Over 30 people gathered in Times Square on Sunday afternoon, holding up a long rainbow flag, billowing in the wind, with the words “Gays Against Guns” printed on it.
No more than 50 feet from the base of the red stairs between West 46th and 47th Streets, members of Gays Against Guns, a group formed in 2016 after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, chanted, “Trump, Congress, NRA, 100 people dead each day,” referencing the 96 people who die every day from gun violence in the United States.
The group had gathered at the U.S. Army Recruiting Center on West 43rd Street and marched a few blocks north to Father Duffy Square with a purpose. They were there to celebrate the lives of the 12 people killed when a gunman opened fire at Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, on Wednesday, and to push for gun control reform.
For Kylie Vincent, who served as co-director of March for Our Lives in Manhattan, the shooting was personal. Vincent hails from Thousand Oaks.
“We’re so desensitized that I know that people don’t even care that these shootings are happening anymore, and it really doesn’t affect you until it affects you,” Vincent said. “I can’t believe I’m standing here talking about my own town.”
Gays Against Guns supports common-sense gun control, which calls for measures such as bans on assault weapons, universal background checks and closing what is known as the “gun show loophole,” in which most states do not require background checks for the sales of firearms at gun shows.
Ken Kidd, an original member of Gays Against Guns and the director of Special Projects and Events in the Office of the Dean in CAS, was another one of several activists who spoke at the rally.
“We are afraid to come out of our homes for fear of being gunned down by military-grade weaponry,” Kidd said. “That is not freedom. That is not what this country was based on.”
Kidd traced the gun violence epidemic back to many politicians’ habits of accepting money from the National Rifle Association.
“The simple fact of the matter is that guns are big money,” Kidd said. “Guns are big profit. Politicians make their way in this world off of blood money, gun money.”
Tisch junior Jeff Lawless, who attended the rally, lives in Southern California and went to the Borderline when he spent time in Thousand Oaks this summer.
“When you hear of these things, they’re distant and there’s something between you and the events,” Lawless said. “But this time, I was watching the news and I saw those steps that I walked up. I saw the map, the layout of the building, and I knew everything about it. The fact that I was there just months prior on College Night, and the people that were there were all college students — it hit me really hard.”
The rally coincided with Veterans Day, so it bore special significance for Marti Gould Cummings, a member of Hell’s Kitchen Democrats and the Mayor’s Nightlife Advisory Council.
“We stand here today to represent the lives lost on Veterans Day, where our service members are fighting for us to have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Cummings said. “I feel that the pursuit of happiness means we can go wherever we want without the fear of dying.”
As the rally drew to a close, people read the names of those killed on Wednesday as 12 people, intended to represent these victims, lined up in front of the flag. The dozen were dressed in white clothing and veils, and each person bore a paper with a photo and short biography of one of the victims.
Finally, the group of people clutching the flag laid on the ground, draping the fabric over themselves.
“This is what the students at Parkland had to walk through,” Gays Against Guns member Brigid McGinn said, weaving through the protestors and calling attention to other recent mass shootings. “How many more have to die?” she yelled in unison with those on the ground. “How many more have to die?”
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Nov.12 print edition. Email Sarah Jackson at [email protected]