Linda Beigel Schulman knows that her son would be proud of her.
Her son, Scott Beigel, was a geography teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, and he was one of those killed on February 14, 2018, as he tried protect students during the mass shooting.
On Tuesday, nearing a year since her son’s murder, Beigel Schulman sat at a table next to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and held up a photo of Scott, confident that his death was not in vain.
“I know that no matter how senseless and no matter how incomprehensible the Parkland massacre was (and) Scott’s murder was, when we pass the red flag law … Scott’s murder will now save lives,” she said.
Thanks to Beigel Schulman’s advocacy and a Democratic wave in the most recent election, the New York state legislature passed several gun control bills intended to prevent the type of mass shootings that occurred in Parkland and in Las Vegas in the past two years.
The bills prohibit bump stocks — the firearm accessory used in the Las Vegas shooting — ban teachers from carrying firearms at school, establish a municipal gun buyback program, and extend to 30 days the time a gun-buyer needs to wait to buy a weapon if they don’t pass a background check.
Most notably, New York passed a “red flag” bill that allows a police officer, family member, or school administrator to ask a court to issue an extreme risk protection order that would prohibit a person deemed to be a danger from buying or possessing a firearm.
A number of states have considered similar red flag laws in the wake of evidence that the Parkland shooter had exhibited serious warning signs but was still able to own a firearm.
The bills are expected to head to Gov. Cuomo’s desk soon for his signature.
Speaking to CNN on Thursday, Beigel Schulman said that she did not just bring a photo of Scott with her to the press event; she brought Scott himself.
“It’s not a picture. I actually took Scott,” she told CNN. “I’m not taking a picture of Scott. I get my strength from knowing that we’re making a difference, but it’s not me who’s making the difference. We’re making the difference.”
‘We’re making the difference’
Cuomo on Tuesday thanked Beigel Schulman and her husband, Michael Schulman, for using that tragedy to make a difference.
“To take that pain and to turn it into a positive is really one of the greatest tests of character, I think. And what the Schulmans have done has been amazing,” Cuomo said.
Beigel Schulman raised Scott Beigel as a single mother on Long Island before he moved to Florida and became a teacher. She married Michael Schulman 12 years ago, and he then adopted Scott and his sister.
She and her son had discussed mass shootings many times, she said, and they agreed something had to be done. So she knows he’d be proud of her advocacy here.
“I think he would say, mom, this is the right thing to do. I think he would say, this is what I would do,” she said.
Cuomo said he had not been to a single event about the issue where he hadn’t seen Beigel’s parents advocating for legislation.
“I hope Linda and Michael can find some peace today in knowing that, in many ways, what happened in Parkland really did accelerate public awareness, and with their advocacy, brought us to today,” Cuomo said.
New York already has the third-lowest firearm death rate of any state in the country, with 772 people dying from firearms in the state in 2017, according to data from the Center for Disease Control.
The gun control bills passed easily because Democrats took control of the New York state senate in the most recent election, giving them majority control of the governor’s office and both legislative branches.
New York state previously passed a major gun control reform package in 2013 after the shooting in Sandy Hook. The laws fortified New York’s assault weapons ban, limited the number of bullets allowed in magazines and strengthened rules that govern the mentally ill.
Looking back, Cuomo said he was convinced that that 2013 law had proved that responsible gun owners have nothing to fear from gun control legislation.
“There is a solution, and we have six years of history to show that the planet does not stop spinning, people don’t lose guns, it doesn’t bankrupt an industry,” Cuomo said. “None of those myths that they scare you with come true.”
These new bills, he argued, would similarly balance the needs of gun owners and gun control advocates.
“There has to be a way to allow people who can have guns and should have guns to enjoy their guns, but not have the senseless violence where people who are mentally ill, people who are past felons have guns,” Cuomo said.
Beigel Schulman, too, said this should not be a partisan issue, but just one of safety.
“It’s about the fact that this could happen to anyone,” she said. “I don’t want you to ever stand in my shoes.”