Last month in the wake of the Parkland, Florida school massacre, New Jersey’s junior senator, Cory Booker, said failure to act on measures to prevent gun violence “is to be complicit in the continued violence.” Friday, he met with Newark Mayor Ras Baraka to take action. Correspondent Briana Vannozzi spoke to him.
Vannozzi: There was some intense conversation in there with student leaders. Take us inside that conversation.
Booker: Well first of all, I’m blown away by these young people. I mean, this was a diverse set of young people from all backgrounds, all parts of the state. And they were so eloquent, so detailed in the specific ideas that they had, but also so demanding that they’re going to be holding people accountable. They’re registering hundreds and hundreds of people to vote and they’re going to be the activists that are going to lead us, I think, to creating very common sense gun safety laws in our country.
Vannozzi: When we talk about this gun violence, the conversation is very different in Newark and urban areas where people experience this almost on a daily basis. Should we be shifting this, the way that we’re looking at this because so many people are talking about it from the school level. Here in urban areas it happens quite frequently.
Booker: Well, you can’t heal what happened in Parkland without healing what’s happening in Newark. These are all related. This morning, for Shahad Smith, who was killed on my block, at the top of my block, by an assault rifle. So getting these kinds of guns off the streets is going to help Americans all over the place. What we know here in New Jersey, since Parkland, we lost a 10-year-old in Atlantic City who was killed by gun violence, someone like Shahad was killed here in our city, so this is all interrelated and we know we can be doing a lot more by common sense gun safety, which a majority of gun owners in America believe and support. This is not an issue of not having American support, it’s congressional leaders who seem more concerned about the NRA than what will actually make us safer.
Vannozzi: So is this an issue, a Democratic issue, for midterm elections?
Booker: I would say that this should not be about left or right. This should be about right or wrong. Republicans in New Jersey agree with this just as much and to have representatives who aren’t in line with their own base is unacceptable. So this should be a midterm election opportunity to hold people accountable, and I’m very happy to see a lot of challengers, many of them coming from the Democratic party who are saying enough is enough, let’s do the kind of things that keep us safe. To have one of our Republican congresspeople support a concealed carry law, that means other people from other states can bring their concealed weapons into ours, that’s a betrayal of our state and we should hold those people accountable in the midterm.
Vannozzi: Very quickly, just one more thing. This morning, as you know, the Portal Bridge had a malfunction. It caused a whole bunch of service disruptions to New York Penn. The fact is though, in Washington, President Trump is saying he’s more likely to veto this spending bill than allow the Gateway funding to be a part of it. So should we be prepared for a budget showdown?
Booker: There’s going to be a budget showdown over this. I’m working across the aisle to try and fight to get the resources in this. For the president of the United States, on the busiest rail corridor in North America, connected to 20 percent of our economy, for him to make this a political thing when it’s going to be the more serious self-inflicted wounds, effect 20 percent of our economy, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Americans from Boston to Washington D.C. being put out because of this choke point, the Portal Bridge, that is presidential malfeasance. That’s a presidential betrayal of his own people. That’s putting politics before people, and that’s just unacceptable. We should all be speaking out. Again, this midterm election is a chance for us in New Jersey, who have been targeted by this last tax bill, Republican or Democrat, we were targeted. That’s why most Republicans in our state oppose this in Congress. We need to come out in droves and begin to push back on a president who seems to have it out for New Jersey.