Books Not Bullets

Students Protesting Gun Violence, Hands up Don't Shoot

by Jenna Shefts

Thousands of students and activists found each other on Twitter after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida that left 17 dead. Many, including me, felt extremely upset by the shooting and the lack of laws to prevent gun violence in this country. We use Twitter to voice our opinions and spread awareness about the dangers of gun violence. I have met activists from all around the world who belong to different student led gun control organizations that we have turned into a small community of gun control activists.

March For Our Lives brought a lot of us together. Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas and others formed March For Our Lives which started out as a student led gun control march in Washington DC on March 24, 2018. It got a big boost from Twitter and soon spread into a larger movement.

Students from all over the country formed small March For Our Lives chapters in their communities to try to put a stop to gun violence by organizing local town halls, advocating for gun control candidates, and protesting candidates who take money from the NRA.

Jenna Tweet image

One day, an activist I follow tweeted about wanting to make a group chat with other activists. I responded and said how I would love to  join. All of a sudden, I was in a group chat with 30 others and we activists became close friends. We learned that some have even been affected by gun violence at their schools or in their communities.

Mollie Davis from Great Mills, Maryland, said “I got involved after the Parkland shooting and organized my school’s walkout on March 14th, 2018. But then less than a week later on March 20th, 2018 there was a shooting at my school. I got more intensely involved when the issue became personal. I don’t want other people to go through what I did”. The shooter killed Jaelynn Willey at Great Mills High School. It was one of the 65 schools where a shooting occurred in 2018.

This movement also started to focus on things like gun violence in urban communities. I met Diego Garcia from Chicago online through other activist friends. He said, “I got involved in the movement because gun violence is normalized in the southwest side of Chicago and it shouldn’t be that way. Gang violence isn’t really mentioned in the movement and I want to make sure that it stays in the loop”.

A lot of the time the guns used in these shootings are purchased legally. More than 80 percent of the guns used in mass shootings were obtained legally. “Even though Chicago has one of the strongest gun control laws, other places like Indiana don’t. That makes it very easy for people to drive over to a different state, get a gun, then shoot someone without having to go through a difficult process.” This is why a lot of students are advocating for the extensive background checks bill which House Speaker Paul Ryan says will not pass. Students are holding their local politicians accountable for these shootings. Mollie said, “We need stricter gun control because it’s common sense. Mass and school shootings are a uniquely American epidemic that is preventable. The government isn’t doing enough”.

Some students are so outraged by the lack of action from their government that they are protesting outside of politicians’ offices. Naomi Caplan, a friend from Maryland, who I also met through the movement, was one of four girls arrested for protesting outside of Speaker Ryan’s Office on April 18, 2018. She said her reason for doing it was because “He doesn’t do sh*t when he could, and we needed to send a message.”

“There are no excuses at this point and it’s infuriating to watch politicians continue to be silent.” said Mollie Davis.

 

Guns In My Home State

by Laura Fotovich

“I’m not necessarily pro-gun but I’m not anti-gun either.  I think the laws should be stricter on how people can obtain a gun legally, but I don’t think outlawing guns is going to help [solve the problem] in America,” said Overland Park, Kansas, resident Emily Butler.

Emily and others I interviewed from my hometown in Olathe, Kansas, and the surrounding area began to think about gun control after the Parkland, Florida shooting that left 17 dead.  Guns are extremely common in Kansas, a fact that I learned from a very young age.  You simply cannot escape their presence. I remember when I saw a man in Olathe carry a gun into a local barbeque restaurant at lunchtime like it was perfectly normal.  The restaurant was busy and others noticed as well.  No one said anything, but many looked away uncomfortably.

 

People in Kansas carry guns for recreational shooting, hunting and looks.  “You see a lot more guns out here,” said my father, Larry Fotovich. My dad still lives in our hometown.  He remembers when he saw a local man try to bring a gun into a gun-free building.  “He got out of his truck and realized he couldn’t go into the post office with a gun on his hip, so he bent down and stuck it under [the seat of his car].  People are rabid about guns in Kansas,” he said.

 

Since I moved to New York City I haven’t seen any firearms.

