The People in Your Neighborhood: Dumbo Mom Demands Action for Gun Sense

Today, we are pleased to introduce “People in Your Neighborhood,” a Q & A feature that we hope will become a regular and welcomed addition to the Brooklyn Heights Blog.  In today’s installment, we spotlight Jaime Pessin (pictured left), the campaign lead for the New York chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.  Jaime lives in DUMBO with her husband and two young children. She moved to NYC in 2005 and has lived in DUMBO since 2008.

What was the catalyst for your involvement in gun sense advocacy? 

My son was in pre-K during the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and that event exploded my world. That 20 first-graders could be gunned down in the sanctity of their classrooms was unfathomable to me, and I was virtually paralyzed with grief. A few days later, Wayne La Pierre – the president of the NRA – held a press conference in which he argued that classroom teachers should be armed to protect their kids, and I had a mental picture of my son’s elderly pre-K teacher packing heat and wrestling a “bad guy” to the ground. That was when I got mad. That was the moment that kick started my activism.

How did you become involved with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense?

During the week between the shooting and the “good guy with a gun” press conference, a friend had liked a new Facebook page that had been set up by Shannon Watts, a mom in Indiana who was as grief-stricken and enraged as I was. Somehow she connected with some moms in Brooklyn and in Silicon Valley and other places around the country, and Moms Demand Action was born. In the early days, it was a total frenzy, with people around the country reaching out and trying to start chapters. On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we had our first-ever March Across the Brooklyn Bridge and Rally for Gun Sense, with nearly 1,000 people turning out to demand stronger gun laws.

What’s amazing is that the organization was literally started on Facebook by a mom typing furiously on a laptop at her kitchen counter. Now we have chapters in every state, with more than 3 million members.

3) What is your role within the organization?

I have a couple of roles within the organization. I am the campaign lead for our NY state chapter, which means I help organize various efforts locally.  Obviously we have a huge focus on passing legislation nationally, but we’ve also got education and corporate culture campaigns, too.  For example, our BeSMART campaign encourages people to make sure their kids don’t unintentionally access guns…[and] helps educate parents to those risks.  We have a great presentation that we’d be happy to do at your PTA or church group or other community organization – reach out [to our NY Chapter Facebook page] if you’re interested.

The other role I have with Moms Demand Action is that I’m on a small team creating the Mother’s Dream Quilt Project. The quilt project is a series of quilts that incorporates fabric from victims and survivors of gun violence, along with squares created by people who haven’t been personally affected, but who care about the issue. You can see the first seven quilts and read the stories behind each square at our website. There are currently a dozen quilts touring the country.

Jaime Pessin Stands with Comedian Amy Schumer and Senator Chuck Schumer at #AimingForChange Press Conference

Jaime Pessin (left) stands with Comedian Amy Schumer and Senator Chuck Schumer at #AimingForChange Press Conference, held Sunday.  Photo courtesy of Moms Demand Action.

If you could pass one piece of gun sense legislation, what would it be? 

I’m going to cheat and give you two pieces of legislation, because they go hand in hand. They both address the aspect of our gun problem that infuriates me most: Terrible laws in other states contribute directly to crime in our neighborhoods.

The first thing that would be a huge help in New York would be to mandate background checks on all gun sales nationally. A lot of people don’t realize that this is not already the law. Currently our system requires federally licensed firearms dealers to conduct a background check. So when you go to a gun store, you get a background check, it usually takes a couple of minutes, and then if your record is clean, you go on your way. But that law doesn’t apply to private sellers. So when someone posts online “I’ve got a few guns to sell, who wants to buy ’em”, they’re not required to do background checks before they sell those guns. Similarly, if a private seller brings 100 guns to a gun show, he can sell them all without conducting a background check on any buyer.

NY state has laws that require background checks on all gun sales. But that doesn’t stop people from buying guns in other states without a background check and bringing them to New York. In fact, 90 percent of guns recovered from NYC crimes were purchased out of state (if you look at the state as a whole, the number is 70 percent). In some of the recent high profile killings of NYPD officers, the guns were traced to Georgia.

