To the Editor:
On May 1, 2023, I attended Congressman Brandon Williams’ “town hall” in New Hartford. I truly wish I had those couple hours back — that is how deeply I feel he wasted the time of every last attendee. Although most people associate the term town hall with an open exchange of ideas — a chance to hear and be heard — to call this a town hall was disingenuous, at best.
There were so many instances when Williams demonstrated the degree to which he is out of touch with his constituents. His recent vote on the Republican budget that will slash vital resources for our region’s people is but one example. He deflected a question regarding how he might help farmers in the community, he denied the need for inclusion of transgender athletes, he rejected the notion of clean energy jobs — all these examples show his inaccessibility and refusal to listen to the very people he represents.
Worst of all was this: “I am pro-life!” Williams proudly proclaimed. The statement drips with hypocrisy. Williams sits on his hands while gun violence has surpassed car accidents as the No. 1 cause of children’s deaths in the United States. He is selectively pro-life, all about defending zygotes; children, not so much.
William’s argument against stricter gun laws goes like this: Criminals will find a way to illegally acquire guns. However, these are the facts:
- The Nashville shooter who killed children and staff members at the Covenant School legally purchased seven guns from five different stores.
- The Buffalo shooter’s AR-15 was obtained legally.
- In Uvalde, Texas, the gunman legally bought two AR-style rifles just days before the massacre at Robb Elementary School.
- In Parkland, Florida, the shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School used a legally-bought AR-15-style rifle to kill 17 people.
In fact, illegal gun acquisitions account for only 13% of weapons used in mass shootings. It stands to reason, then: Stricter gun laws can only help alleviate the problem.
Responsible Central New York gun owners realize that they will keep their hunting rifles if stricter gun laws are established. After the 1994 federal ban on assault rifles, our neighbors’ ability to hunt deer and turkeys was affected not one iota while mass shootings declined. Furthermore, responsible gun owners have long since stopped paying NRA dues when gross misuse of funds was revealed. Despite this misuse of funds, Republicans continue to support the NRA. Why? Perhaps because in 2022 alone, the NRA gave over $6 million to the NRA Victory Fund (a lobbying group that contributes to NRA-endorsed candidates), as well as over $643,000 directly to individual candidates. Williams hit the blood money jackpot, receiving more than double the average per Republican candidate.
As the faux town hall wound down, the crowd, realizing there would be no discourse, wished at least to hear words that might heal instead of deepen our differences, unite instead of divide. You know — leadership. Instead, Williams called those who disagreed with him “disruptors!” He invoked the typical rightwing tropes: “WOKE!” “Marxists!” channeling his best Tucker Carlson to the delight of his devotees among the crowd. They stood; they cheered.
And they waved the flag that belongs to all of us.
Jennifer A. Boulanger, Ed.D.