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Looking Back on the Wisconson Gurdwara Shooting 5 Years Later

just another day in the United States of America—another day of gun fire, panic, and fear

As I am writing this, it has been a little over five years since the murder of six innocent Sikhs at a gurudwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, at the hands of a hate-filled man with a gun. But they weren’t just numbers to add onto the overwhelming body count in this country of lives taken by gun violence. They were heroic, like Satwant Singh Kaleka who even after being shot twice, held off the shooter for enough time that others could hide, just to name one example.

Their community knew them to be so much more than another name on the list. And for the past five years, their families and friends, and the Sikh community at large, had to cope with the way they were ripped away from their lives because of ignorance and hate.

5 years. 260 weeks, 1,825 days, and 43,800 hours.

Days and hours in which legislation should have been passed to prevent such an unspeakable tragedy from ever occurring again. But, has that happened? Clearly not, as the largest mass shooting in US history, the Orlando nightclub shooting, which claimed 49 innocent lives, occurred just over a year ago. But, whether you identify with the left or the right, with legislation restricting access to guns or legislation treating the mentally ill, the fact of the matter is that something was supposed to be done.

Yet, almost every day, I, and every American, can expect to wake up and be greeted by a new notification on their phone of a mass shooting. We accept the tragedy, send a tweet bemoaning the loss, and wait for the process to repeat in a few days. And after several years of this cycle, it has become a part of our modern-day culture, and we greet the next shootings with a frightening numbness and apathy. It seems that people can no longer summon the pain and anger that these senseless killings demand. According to the Los Angeles Times, "when you have an event that is happening frequently, people will resign themselves to the recurrence of the event. The result is hypersensitivity to personal safety and an acceptance when it happens to others.” The psychological effects of gun violence are slowly stripping us of our humanity.

Throughout the Obama administration, we constantly heard about President Obama’s strong position against guns, but actually, there were only two laws passed during the Obama administration with regard to guns, and both actually increased access to guns in public: one allowing guns to be carried in national parks, and the other allowing AmTrak passengers to carry guns in checked baggage. Towards the end of his administration however, he did use his executive order power to call for more comprehensive background checks, increased mental health treatment, and increased research into gun safety technology. Unfortunately, a few months ago, the next administration quietly signed a bill ending this regulation which made it harder for people with mental illnesses to buy a gun. The partisan fight over gun laws is simply adding more and more names to the list of lives taken by gun violence.

This is one issue that simply is not about adhering to party lines. As a country, there are so many examples we can look to. For instance, Australia, in 1996, implemented tough and far-reaching gun legislation after a massacre had shaken the country. And how effective was the legislation?

Well, Australia hasn’t had a mass shooting since.

Even in the US, the 33 states which adopted RTC, or right-to-carry, laws experienced violent crime rates 4-19% higher after 10 years than if they had not adopted such laws, according to Uniform Crime Reports data from 1979 to 2012.

But what can be done? What can we do? Compared to issues like healthcare and ISIS, the striking amount of gun violence in our country still seems to take a back seat, at least in the minds of our representatives.

The simple truth is that we need to reach out to those who represent us in state legislatures and Congress, and even strive to become those people who have the power to create effective change in our country, through social activism and running for public office.

 A few years ago, the BBC began its news coverage of the San Bernardino attack with the phrase, ‘just another day in the United States of America—another day of gun fire, panic, and fear.’ The Sikh community, as well as all Americans, must recognize the pain and suffering that gun violence is causing and will continue to cause unless preventive action is taken. Sikh values are American values, and so we need to come together to protect all the values we hold dearest and strive toward an America in which just another day means more love and unity, not more hatred and violence. So, call your representative today— and demand legislation to stop these senseless killings.

 

Photo credit: Copyright: ipopba / 123RF Stock Photo

Keerat Singh

I'm a 16-year-old girl growing up in the current political climate and am most passionate about women's healthcare and pay equity

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