The second, related, piece of legislation that I’d like to see passed is a federal anti-trafficking bill. Sen. Gillibrand recently introduced legislation that would make it a federal crime to traffic guns; it’s shocking that this isn’t already a federal crime. Just the other week, a man was indicted for running guns from Georgia to NYC, and even our local prosecutors are calling for a federal anti-trafficking statute so they can charge them with a federal crime.

If we enacted universal background checks on gun sales and a federal anti-trafficking law, we would be able to save a lot of lives.

How can other like-minded people get involved?  What does Moms Demand Action need right now?

Moms Demand Action is always looking for new volunteers! We need people to make calls to new members (ie phone banking), we need people to help write letters to the editor, we need people to attend and volunteer at events (especially our 4th annual Brooklyn Bridge march, which will be held in May 2016), we need people to meet with legislators. There are a ton of entry points and ways to get involved, from showing up in person to making calls from home.

The first step would be to fill out this form to join our local chapter:

We’ve got a membership meeting coming up on the evening of Nov. 4 in Brooklyn Heights. We welcome any new members who would like to learn more about what we’re doing. You can RSVP here:

Is there is a special person in the neighborhood you would like to see featured? Comment away!

Share this Story:

, , , , , ,

  • Willow Street Watch

    For everyone’s information; the next time you have an opportunity ask one or two “gun control” activists what IANSA is? Why is it that an organization totally outside the US.(!) Is apparently coordinating the gun control movement inside this country! IANSA Also appears to be Crown funded!

    IANSA was also deeply involved in mounting the UN gun control resolution two years ago.

    Everyone is concerned with the mounting violence in American society, not to mention surrounding the Heights. But we need real solutions. As gun laws have proliferated and tightened over the last 40 or so years violence has INCREASED. This is just a scientific statistical fact. If anyone is prescribed a treatment and the condition worsens, and your doctor insists on increasing the dose, do you continue to take that medication or do you look for a better treatment,… and a different doctor.

  • alexblac


  • StudioBrooklyn

    Both your and WSW’s citations of statistics seem misleading to me. The cocktail of variables affecting gun violence (which is not one thing, by the way, but exists in many different forms, each with its own nuanced mix of causes and focus demographics) is not simple enough to be charted in a single graph (i.e. “rates of gun ownership vs gun deaths” as WSW suggests, or “rates of gun deaths by country” as you [alexblac] suggest).

    Most thinking people seem to agree that it’s a big problem and that something ought to be done about it, but I don’t think these oversimplifactions are especially helpful to the conversation.

    (Are we talking about gang- or crime-related gun deaths? Accidents that happen in homes where guns are kept? People going off the rails and mass-shooting others? These questions matter because they drastically affect the way we should be thinking about solutions.)

  • alexblac

    My graph shows the US to be a huge outlier in the developed world for total gun homicides. Feel free to speculate on reasons why that might be, but I think it’s because of the uniquely lax gun laws.

    It’s a shame congress managed to prevent the CDC from investigating gun deaths.

  • Oy

    And 36,000 in the US were killed in traffic accidents compared to only 2,000 in the UK. SO?

  • alexblac

    The graph I posted was per capita.

  • StudioBrooklyn

    I don’t in any way dispute that the US is an outlier in the developed world for “total gun homicides”.

    However, “total gun homicides” does not mean there is a single set of conditions causing these homicides that can be addressed by a single solution. For example, you mentioned the “uniquely lax gun laws”, which certainly play a huge role in accounting for a portion of those homicides, but only a portion. In many other homicides, the lax gun laws may be a much smaller factor than, say, cultural attitudes toward guns, the poverty-crime cycle, organized crime centered around black market inflation as a result of narcotics prohibitions, etc.

    I’m totally with you about the CDC though.

  • Willow Street Watch

    Well, faced with surging violent crime, state after state passed a number of measures:
    1) Concealed Carry
    2) Defined in Black Letter Law, the specific circumstances where
    an individual is justified to defend his or herself
    3) Stand your ground
    4) Shall issue law covering municipalities and townships.

