Gun control comes to Times Square

Choreographer Lorin Latarro and dancers from “Wicked,” “Chicago” and other Broadway shows swarmed Times Square over the weekend, conducting a flash-mob performance piece honoring the victims of the Newtown shootings.

"We took one of the most commercial spaces on earth," said Latarro, "and transformed it for a few moments, into a silent, holy place."

As half the performers lay down on the ground, the rest hovered over them, then outlined their bodies in white chalk. The performance took place while crowds of surprised tourists looked on, taking pictures, watching as the ‘victims’ slowly arose and words were written within the chalk outlines: “Ailene, age 6,” “AK-47,” “murdered,” “background check.

Although the video comes from “Artists in Support of Gun Control,” Latarro said her effort was “intended to hit deeper than politics.”

"Sometimes you can communicate more without a sound. As a dancer, I live in that realm."

I’ve been asking various 2nd amendment scholars what they think will emerge from the Newtown tragedy. Randy Barnett, a professor at George Washington University Law Center, had this to say — it sounds a lot like what gun owners in other states have told me in the past, that gun control advocates like Mayor Bloomberg are hypocrites:

"It is appalling to see this tragedy exploited to advance measures that would have done nothing to prevent it.  I want to know the types of weapons Mayor Bloomberg’s bodyguards use to protect his safety, and whether he will order them to disarm.  If not, why not?  Is his safety more important than that of mere citizens?”

Given the combative tone of the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre earlier today, we’re looking at a serious gun control brawl in the coming months.

See Mayor Bloomberg’s response to the NRA earlier today.

Mayor Bloomberg Responds to the NRA

Mayor Bloomberg, probably the country’s best-known gun control advocate, had this to say in response to the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre:

“The NRA’s Washington leadership has long been out of step with its members, and never has that been so apparent as this morning. Their press conference was a shameful evasion of the crisis facing our country. Instead of offering solutions to a problem they have helped create, they offered a paranoid, dystopian vision of a more dangerous and violent America where everyone is armed and no place is safe. Leadership is about taking responsibility, especially in times of crisis. Today the NRA’s lobbyists blamed everyone but themselves for the crisis of gun violence. While they promote armed guards, they continue to oppose the most basic and common sense steps we can take to save lives - not only in schools, but in our movie theaters, malls, and streets. Enough. As a country, we must rise above special interest politics. Every day, 34 Americans are murdered with guns. That’s why 74 percent of NRA members support common sense restrictions like criminal background checks for anyone buying a gun. It is time for Americans who care about the Second Amendment and reasonable gun restrictions to join together to work with the President and Congress to stop the gun violence in this country. Demand a plan.”  - Mayor Bloomberg, December 21, 2012

Like everyone else, I’ve found the Newtown coverage almost unbearable to follow, and yet that’s my job, so I read everything I can, and gaze at images of little coffins being carried into hearses.

There have been times over the past couple days when I’ve found myself inexplicably tired. And then I realize that this is my body’s response to the news: it’s exhausting to grow emotional every few hours.

What’s going to come of all this? Too early to say, and although terrible shooting tragedies have happened before, with no legislative impact, one activist I spoke to is feeling hopeful.

"I feel encouraged," said Jackie Hilly, who runs New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, "because I think the emotional component of what has happened in the last week, I really think it’s a turning point."

She turned to Civil Rights history to find an appropriate analogy.

"It’s reminiscent of the 4 girls being bombed at the church in Birmingham. There are certain episodes in our history that the tides just change, because the victims are so innocent."

Mayor Bloomberg’s press conference at City Hall on Monday had the feel of a historic event. In the wake of the Newtown massacre, the question in that packed room seemed to be, “Is this his moment?”

Because Bloomberg has emerged as the most prominent gun control advocate in the country. But although he put forth concrete proposals — like requiring background checks before all gun sales, and banning assault weapons — the Mayor hardly sounded confident that anything would happen, even this time.

"If this doesn’t do it, what is going to?" he said. "But that doesn’t mean we still shouldn’t try."

The most hopeful person in the room, oddly enough, was one of the family members of gun violence victims that Bloomberg surrounded himself with during the news conference.

Sandra Moses lost her son Steven 25 years ago and said that after an initial period of making public speeches and fighting for gun control, she gave upthe cause. She said it felt pointless, and sensed early on it would take an event of great, almost unimaginable magnitude to change America’s mind about gun control. She now believes the shootings at Sandy Hook elementary rise to that level, and that change is set to unfold.