Suraj Patel, a Democratic candidate in New York’s 12th Congressional District, sat on a stool on Friday evening to talk gun violence with nearly a dozen high school and college students at his campaign office in the East Village.
“I think it’s pretty remarkable what you guys are doing,” he said.
The informal discussion came before the March for Our Lives protest the following day. The March 24th rally was held nationwide to urge lawmakers in Congress to limit mass shootings. The demonstration comes more than a month after the fatal shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Patel, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Western Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn), shared with students his stance on guns and his opinion on the prospect of changing laws.
“We may not be winning yet, but we got the momentum,” he said. “I’ll take momentum over position any day.”
One student inquired on what policies Patel would advocate in Congress if elected. The NYU professor noted he favored a full assault weapons ban, stringent background checks for handgun purchases, waiting periods for gun buyers, and a ‘red flag’ law—or allowing authorities to take weapons from people deemed a public danger—for every state. He also prefers banning handguns, albeit he acknowledged it would be difficult to tackle at first.
“I don’t understand how we allow human-killing machines on the streets,” said Patel.
After the nearly 20-minute discussion, students continued to make signs for rally with a variety of Sharpies, LaCroix cans, and snacks.
David Lipkin, 17, and Leah Yoes, 18, are two Bronx High School of Science students that also asked questions to Patel.
Yoes asked about ways to address gun violence in urban areas such as New York City. After the talk, she elaborated that she knew of Patel before, receiving ads from his campaign on Instagram, and enjoyed the conversation.
“Him being proactive is wonderful,” Yoes said.
Moreover, Lipkin explained that he felt a “good vibe” from Patel. He was also impressed with Patel’s demeanor and ideas.
“He’s that guy who’s like, ‘Screw it, let’s do it,” Lipkin said.