Gun Violence: Indian-Americans demand immediate action and commonsense gun reforms

People attend a vigil for the victims of the Robb Elementary School shooting at the Uvalde County Fairplex Event Venue and Indoor Arena on May 25, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Joshua Lott.

The horrendous massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on May 24. 2022, that killed 19 innocent fourth graders, 9 and 10 years old, and their two teachers, and injured 17 others, shocked a nation wearied by the frequency, and parents and families of the victims in disbelief, anger, and unspeakable agony.

Ordering that flags at the White House, and federal buildings be flown at half-staff in honor of the victims, President Joe Biden addressed the nation on his return from Asia the same day

“As a nation, we have to ask: when in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in God’s name will we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?” adding “to lose a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped away. There’s a hollowness in your chest, and you feel like you’re being sucked into it and never going to be able to get out. It’s suffocating. And it’s never quite the same.”

Pleazant Davis, 22, is comforted by her friend, Tasha Dixon, 35, at a memorial honoring the victims of the Tops shooting across the street from the store in Buffalo on May 15, 2022. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Libby March for The Washington Post.

Indian-Americans generally reacted strongly to the latest massacre.

“Enough is enough,” tweeted Vice President Kamala Harris. “As a nation, we must have the courage to take action and prevent this from ever happening again. It is long past time for our country to stand up to the gun lobby and pass reasonable gun safety laws.”

“If anyone doubted that gun violence is a public health crisis in America, yesterday was an unequivocal reminder that it most definitely is,” asserted United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy who has always held that view. “We owe it to the victims, the survivors, our kids, and each other to treat gun violence like the emergency it is. As a parent and as an American, I can’t fathom the depth of pain those grieving in Uvalde are feeling. … We must do better as a country.”

“Words cannot express the heartbreaking and shocking nature of the event that occurred today,” Indian-American Judge K. P. George of Fort Bend County, Texas in a statement on May 24. “Our children go to school to learn in a caring and safe environment. The horrific actions of this single individual, once again, serve(s) as a reminder, that even in our efforts to keep our schools safe, there are those who wish to inflict harm on the most vulnerable amongst us, our children.”

George also honored the victims with a Candlelight Vigil on May 26, at the Fort Bend County Justice Center, in Richmond, Texas along with Fort Bend County Sheriff, Eric Fagan, District Attorney Brian Middleton, and Attorney Bridgette Smith-Lawson.

Reacting to the shooting, Virginia State Senator, Ghazala Hashmi urged, “this is not the time for words. It is the time for action. It is the time for the federal government and our leaders in Congress to take steps to prevent future mass murders of innocents in our schools, grocery stores, shopping malls, houses of worship, concerts, and anywhere else that should be safe for children and families.”

The massacre has once again brought to fore the intense debate among Americans around the contentious issues of gun ownership, and second amendment rights. Mass shootings have become a perpetual issue, and gun-wielding youngsters indiscriminately taking innocent lives, have become a constant spectacle in the US.

Law enforcement officers outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Eric Thayer.

Republican leaders, gun lobbyists, and manufacturers of assault weapons have generally blocked any legislative efforts introduced in Congress to put an end to the epidemic of gun violence. Some have suggested arming school teachers so they can retaliate in active shooter situations.

Indian-American elected officials and candidates for political offices in Maryland and Virginia are now demanding swift actions, rather than prayers and condolences from their political leaders. They are appealing for an immediate end to the Republican filibuster in Congress, in order to advance gun control measures, and implement common sense gun reforms such as strengthening universal background checks, prohibiting easy access to high-caliber assault weapons, and encouraging more states to implement Red Flag laws to address the issue without undermining second amendment rights guaranteed by the constitution.

“Red flag” laws, also known as Extreme Risk Protection Order laws, authorize courts to temporarily seize firearms from people who are believed to be a danger to themselves or society. Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia have Red-Flag laws.

A White House staffer lowers the American flag to half-staff on May 24, 2022, in Washington, D.C, following the elementary school shooting in Texas. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Oliver Contreras.

