses, likely gang-related activity.

The shootings took place outside a Jamaica Avenue Wendy’s this afternoon at approximately 3 p.m. Two victims were shot in the leg, with one taking a bullet to the arm.

The victims were a 17-year-old black male and two 20-year-old Hispanic males, according to police.

Published reports indicate that the victims were members of the gang MS-13.

All three were taken to Jamaica Hospital and are listed in stable condition.

Jamaica Avenue was closed down between Queens Boulevard and 139th Street as dozens of police officers canvassed the area.

There are no descriptions of the suspects, police said.

Students from nearby M.S. 217 said they saw one victim with a gunshot wound to the left arm on their way home from school. The teens said that while gang activity is an issue in the area it had not escalated to gun violence before.

Jack Sharma, who lives one block away from the shooting, bemoaned teenager’s lack of respect for life.

“Kids don’t value life,” Sharma said. “It’s bad for my neighborhood.”

Sharma’s 16-year-old daughter saw the shooting’s aftermath as she picked up her brother and sister from school.

“This neighborhood is quiet,” Sharma said. “I did not expect this. It’s too close to home.”