Never Again. When it comes to mass gun violence in America, it sounds like a lofty, unattainable goal.
But it is the mantra of Parkland massacre survivors and their families, and they are determined to achieve the goal no matter how long it takes. On Sunday, Jan. 15, Gays Against Guns rallied in Times Square to bring attention to a case that could strike down New York state’s gun laws.
They were joined by Manuel and Patricia Oliver, who lost their son, Joaquin "Guac" Oliver, in the Parkland Mass Shooting. They founded Change The Ref, which empowers young people to make social change through education, conversation, and activism. Manuel said that working together is the smartest way to achieve common goals.
“We realized that gun violence goes far beyond our schools. It makes sense for us to meet with other groups. Gays Against Guns does a lot of things the same way that we do them.”
The Olivers, and thousands of others, marched behind a rainbow banner calling for the U.S. Supreme Court to respect New York’s gun laws as constitutional restrictions.
“New York State’s handgun concealed-carry licensing law should be held up as an example to the nation. It has saved thousands of lives. In this era of frequent mass shootings, this law is crucial in a densely populated tourist magnet like New York City,” said GAG’s Jay W. Walker.
The court will rule this year on New York State Rifle Association v. Bruen, the case in which the NRA-affiliated NYSRA seeks to overturn 108 years of New York State law.
New Yorkers credit their broad concealed carry laws for the lack of mass shootings, like the ones at PULSE Nightclub or at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
“We, as a nation, think that more guns will solve the problem,” Oliver said. “That is not a solution. We should know that by now. We are a country that has more guns than people. In this case, it’s critical that New York gun laws, which are very strict, are doing a part to solve crime numbers.”
None of the guns used in the Parkland killings would have been allowed in New York.
Less than a month before the four-year anniversary of Parkland, Manuel believes more, visible, louder work remains.
“I thought I was part of the solution. I’m part of the problem. I haven’t been able to decrease the amount of violence. So part is to change the strategy. Part is to be more dramatic, more disruptive than ever before.”
He recently stood outside the White House for 15 days, demanding an audience with President Joe Biden. While he didn’t get his face-to-face, Oliver did meet with top presidential advisors.
“The White House told me that they’re doing a lot. But we don’t see what they’re doing.”
Court records show New York State Rifle Association v. Bruen was heard in October, and a decision is expected by mid-June.
Given the constant political, legal, and verbal attacks from gun advocates, one might think Manuel would eventually be overwhelmed. He says there is no choice but to double down and continue the work.
“I don’t have any other options. I lost my son. I love my son, and I live for my son who is not here anymore.”