Booker: Gun Conversation Must Include Hardest Hit Communities

LOS ANGELES (CN) – U.S. Senator and presidential hopeful Cory Booker said Thursday that the national movement for gun control must consider plans to address long-lasting trauma in communities with near-daily shootings.

At a discussion on gun control Thursday with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (left) and Black Lives Matter activist Paula Minor (far right), U.S Senator and presidential hopeful Cory Booker said that gun control conversations should include communities hardest hit by daily shootings. (Martin Macias Jr. / CNS)

As part of his sweeping gun control plan, the New Jersey Democrat has proposed a national gun registry and federal licensing program for all gun owners.

Under Booker’s plan, gun owners would have to pass an interview and safety training in order to obtain a license to own and operate any firearm.

The former Newark mayor has also called for universal background checks on gun purchases and restoration of a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Speaking at a roundtable discussion on the impact of gun violence Thursday in Los Angeles, Booker said gun control conversations following mass shootings this month in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, have been “framed by the gun lobby.”

Gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association are unfairly shaping gun control talks by determining what regulations are sensible and “common sense,” Booker said.

“I’m seeing a capitulation to fear,” Booker told the more than 50 roundtable participants. “We’re sending children to school and telling them, ‘We can’t protect you so here’s how to hide or shelter in place.’ We need to reclaim our freedom from fear.”

But Booker said the framework to prevent mass shootings must include the experiences of communities that endure shootings regularly.

“Mass shootings in this country are awakening an issue that has existed in my community for generations,” Booker said. He noted shootings occur frequently in his Newark neighborhood, including the March shooting of Shahad Smith, a man Booker shared a building with. “These communities are often left out of conversations or completely dissed.”

Samantha Dorf of the gun violence prevention group Moms Demand Action agreed, telling participants that while mass shootings fill news headlines, “it’s the everyday gun violence that takes hundreds of lives per day.”

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti take questions from reporters following a conversation on gun control at Vector90, a co-working space in South LA co-founded by the late rapper and community activist Nipsey Hussle. (Martin Macias Jr. / CNS)

Booker was also joined Thursday by LA Mayor Eric Garcetti who said residents – especially youth of color – of communities with high numbers of shootings should help shape gun control measures.

“[Youth of color] are the ones who experience gun violence regularly,” Garcetti said. “They are the ones whose cousins die on their lawns. If you’re not looking at the racial and age component, you’re not seeing this issue clearly.”

In May, LA launched a youth-run “Louder Than Guns” campaign that features mock ads for insurance covering mass shootings and accidental and daily gunfire. The ads direct residents to a website where they can share their experiences with gun violence.

Black Lives Matter activist Paula Minor told Booker that his plan to address healing from gun violence should consider communities’ experiences with police shootings.

“We are advocates for people who’ve lost victims to law enforcement violence,” Minor said. “Being killed in a police shooting is equally as traumatic.”

Minor mentioned a study that found black men were nearly 3 times more likely than white men to be killed by police over the course of their lifetimes.

Garcetti said he understood that trauma from gun violence “has ripple effects throughout generations” and noted that LA police have been outfitted with body-worn cameras as an accountability measure.

“The traumas that connect us are real, and whether you have a badge or not you have to be accountable,” Garcetti said.

The discussion was hosted at Vector90, a co-working space co-founded by the late rapper and community activist Nipsey Hussle. Hussle was shot and killed in April outside his South LA clothing store.

Roundtable participant and South LA resident Breland Brandt, 21, said gun violence impacts him and his community directly.

“Hopefully my little brother, who is 13, five years from now will be able to walk in a much safer environment and not have to worry about the violence I had to see in local parks or in the community,” Brandt said.

Brandt works at Vector90 building for his company Connect Media and said that while the roundtable didn’t mention Hussle or his work on gun violence, the rapper’s legacy is widely known.

“Nipsey’s impact is known,” Brandt said. “What’s he’s done and what he’s brought to this community resonated with everyone.”

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