 

Gun laws vary between states, especially between states in different regions of the country.  In New York, a license is required for any U.S. citizen (or non-U.S. citizen that is a lawful permanent resident or has a valid alien firearm license) to own a handgun, but a license isn’t necessary to possess a long gun.  The New York City laws are stricter, requiring a license to own both a handgun and a long gun.  Kansas, on the other hand, allows any citizen above the age of 21 to openly carry a gun without a license.

 

A problem in Kansas involves people who try to bring guns into gun-free zones.  “I had a kid in my school who tried to bring a gun to school.  He was in my first hour class.  The police got him before he came into school,” said Springhill, Kansas, resident Mary Kate Hale.  Growing up in the Midwest helped shape Mary Kate’s opinion on gun laws.  “Knowing how many people around me carry guns on their waist or in their car trunk gives me the creeps.  It has definitely made my views towards gun control stronger.  There is no reason to need to have a gun in public” she added.

 

Regardless of a person’s views about gun control, the total number of fatalities is fact-based.  In 2018 New York totaled an average of four firearm deaths per 100,000 people, while Kansas totaled 13.3 firearm deaths per 100,000 people.

 

Leawood, Kansas, resident Jack McConathy recounted a story of gun violence in downtown Kansas City.  “My aunt’s friend was leaving a bar one night and this car drove past her.  A guy rolled down the window and shot her as part of a gang initiation,” he said.  “Growing up in the Midwest, gun culture is kind of ingrained into society,” he added.

 

In some Kansas schools it is legal to conceal and carry firearms.  Johnson County Community College, for example, has a concealed carry policy that allows students to carry firearms on campus as long as they cannot be seen.

 

Emporia, Kansas, resident Dylan Schneider supports concealed carry in Kansas, as long as proper background checks and training are implemented.  “As a future teacher I want to make sure every school that I teach in, and every school in the nation, has the means to protect itself against active shooters, because the safety of the children is the top priority,” he said.

 

Many gun safety advocates think this strategy could be risky for the overall safety of the children.  On average, one school shooting occurs every week in the United States and as of June 2018, the United States has suffered a total of 154 mass shootings.

 

The Gun That Hit Close To Home

Photo courtesy Maxi Pixel, Creative Commons License

By: Sarai Irizarry Ortiz

“All I ever truly remember is asking god why it had to be my best friend. The person I was most close to. The only sibling I had,” says Elizabeth Granados as she recounts the passing of her brother to gun violence in Mexico.

Elizabeth left Michoacán, Mexico at seventeen, and now lives in Brooklyn with her husband and four children. She remembers that Tuesday, November 15, 2016 clearly. She was on her lunch break. At about 1:45 her phone rang, and her mother’s voice trembled as she told her that her brother James was killed in a gang-related activity.

Recently, sitting on a wooden chair, hands crossed between her legs, Elizabeth recalled the trip to Mexico to see her brother’s dead body and the gun used to kill him. “It was very traumatic for me to see my brother lying there. Not hearing me when I speak, not feeling my touch. Very traumatizing. And the gun? I was shaking when I saw that thing. I’ve never seen a gun prior to my brother’s killing,” she said.

With kids of her own, she worries for their safety and the possibility that gun violence may find them. “At the end of the day, crime is everywhere, guns are everywhere, imagine living in a country where there is absolutely no crime, no killings? It doesn’t exist,” she said.

According to the New York Crime Gun Analysis, New York State has one of the strongest gun safety laws in the country. But even so, criminals still get illegal guns. Seven states known as the “Iron Pipeline” — Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Ohio — supply many of the guns that reach New York.

“I know I live in one of the safest cities in the world, but truth be told anything can happen anywhere at any time. When you come from a place where there are high death rates, you always live at the brink of fear. But you never really believe it could happen to you and it happened to me, I fear for the lives of my children every day. There’s only so much protecting that I can do,” said Elizabeth.

Other New Yorkers say they are wary of guns and know that they are in their neighborhoods. For David Azcona, 23, who was born and raised in Washington Heights, being around guns was all too common.

“I’m so desensitized to shootings that I don’t react the way one should react to them just because I’ve witnessed so many of them. In my opinion, this is something that’s just always going to exist, but I believe New York does the best they can to handle this compared to other cities where gun laws aren’t as strong. In fact, the other day it was reported that for the first time in decades New York City didn’t have a single shooting over the weekend. You know, that’s a big deal, and just shows the great strides this city is taking,” he says.