    Uh, guess what the effect on a wide range of the less reasonable among us? Hey, do you want to assault a woman in Houston or downtown Brooklyn?

    While were on the subject of violence, why is there no “media attention” to doctors who are shoveling out TONS of psychoactive medications with little proper training and no scientific testing.
    So psychs are prescribing SSRI’s and I’m supposed to give up my constitutional (remember that old document?) rights….how many psychs and DR’s are qualified psychopharmacologists? Far too few.
    And why is it that no psych after an incident is even interviewed much less charged or sued? Why the hands off treatment?

  • A Realist

    In NYC, illegal guns in minority neighborhoods, account for the vast majority of homicides committed with guns. Nothing nuanced about it. Period. This is simply a fact – the guns are illegal, most homicides in NYC are committed with them, and they occur, gang related or not, amongst non whites.

  • Willow Street Watch

    Any CDC study has a high likelihood of being politically or socially influenced. Any governmental connected agency is subject to very serious undue influence. But the real influence would come from the NGO driven foundation funding sources which every year greatly distort the direction of research in this country.

  • StudioBrooklyn

    1. If “illegal guns” account for the vast majority of homicides in NYC, why would legally-sanctioned firearms restrictions make any difference?

    2. I take issue with this fixation upon the correlation between the homicides and minorities–not because I’m concerned about racism, but because I think “race” misses the causal anchor in the link (hint: I think it’s socioeconomic class, not race) and corrupts the accuracy/validity of the correlation you are alluding to. That minority neighborhoods tend to be poorer is a separate issue, one which certainly deserves attention, but perhaps in a different context than the subject of gun crime.

    If the vast majority of gun homicides happen in poor neighborhoods whose inhabitants happen to be mostly non-white, the causal link you’re referring to is between poverty and violence, not skin color and violence.

    And I think it’s myopic and negligent to look at a situation like that and think that gun laws are a solution. That’s like treating brain cancer with a band-aid. In this case, the solution could only come through helping those communities find a way out of poverty. We could speculate on how that could be done if you like, I certainly have a few ideas, but anyway I think I’ve made my point.

  • StudioBrooklyn

    That said, my only problem with weapons bans is the possibility/probability that they create or contribute to black markets for weapons. Those black markets have the double effect of arming criminals who are its consumers and stirring up more violence among those who are involved in the black market supply chain.

    If those things don’t really happen through weapons bans, then by all means, they certainly can’t hurt.

  • R.O.Shipman

    You do know that violent crime in the U.S. has dropped significantly since the early 90’s and is at the lowest level in decades, right? And that violence in states with tight gun laws are demonstrably lower than in states with loose to no gun laws, right?

    Gun deaths are still high despite tight gun laws because anyone can buy a gun in the south and bring it up I-95 to DC, Philly and NYC. Or anyone in Chicago wanting a gun only has to travel just over the border to Indiana.

    The idea that anywhere in the U.S. has meaningful gun restrictions is laughable because anyone can get their hands on a new gun without having to have the gun be illegally shipped in through a customs check. The only difference in “tight” gun control states is that it is more expensive to attain those guns than in the lax gun control states. That extra cost has a benefit and lessens gun violence, but it’s nothing compared to what strict federal level gun control laws could accomplish.

    Acknowledging that the Second Amendment isn’t going anywhere and with the current federal judiciary it is going to be continuously improperly interpreted, there are still laws that could be passed to restrain the flow of illegal guns. No reasonable person can be opposed to universal background checks, mandatory firearm registration, heavy jail sentences for use of an illegal firearm in a crime, etc. The vast majority of people support this, but the NRA still scares politicians into opposition because they represent the gun manufacturers who make a ton of money off illegal gun sales.

  • R.O.Shipman

    As I hinted at below, the only reason a large black market for illegal guns exists in states with strict gun laws are the lax laws in a majority of U.S. states. It is far, far easier to smuggle guns over state lines than it is to smuggle guns in across borders.

