For Sen. Cory Booker, gun violence hits home

  • Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., addresses a crowd of supporters during a campaign stop at the Green Street Community Center in Concord on Monday. MICHAEL PEZONE / Monitor staff

  • Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., addresses a crowd of supporters during a campaign stop at the Green Street Community Center in Concord on Monday. MICHAEL PEZONE / Monitor staff

  • Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., addresses a crowd of supporters during a campaign stop at the Green Street Community Center in Concord on Monday. MICHAEL PEZONE / Monitor staff

  • Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., addresses a crowd of supporters during a campaign stop at the Green Street Community Center in Concord on Monday. MICHAEL PEZONE / Monitor staff

  • Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., addresses a crowd of supporters during a campaign in Concord on Monday. MICHAEL PEZONE

  • Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., addresses a crowd of supporters during a campaign stop at the Green Street Community Center in Concord on Monday. MICHAEL PEZONE / Monitor staff

  • Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., addresses a crowd of supporters during a campaign stop at the Green Street Community Center in Concord on Monday. MICHAEL PEZONE / Monitor staff

  • Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., smiles as Rep. Annie Kuster (foreground) raises the roof during a campaign stop at the Green Street Community Center in Concord on Monday. MICHAEL PEZONE / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 5/13/2019 5:57:30 PM

Sen. Cory Booker didn’t want to talk about gun violence in the abstract. He wanted to paint a picture. And for him, that meant taking his audience back to his neighborhood.

It was 2004, and Booker was walking with his dad. Shots rang out; Booker ran to the scene. A teenager had been shot in the chest multiple times.

“I hope you don’t know what it looks like when a person’s bleeding to death from gunshot wounds,” he said to a crowd of about 100 at a campaign stop in Concord on Monday afternoon.

Then he told them about it. “I’m vainly trying to stop the blood, which seemed like it was coming from everywhere,” he said. “Suddenly, foamy blood starts pouring from this kid’s mouth. I reach and try to clear a pathway. I’m doing everything I can.”

By the time the ambulance arrived, Booker knew it was over. The 19-year-old, identified in later media reports as Wazn Miller, died in the hospital soon after.

The anecdote, one of the darkest on the 2020 campaign trail, came from a New Jersey senator who has long sought to tie lofty campaign rhetoric to intensely personal storytelling.

But it also was aired a week after Booker unveiled his proposal for gun violence laws – a sweeping raft of changes that goes further than any of his rivals so far.

Booker’s plan would ban assault-style weapons and introduce universal background checks, but the proposal would also require all gun owners obtain a permit to purchase their firearms – much like a driver’s license – a far-reaching idea with potentially explosive political consequences.

Throughout a two-hour town-hall style event at the Concord Parks and Recreation facilities downtown, Booker sought to raise the profile of an issue that as at times been overshadowed by health care and economic focuses, drawing on his time as councilor and mayor of Newark.

“If it takes having a mass shooting in your neighborhood for you to get on board with common sense gun safety, then we’re going to see too much blood in our streets,” he said.

In selling the proposal in New Hampshire, Booker faces a sharply political environment for gun control. Conservatives and some independents in the state have made gains recently in laws to reduce gun regulation; in 2017, newly-elected Gov. Chris Sununu, the first Republican to hold office, made it an early priority. The “constitutional carry” bill Sununu eliminated the requirement of a permit to carry concealed firearms and passed into law early that year.

But Booker dismissed the success of that bill – and the failure of gun regulation bills brought by Democrats – as evidence of the influence of the National Rifle Association rather than widespread support.

“I understand that your governor has made a lot of decisions that are in line with NRA and has been celebrated in their magazines,” he said in an interview after the event. “But the people of this state – a lot of the things in my plan are common sense that, just to take gun owners as a whole, over 80% support many of the things in my plan.”

It was an argument some in the crowd agreed with. “There are so many members of the NRA that want things done that the NRA won’t let them do,” argued Maria McNaught, a Merrimack resident who has followed Booker to several events this year. “We can try to build a bridge, but if someone that you’re trying to build a bridge with is cutting of the bridge, you can’t do it.”

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at edewitt@cmonitor.com, at (603) 369-3307, or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)




Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301
603-224-5301

 

© 2019 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy