When I turned on the news the evening of December 12th, I was horrified by news of the Oregon shooting spree at Clackamas Town Shopping Mall in Portland—where just six months earlier I had strolled with my sister, niece and her 5-month old daughter.  That fateful night two people were shot and killed, a tragic incident that would have been even more horrific had the gunman’s automatic weapon not jammed. 

Only two days later I was horrified by yet another gunman in Newtown, CT, where 20 children and six adults, the school’s principal and several teachers, were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  

America has unleashed a vicious cycle of mass shootings. And we don’t know where, or when the next gun melee might occur, and who might be the next victims.  Saddened and angered, Americans are incensed more now than ever that our children must perpetually live in a state of vulnerability and fear.

In deference to public sentiment and impassioned outrage, decisive legal action is long overdue to curb access to and the distribution of automatic firearms and immediate efforts must be enacted to close the “gun show loophole,” as evidenced by unambiguous social sentiment. 

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The people have spoken: The violence must stop.

National legislators and local elected officials who have either passively or proactively thwarted reinstatement of the Assault Rifle law (which lapsed in 1994) must be held accountable.  Why have we remained so complacent—and in some ways complicit—in the firearms virus plaguing America? Now is time to breathe life into public and private initiatives to legislate the sale and distribution of firearms.

But the debate should not stop here. We must ask ourselves why, in the past 30 years, the number of random mass shootings has risen from 18 in the 1980's to 87 in the current decade.  There is an undeniable and inextricable link between gun violence and untreated mental illness.  These mass shootings also beg the question of our country’s failure to provide access to and treatment for mental health. 

Children’s Defense Fund President Marian Wright Edelman asks “Where is our anti-war movement to protect children from pervasive gun violence here at home?”  The sobering statistics Ms. Edelman cites offer a shocking view of the war on children being waged at the hands of people with guns.  Since the U.S. began tracking gun-related deaths by age in 1979 there have been 119,079 children and teen gun deaths—a number that exceeds that of American lives lost in battle: 

World War I   53,402         

Korea             33,739

Vietnam         47,434

Iraq                    3, 517

The data exhibited by the Children's Defense Fund: Protect Children, Not Guns 2012 is chilling:

  • In 2008, 2,947 children and teens died from guns in the United States; 2,793 died in 2009 for a total of 5,740—one child or teen every three hours, eight every day, 55 every week for two years.
  • Six times as many children and teens—34,387—suffered nonfatal gun injuries as gun deaths in 2008 and 2009. This is equal to one child or teen every 31 minutes, 47 every day, and 331 children and teens every week.”

As Americans grieve over the Sandy Hook Elementary victims, the emotional hurdle burdening our souls has been given voice in the hashtag #prayfornewtown. 

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The Gun Show loophole in America enables 40% of gun buyers to purchase weapons without background checks. Even terrorists have mocked the lack of U.S. gun control, citing how easy it is to purchase automatic weapons at gun shows—with impunity—without undergoing a background check.

A far-reaching social media petition campaign now calls on President Obama to introduce new and stricter gun control legislation.  In my opinion, further social appeal should be launched to urge such pension funds as the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CALSTRS) to divest its nearly $500 million position in Cerberus Capital Management—the private equity firm that owns Bushmaster Firearms International (now known as Remington Outdoor), the semiautomatic weapons and ammunition manufacturer of the very weapon used by the gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Again in my opinion, it is morally irresponsible and unprincipled for a union of teachers—dedicated to nurturing, inspiring and educating our children—to be in any way associated with weapon manufacturers which do them harm.

On the same fateful day as the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, I attended a benefit calling for the President to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier—a Native American accused of murdering two FBI agents and imprisoned for 37 years under heinous conditions, despite total lack of evidence.  At the event filmmaker and activist Michael Moore noted in his speech that on the very same day 30 school children in China had been attacked by a deranged man with a knife, no one died. 

The violence visited last week in Newtown has ignited public debate, as collective grief slowly morphs into predictable emotional outrage. Let us hope this indignation is directed in a unison cry through every conceivable social channel to end, once and for all, the obscenity of gun violence.

I plead with you Mr. President—before it is too late— to use your Executive Power to curb the madness of gun violence. Close the gun show loophole and institute sane and reasonable background checks. And do it now!