 

 

 

CUNY Professors March on Wall Street

CUNY Adjunct Professors Protest on Wall Street for Higher Pay.

By Laura Fotovich –

John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor, Katie Surrence stood, outside the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday, September 27 carrying a sign that read “CUNY needs competitive salaries.”  “I am an adjunct and I currently make $3,200 per course.  This is kind of obscene considering the amount of work and investment I put into [teaching],” she said.

CUNY faculty and students demonstrated in support of a Public Service Commission Public Staff Congress (PSC) contract that will grant adjunct professors a salary of $7,000 per course.

The demonstrators marched from the New York Stock Exchange to 100 Wall St., the office of CUNY Board of Trustees Chairperson, William Thompson. They chanted “Education is a right! Fight, fight fight!, as they marched.

“CUNY is a wonderful system, but it’s budget has been cut for decades,” said Abby Scher, an adjunct professor at Brooklyn College.  “I like teaching my one class a semester, but I would like to make a fair wage,” she added.

The demonstration began at 4 p.m. and lasted almost two hours.  Members of the CUNY faculty gave speeches throughout the afternoon.

According to the CUNY/PSC,  raising the adjunct salary to $7,000 will require additional funding.  Additionally, supporters pushed for granting tuition waivers for the students of full-time faculty and providing better support for the department chairs.

“We are almost a year out of contract and our salaries are not competitive, especially for adjuncts.  It’s really shameful what CUNY pays,” said John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor Nivedita Majumdar.  “The reason we are fighting is because we believe in what we do and we believe that our students should have the best education,” she added.

“The work we do is really valuable and we’re drastically underpaid for it,” said Hunter College adjunct professor Emily Crandall.  “We have this two-tier class system at CUNY where we do a lot of the work and we receive very little reward or recognition for it.  It’s a disservice to us and our students,” she added.

The next formal bargaining session for the CUNY PSC is scheduled for October 4.  Contract negotiations will continue at this meeting.

Gun Violence Hits Soldier In Brooklyn

guns-in-our-lives
Soldiers at Fort Stewart, Georgia. Army photo by Specialist Noelle Wiehe

 

by Tamara Johnson

“It all happened so fast. The guy was coming in our direction and we just ran. I didn’t even know I was hit,” Curtis J recalled.  Curtis was shot in the face while waiting for his mother outside a grocery store in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, in December 2015.

The U.S. Army chief warrant officer had come home for a short visit and took his mother shopping, never imagining that someone would shoot at him. “I felt the bullet bouncing around in my mouth so I kept it closed tight. The bullet was hot.”

Curtis asked us not to use his full name. But his story is one of many that show how guns affect life in our communities. Curtis suffered extensive damage to his tongue and lost several teeth as a result of the shooting. The shooter turned himself in after he realized that he shot someone he knew and the Army told Curtis that he can’t visit his old neighborhood and remain on active duty.

“Growing up, you didn’t see [guns] like that.  Having them was one thing but using them was another thing,” he said. The suspect intended to rob Curtis and made off with the black SUV that belonged to Curtis’s mother. “He was just looking for someone to rob. He knew me, but he didn’t know it was me until the next day.”

In the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February, the discussion of guns and violence hits close home for many. According to the New York attorney general’s analysis of ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives) reports between 2010 and 2015, there were 52,195 crime guns recovered in New York alone. Ninety percent of those guns were recovered in New York City, Long Island, Rochester, Lower Hudson Valley, Capital Region, Syracuse, and Buffalo. Despite these statistics, only 14 percent of the guns originated in New York. That means 86 percent were purchased out of state.

Military members take mandatory military weapons training, and Curtis points out that most are aware of the harm that guns can do. He laughed when asked about the role of guns in work life. He said, “We are professionals at our jobs, we don’t just handle weapons. I’m an aviation pilot.”

For him the shooting caused a personal struggle. “I used to have a gun outside of work. Getting shot made me paranoid,” he said.  “Afterward, I found comfort in my mind instead of my weapon… [guns] make the weak powerful and the strong weak.”

 

Get Fit For Free

by Karla Escobar,

Tired of paying $30.00 dollars or more for a gym subscription? Well, The City College of New York Wingate Fitness Center gives you the opportunity to exercise for free. It’s open to all students and faculty, but the best part is you just have to show your student ID to join, nothing more.