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, noted that the Uvalde shooting comes just over a week after the deadly white supremacist mass shooting in Buffalo, and nearly a decade after Sandy Hook. “How many more elementary school shootings need to happen before Republicans decide to act?” adding, “year after year, the House has passed sensible gun reform legislation that would save lives. And year after year, the U.S. Senate has blocked those reforms from passing, thanks to the filibuster. It could – tomorrow- find 6o votes to pass sensible gun reforms or eliminate the filibuster, so senators are finally acting to save lives.”

Jayapal also pointed out that America has 4 percent of the world’s population but 42 percent of the world’s guns. “Yet Texas Governor (Greg) Abbott just recently signed laws loosening restrictions on gun carrying.  Senator (Mitch) McConnell has led the GOP to filibuster even the most universally supported gun violence prevention laws for years. And Texas Senator (Ted) Cruz – as his own constituents try to pick up the pieces of their lives – is already waving away the call for these commonsense reforms.”

“I think all of us are just thinking about the families tonight,”  Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois, said. “It eerily resembles Sandy Hook and what happened there. And unfortunately, we thought that would be the catalyst for action but that did not result in any gun reform laws.”

Krishnamoorthi contends that “our inaction is recklessly leading to these horrible tragedies.” And suggested the filibuster be revoked in the U.S. Senate, a position the President has not yet supported.

Krishnamoorthi pointed out what polls have shown – that 90 per cent of gun owners support universal background checks, and that Red Flag legislation, would enable family members to intervene and ensure troubled persons do not have access to firearms.

Indian-American Democratic Gubernatorial candidate for Maryland, Ashwani Jain, told News India Times, “I am sickened that politicians and candidates will still call for ‘thoughts and prayers’ but refuse to release specific gun-safety legislation that can prevent the constant murders of children and civilians in our schools and our communities. Enough is enough.”

Jain said that he hosted a Gun Safety workshop in 2018 after the Parkland shooting. At the end of that workshop, students ranging from age 11 to 19 made almost 200 calls to our Maryland lawmakers in support of SB 707, which would ban rapid-trigger devices in this state and keep weapons out of the hands of domestic abusers.

Calling the Texas shooting “a horrific culmination of inaction,” Latina-Indian American Democratic Candidate for Congressfrom Virginia 8th district, Victoria Virasingh asserted, “We need gun policy reform now. I’m running for Congress to create meaningful change. To prevent gun violence, passing stronger background check requirements to prevent people with dangerous histories from owning and carrying guns, prohibiting the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, requiring licenses before purchasing or obtaining a firearm, and enforcing Red Flag Laws, are essential.”

Alok Srivastava, executive director, of American Hindu Coalition while urging Governor Greg Abbott and Texas public officials to investigate and deliver meaningful solutions, questioned why security measures failed in the elementary school.

Srivastava told News India Times, “Texas is home to a large Hindu American population. We abhor violence, particularly against the innocent and the unarmed. But the U.S. Constitution guarantees an individual’s right to bear arms for self-d,efense and to protect our loved ones and our property. So, we ask – why did the security measures in place at this Texas elementary school, including armed security officers, fail? We also ask – could an early intervention in this young man’s life by a licensed mental health professional have prevented such horrific violence?”

“We keep telling students that school is a safe place. How can we keep saying this?” questioned Sabina Malkani, an elementary school teacher in D.C. Public Schools. “Legislators need to come to the table and agree to tighten up gun laws right away. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or Republican. Fighting senseless murder cannot be about politics. It has to be about protecting the precious lives of our children. We don’t need any more thoughts and prayers. We need policy and change.”

Former Republican Candidate for Lt. Governor of Virginia, Puneet Ahluwalia, called it heart wrenching to lose loved ones “through deeds of bad horrible actors who don’t value life or freedom.”

To stop such incidents in future, Ahluwalia told News India Times, “We need to allocate more resources to protecting our kids in schools and colleges. Social media sites have to immediately notify authorities on posts which lead to these horrible tragedies and not glorify these sick individuals. Supporting our men and women in uniform and first responders with necessary training, equipment, and mental challenges is important at all times.”



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