A Great Neck mother who's daughter was murdered in St. Louis four years ago, traveled to Connecticut this past weekend to offer her voice on the issue of gun violence.
Lois Schaffer, a 40-year resident of Great Neck Estates, was one of thousands from both sides of the gun debate who attended a public hearing of the Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children's Safety in Hartford.
Schaffer's daughter, Susie, a 48-year-old single working mother who grew up in Great Neck was shot in 2008 as she walked into her home with groceries interrupting a burglary in progress by two 17-year-old assailants who had a stolen gun from another home in the neighborhood.
The Connecticut task force was formed earlier this month in response to the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that claimed the life of 20 first graders and six educators.
Scaffer was in Hartford for two days in an effort to tell her story. She and other gun-violence victims spoke during a press conference Sunday afternoon at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.
"I'm sorry that it had to be it. Six innocent adults and 20 children," Schaffer said to the Hartford Courant at the event. "This has got to stop."
Testimony before a working group of the legislature's Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children's Safety took place Monday, but after signing up to speak, Schaffer's number was not called due to time constraints and the lottery system used at the event.
In a statement submitted to the committee, Schaffer wrote:
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:
My name is Lois Schaffer, a resident of Great Neck, a suburb of Nassau County, New York and a victim of gun violence.
Four years ago, December 16, 2008 to be exact, our daughter, Susan Schaffer whom we called “Susie” was murdered. Susie was a 48-year-old single working mother who was shot as she walked into her home with groceries interrupting a burglary in progress by two 17-year-old thugs who had a stolen gun as the result of rampaging other homes in Susie’s neighborhood. It must also be noted that our daughter was cognizant of the consequences of guns and would not permit her children to even own a water gun.
I have always tried to end gun violence as a citizen, a constituent of my Assemblywoman, Michelle Schimel, who has worked tirelessly on this cause and a member of the non-profit organization New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. I am even more passionately involved because of our personal tragedy.
Gun violence has escalated since four years ago when our daughter was murdered. It’s become a daily occurrence. The day after the Arizona tragedy in January 2011, New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg stated: “Thirty-four Americans are murdered—every single day. Tomorrow there will be another 34. And so it will continue...”
It’s ludicrous to think that shampoo is being confiscated at airports, yet concealed weapons are permitted, gun trafficking continues, assault weapons are purchased on a multiple basis at gun shows...no background check,.. no questions asked.
This is America. Supposedly a humane society. Yet we witness tragic deaths daily due to gun violence. It must change. Shooting animals for sustenance may be acceptable, yet the preservation of human life must be taken into account as well. The Second Amendment has been twisted to fit the needs of the conglomerate who work hand in hand: gun lobbyists, the manufacturers and the NRA.
I could go on and on: The Kennedys, Martin Luther King, John Lennon, Allard Lowenstein, the husband of Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy (who ran and was elected on the gun control issue) Tucson, Gabrielle Gifford, Judge John Roll, Christina Taylor Green, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Texas, Aurora, Colorado, Columbine and now the most horrendous tragedy of all: 20 innocent 6-year-old children in addition to 7 adults massacred by a maniac here in Connecticut...and to add to it the responding firefighters who were murdered 10 days later on Christmas eve.
Four years ago, I told my Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel and the staff at New Yorkers Against Gun Violence that we have witnessed so many deaths due to gun violence, whether it was a single death or massacre. I added that there would be a horrific event that would finally initiate action by our Nation. That day occurred on December 14th in Newtown Connecticut. Newtown has impacted the world in everyone’s gut and heart. This is the moment. This is the time for change.
The massacre at Newtown has finally “put a face” on gun violence. It has raised people’s consciousness that mirrors the loss such as our family experienced. The media has publicized the affects of the losses on the survivors. The nation must now begin a groundswell for change on this grave and societal issue.
Change has finally begun in New York State. I take pride as a New York resident to acknowledge Governor Cuomo’s New York Safe Act. He signed a sweeping package to reduce gun violence. It’s the first state to pass gun legislation since the massacre in Newtown. Let Connecticut be the second.
The New York Safe Act tightens the state’s assault weapons ban, reduces the maximum size of the ammunition magazines, from 10 rounds to 7, strengthens permit requirements for firearms, requires background checks for all gun sales, including private sellers and buyers, mandates that clinicians in mental health report patients whom they consider a threat to commit suicide, whose guns and permits are then mandated to be confiscated, creates a state-wide gun data base that would prevent public accessibility.
The above legislation has pitfalls such as permitting 7 rounds of ammunition instead of 10 because just one bullet can be lethal. But it’s a step in the right direction. Please use New York as a beacon and pass new gun laws to keep all persons and our children safe. I hope Connecticut’s legislature will initiate change politically, but more important for the preservation of humanity.
Great Neck, N.Y.