New York, NY —
New York's new junior senator Kirsten Gillibrand continues to reach out to constituents far from her conservative upstate roots. She visited a Brooklyn High School yesterday to speak with people there about a student who was killed in gun violence last month. WNYC's Elaine Rivera reports.
REPORTER: Nazareth Brooklyn Regional High School principal Barbara Gil extended the invitation only two days after Governor David Paterson appointed Gillibrand. Gil says she was alarmed by Gillibrand's strong pro-gun positions and her defense -- saying she comes from a family of hunters. Gil wanted the new senator to understand what guns are doing to her community in East Flatbush.
GIL: If you want to shoot a duck, okay, I have no problem with this. But there's a big difference between that and kids walking around and anytime there's a slight altercation people are pulling guns and wanting to shoot each other.
REPORTER: In January, one of Gil's top students, 17-year-old Nyasia Pryear-Yard, was fatally shot in the neck when gunfire erupted at a nightclub where she'd gone dancing. At the school, Senator Gillibrand met with Nyasia's parents, Jennifer and Alberto, who say they they now will be advocates to stop gun violence.
GILLIBRAND: And I'm going to work with both Jennifer and Alberto on coming up with legislation that will do just that. We're going to work on legislation to end gun trafficking.
REPORTER: But Gillibrand says she remains a strong proponent of the Second Amendment. And she stands by her vote in the House that defeated Washington D.C.'s ban on gun ownership. She says gun control legislation should not affect law abiding citizens.
GILLIBRAND: If they want to be a hunter or if they want to protect their home, these are legal gun owners. They should have a right, these are not criminals.
REPORTER: Gillibrand also met yesterday with Nazareth High School students, who peppered the new senator with questions about a lack of after school programs, how to finance college, and the entrenched problem of gang violence and illegal guns. Student body president Martin Evelyn says he's optimistic Gillibrand will bring their perspectives to the hallowed halls of the Senate.
EVELYN: We hope that the way we portrayed ourselves and the issues we deal with were effective for her to understand that in the inner city guns mean something different than for those upstate. Guns aren't always something used for sport, but sometimes to kill, especially in the inner city.
REPORTER: Those who got to meet with Gillibrand yesterday say they respect that she took time to come to Brooklyn to meet with them. But Alberto Yard, who lost his daughter Nyasia only three weeks ago, says he's going to wait and see if Gillibrand will follow up on her promises.
YARD: They seem genuine but like I said I have to give her time to see actually what she said is what she's going to do.
REPORTER: In addition to fighting for tougher gun trafficking legislation, Gillibrand told Nyasia's parents that she'll name a bill after their daughter. For WNYC, I'm Elaine Rivera.