The fitness center, located on the third floor of Wingate Hall, opens Monday through Thursday from 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM and Fridays 8:00AM to 4:00 PM. On its busiest day 500 students may work out there, and on a slow day about 300.

The Fitness Center has a variety of equipment to help you achieve your fitness goals. Fitness and Strength Coordinator Scott Losche says, “Every student should really take advantage of it.” He says even if you haven’t worked out before and don’t know how to use the equipment, fill out a form and they will get in contact with you to assign you a free instructor.

City College student Christine A. said, “Gyms now are $20.00 dollars a month or more… so for me it is very convenient to come here. Because I’m not a morning person, I come after my classes and I don’t like to do it between because I don’t like to rush for class.”

Faculty member Midgalis Sanchez said, “I come during my lunch hour, I like to take advantage of it because it’s free.”

The Wingate Fitness Center differs from gyms at other schools. “Most CUNY schools you have to pay, especially for faculty,” Losche said.  He explained that staffers want make the gym even better. They hope to open on Saturdays and Sundays and upgrade equipment. These changes may have some effect on fees. When asked if changes may cause faculty members to pay a fee, he said, “That’s one of the balloons that are floating up.”

If you want more information about the Wingate Fitness Center you can visit them or call them at 212-650-6595.

 

 

 

 

PSC-CUNY Protest For New Contract

PSC-CUNY teachers demonstrate for higher pay.

by, Michael C. Bohn, Sr.

 

December 4, 2017

They came armed with protest signs instead of red pens. Several hundred City University of New York (CUNY) professors came out to demand better pay and working conditions. They give the CUNY administration a failing grade for its unwillingness to support professors who teach more than 500,000 students.

The Professional Staff Congress or PSC/CUNY, the union representing more than 27,000 faculty and staff and the CUNY Research Foundation, rallied in front of the CUNY Graduate Center at Fifth Avenue at 34 Street on December 4, 2017. From there they marched 15 blocks south to Baruch College where the CUNY Board of Trustees was meeting.

Led by their bullhorn toting union president, Barbara Bowen, these seemingly mild mannered academics and support staff chanted, “What do we want? A contract. When do we want it? We want it now,” as they marched.

PSC-CUNY protest 3

Members of other unions including Local One, I.A.S.T.E., the stage hand workers union, DC 37, representing city workers, librarians, and the Union of Clerical and Technical Staff at New York University as well as SAG-AFTRA, which represents actors, joined the march to show union solidarity

The PSC/CUNY contract expired on November 30th. That freezes the pay-rate until a new contract can be agreed upon. This is particularly tough for part-time professors known as adjuncts who typically teach two classes each semester, “We teach two-thirds of a full course load and get one-third of the pay,” said Adjunct Professor David Hohl. He has had part-time status at Baruch College for seventeen years and says he earns $26,000 a year.

The union claims that 12,000 part-time adjuncts, earning $27,000 a year or less, teach more than half the courses. In a news release PSC CUNY said, “CUNY is the single most successful university in the country enabling poor and working-class graduates to achieve long-term economic security. Yet leading professors consistently turn down positions at CUNY and many current professors leave because the salaries are so uncompetitive.”

Peter Consenstein, professor of French at BMCC and the Graduate Center said, “We serve as a pipeline into better jobs and the middle class. We work our butts off.”

The pay freeze worries full as well as part-time professors, and others covered by the contract, because of the rising cost of living. The last time their contract expired it took six years to negotiate a new one. “We are not waiting six years for a new contract,” said Scott Sheidlower, staff librarian at York College in Queens.

Paula Whitlock a full-time, tenured professor of Computer and Information Science at the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) said the protest and demands are important for everyone. “Either we all rise together or we all fall together,” she said.

CUNY’s reliance on part-time adjuncts reflects a practice in the corporate world where companies rely heavily on free-lance employees who don’t get the full package of benefits. The union claims underfunding by New York State and New City keeps salaries low and hampers CUNY’s mission.

“CUNY is often a political pawn in the bigger political game. When that happens students are disregarded as unimportant.” said Professor Peter Consenstein.

Supporters can follow on Twitter with the following hashtags, #7KCUNY, #FAIRPAY4ALL, and #NO6YEARWAIT.