    It obviously would still happen some, even with strict federal gun control laws, but it wouldn’t be officially sanctioned sales by gun manufacturers, and the cost to acquire illegal guns would be much, much higher.

  • StudioBrooklyn

    I’m imagining an analogy to, say, cocaine: difficult to smuggle into the US, but easy to smuggle between US states. Meanwhile, look what’s happening with the cartels in Mexico and points south…

    A better and far less damaging long-term solution is to focus on taking away the demand, not the supply.

  • R.O.Shipman

    Sure, solving the socioeconomic problems in this country that lead to the extremely high levels of poverty and hopelessness in this country would be great. But that’s no reason not to have better gun laws to prevent gun violence while we wait on the multitude of policy changes that need to occur in order for that to happen.

    That’s like me saying winning the lottery would solve all my financial problems, so I’ll do that and in the meantime quit my job.

  • StudioBrooklyn

    You’re mixing up what I wrote: no, solving the socioeconomic problems is not the reason not to have greater restrictions on guns. That doesn’t mean that no such reasons exist; I mentioned the destructive nature of black markets created by prohibitions.

    And your lottery analogy is problematic too, mainly because I’m not that cynical about addressing poverty! :) There are empirically tested causes of poverty that can be systematically addressed, but my suspicion is that the prison-industrial complex, as well as other interests, utilize a lot of power to thwart solutions. Yay corporatocracy.

  • Concerned

    There’s a reasonable function for vehicles. What is the reasonable function for handguns? Also, you need a license to drive a car; cars are tracked; licenses are tracked;, why shouldn’t you need a license/why shouldn’t guns be tracked the way vehicles are? could keep going, but someone who doesn’t see these points before I post them probably won’t listen.

  • R.O.Shipman

    You said treat the demand, not the supply. I think a fair reading of that point is that you wouldn’t institute legislation that denies sources of illegal guns, but would rather fight the conditions that give rise to illegal gun ownership (i.e., the crushing poverty for too large a portion of the American population).

    Yes, I’m cynical, but it’s only because as the national wealth has exploded, the poverty problem has arguably gotten worse, while we seem to be politically gridlocked with no hope at large scale solutions. Probably due to the corporatocracy you cite.

    Other than your black market fears, any other reason not to have real gun regulations in this country? Because guns aren’t like alcohol and drugs. They can’t just be brewed up by joe schmoe in a bathtub. Or smuggled in by drug cartels paying poor farmers in third world countries for their crops. Honest to god corporations build guns, and they wouldn’t risk U.S. sanctions to smuggle in enough guns to make a real black market like with drugs and alcohol during prohibition.

  • StudioBrooklyn

    “You said treat the demand, not the supply.”

    For a second I was like “Whaa? I said that?!” then I collected myself, went back and checked. I wrote “focus on”, not “treat”; I think there’s a semantic difference there worth noting. I am not saying it should be one or the other, but I do think that at least for the crime-related gun violence the central problem is poverty, not access to guns.

    “we seem to be politically gridlocked with no hope at large scale solutions. Probably due to the corporatocracy you cite.”

    That’s true. Maybe I’m more cynical than I realized.

    “Other than your black market fears, any other reason not to have real gun regulations in this country?”

    Nope, those are my only real concerns with regard to regulations, but I do think they’re valid ones.

  • Brixtony

    What does this have to do either with the topic at hand or your precious neighborhood? I thought we all had to stick to Brooklyn issues? I guess the “rules” don’t apply to the elite.

  • Bornhere

    Would that there were no guns; but until that fantasy becomes a reality, allow me another fantasy: anyone caught with an unlicensed gun goes to prison for you-choose how long. But a long time. Anyone convicted of a crime while in possession of an unlicensed gun, you go to prison. And you don’t come back. Even if there is no shooting. After all, was it the luck of the crime that precluded the impulse to shoot? Might it have turned out differently? If you only “winged” someone, was it because of deliberate aim or crap aim? If we cannot control the flow of guns, can we at least make the consequences of possession inarguable separation from society? What makes anyone see a gun as a not-leave-home-without-it accessory? And if we could find the money to start caring for people with mental deficit in a place prepared to treat/house them instead of a prison, I bet there would be a fair amount of space opened up. My fantasies, and I’m entitled to them….

