Island interests blast gun violence, with both barrels

Hold your fire: Several Long Island academic and economic-development institutions are joining the national movement against gun violence.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

As deadly shootings rage across the nation, a common theme is ricocheting more frequently around Long Island socioeconomics: protection from gun violence.

Several Island-based institutions and organizations have announced fresh efforts targeting the national gun epidemic, ranging from one-off lectures to an expert-laden national research center determined to dent the crisis from a healthcare perspective.

Topping the list is Northwell Health’s new Center for Gun Violence Prevention, which is throwing $1 million and a bevy of medical, firearms and psychology experts at the problem. Among those advising the center through its formative stages are Peter Masiakos, founder of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Gun Violence Prevention; American College of Physicians President Robert McLean; and Megan Ramney, chief research officer at AFFIRM, the Massachusetts-based American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine.

Northwell Health officially announced the center Wednesday, calling the nearly 40,000 gun-related deaths recorded annually in the United States “a rising public health crisis.”

That same crisis is on their minds at Farmingdale State College, where Linda Beigel Schulman – mother of Farmingdale State alumnus Scott Beigel, a high school teacher and cross-country coach who died heroically protecting students during a 2018 mass shooting in Florida – will explore the personal side of gun control during a March 5 lecture.

Taking the shot: Northwell CEO Michael Dowling is challenging other health systems to join the anti-gun violence crusade.

And they’re thinking about it at also at the business-networking group Advancement for Commerce, Industry and Technology, which is focusing its March 4 Executive Breakfast on “law enforcement in the age of the active shooter.” The event is slated to feature a chat with former New York Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel, who co-founded the Long Island chapter of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence with former U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy.

The flurry of activity is understandable, considering the frightening numbers. The 23,854 suicides by firearm and 14,542 homicides by firearm recorded in 2017 both set dark U.S. records, while the national nonprofit Gun Violence Archive counted more mass shootings (in which four or more victims are shot) than days of the year in 2019, with a total of 417 U.S. mass shootings on the record.

Among wealthier industrialized nations, this blaze of bullets is wholly unique to the United States. According to the Washington State-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, 4.43 out of every 100,000 Americans died a violent gun death in 2017 – which maybe doesn’t sound so bad, until you realize Japan and China both recorded 0.04 deaths per 100,000 people, and the UK recorded 0.06.

Simple math estimates that China, home to 1.3 billion people, therefore suffered about 520 violent gun deaths in 2017. The United States, home to 327.2 million, suffered 39,773.

Concerned citizens and lawmakers cannot face this crisis alone, according to Northwell Health President and CEO Michael Dowling, who is challenging other national heath systems to match Northwell’s million-dollar investment in the new Center for Gun Violence Prevention.

While officially announcing the center Wednesday. Dowling – who essentially locked-and-loaded the CGVP back in December, when he pledged the $1 million investment during Northwell’s first-ever Gun Violence Prevention Forum – stressed that “healthcare leaders have a social responsibility to try to stop the mindless bloodshed caused by firearms-related violence in this country.”

“While many health system CEOs continue to remain silent, the Gun Violence Prevention Forum … reaffirmed the incredible passion that exists among the nation’s physicians, researchers, administrators and others who are committed to combatting what is clearly a public health emergency,” the CEO added, noting the center would attack gun violence “just as we respond aggressively to health crises like vaping, the flu or the new coronavirus that is causing worldwide panic.”

A review of community policing programs and live-shooter tactics will be on the menu at ACIT’s March 4 Executive Breakfast, which is scheduled to include Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, Suffolk County DA Timothy Sini and both counties’ police commissioners.

The heavy-hitting law enforcement quartet will engage in a roundtable discussion with New Yorkers Against Gun Violence board member Schimel, who served Nassau County’s 16th Assembly District from 2007 to 2016 and joined McCarthy – a professional nurse who rose to political prominence in the wake of the 1993 Long Island Rail Road massacre – to launch the NYAGV chapter.

Beigel Schulman: The mother of all anti-gun activists.

Beigel Schulman, meanwhile, will give the issue a human face during her Farmingdale State discussion. Her son, FSC graduate Scott Beigel, died during the horrific Feb. 14, 2018, mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., which killed 17 and wounded 17 others.

Beigel Schulman is expected to discuss the Scott J. Beigel Memorial Fund, which she founded to help underprivileged children touched by gun violence experience summer sleep-away camp, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ambitious 2020 slate of proposed gun-control measures, which covers everything from “ghost guns” to mental-health background checks (quite unpopular with Second Amendment loyalists).

The activist and the governor have crossed paths before: In 2019, when New York State adopted its new Red Flag Gun Protection Law (preventing individuals who may be a threat to themselves or others from purchasing a firearm), Cuomo singled out the Long Island mom for her gun-safety advocacy.

“Linda is a special human being,” the governor said. “Linda Beigel Schulman became one of the most effective and passionate advocates to get something done … and she did.”