  • Greg

    Houston’s murder rate in 2013 was 9.8 people per 100,000. New York’s was 4.0 per 100,000.

    Yet again, Willow Street Watch contributes baseless rhetoric with no foundation in fact.

    You are clearly confused.

  • Willow Street Watch

    The reported homicide incidents seldom give any real picture of the levels in real public safety. Homicides through what means?
    Stabbings?, blunt force? Vehicular homicide? What?

    There is a Far more important central statistic…HOW MANY LIVES ARE SAVED BY GUNS, ESPECIALLY HANDGUNS, EVERY YEAR.
    None of you EVER want to address or even disclose this hard reality. WITHOUT guns lives will be lost.

    But my basic telling point remains; I YOU were a criminal or crazy where would you want to assault or rob a woman? In Houston or in downtown Brooklyn? Sure, you don’t want to address that simple central reality….

    Few years ago an academic started to HONESTLY investigate the field of public safety. Then he published his findings and the PC crowd both in Washing and the NY based media went into pacic/ attack mode. Faced with this, instead of hiding under some rock he published his fidings in book form. The book’s title is,


    I’d like to see any of you read and then try to refute any of the the landmark findings in this work.

  • Willow Street Watch

    This is amazing toxic NWO thinking. So every or every key thing we do should searchable…

    Government should have unlimited or few limited acces to ever importsnt thing ee are doomg, in real time of course, uh, just a few questions: what safeguards would exist and what just happened to the right to be secure from unreasonable search and seizure? Or the simple right to remain silent? Both core features of our freedoms. Oh I see, all that’s swept away in this cyber era. Really? Amazing and disgusting thinking!

  • Willow Street Watch

    There is so much disiformafion and just wrong facts/perspective in your and to a lesser extend studio’s statements I don’t know where to begin…

    First, it is VERY noticeable that both of you have carefully avoided the entire subject of the flood of drugs, legal and illegal and why the medical sector is never brought to public attention for their major role in the rise of serious violence. Without the shoveling out of SSRI’s and other medication based destabilizations the present violent scene could not exist.

    You are also carefully not exploring the role of government in the flood of hard drugs. While many see this as nonfeasence or malfeasence, the blunt fact is we are awash in illegal drugs. The effect on American society is so severe, it would be unimaginable to our forefathersA

    Then there are some of your statements: no reasonable person can be opposed…really? Well there are wide sectors of the American public absolutely opposed to many of the kinds of checks advocated by some gun opponents. And universal mandatory registration is opposed by even a wider range of Americans for a number of central realities which
    every person who has lived in an UNfree society.

    The basic core of the right to keep and bear arms is the ANONYMOUS ownership of means of defense of the country and personal defense.
    Destroy or degrade this basic anchor, and you undermine many if not all of our freedoms.

  • Willow Street Watch

    Again, how many lives are Saved by guns in citizens hands? How many lives would be lost in the average year if those guns were quickly at hand to average citizens to provide lifesaving help in life threatening situations?

  • Miguel Gonzalez

    “The second, related, piece of legislation that I’d like to see passed is a federal anti-trafficking bill. Sen. Gillibrand recently introduced legislation that would make it a federal crime to traffic guns; it’s shocking that this isn’t already a federal crime.”

    I am guessing that both Ms. Pessin and Sen. Gillibrand are unaware of 18 US Code – 922 ? Violations get the defendant 10 years in FEDERAL prison.

  • Brixtony

    There is freedom and there are the tea party types, like you, despite your protestations, who persist in advocating free-dumb. The car analogy works for me: license, test, insure and heavily regulate the manufacturing. I speak as a left- wing rifle owner who learned how to shoot as a teenage Civil Air Patrol cadet officer. ( it’s not in Brooklyn, however).

  • Brixtony