Why I Stood With President Obama at his Speech on Gun Reform

This past Tuesday, I stood with President Obama as he announced a range of executive actions intended to pave the way to reduce gun violence in our country. I was deeply privileged to be present at the White House for the announcement, along with Lieutenant Brian Murphy. We represented the community of Oak Creek, Wisconsin, which has faced the consequences of mass violence at the hands of a gunman filled with hate.

On Sunday, August 5th, 2012, a gunman entered the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek and opened fire. His rampage left six people dead (Prakash Singh, Paramjit Kaur, Sita Singh, Ranjit Singh, Satwant Singh Kaleka, and Suveg Singh Khattra), one paralyzed and in long term care (Baba Punjab Singh), and an officer wounded (Lt. Brian Murphy was shot 15 times, including in his voice box).

For me, attending President Obama’s speech this week was meaningful for a number of reasons. The tragedy at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin changed the lives of many people, including mine. As a first responder, I witnessed firsthand what happens as a result of gun and hate violence. Victims, their families and the entire community were impacted in ways no one could ever imagine. Some of the victims killed at our gurdwara were hard working immigrants who were supporting their families back home. They had little contact with their families due to immigration status, and now their families in India will never have the chance to see them. Young children were left without parents while others were forced to grow up faster than they intended to take on family responsibilities. Even today, nearly four years after the tragedy, we are struggling with psychological impact from the tragedy; the fear of another such incident taking place lingers, the pain of seeing one of the victims, Baba Punjab Singh, lying semi-comatose for three years now reminds us that some wounds may never heal.

Sadly, hate violence is becoming an epidemic in our nation, with communities of color being targeted, from my own home of Oak Creek, Wisconsin to the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Tragically, guns are the weapon of choice for those perpetrating these massacres. President Obama’s executive actions, which include implementing a robust background check system, tracking online illegal firearms trafficking, and investing in mental health efforts among many other measures, will help keep our communities safer. In our efforts to prevent and eliminate hate violence, gun reform is a critical step that all of us must support. President Obama has led the way. Now it’s up to policymakers, elected officials, and community and faith leaders to carry these changes forward into actions.

—Mandeep Kaur, Co-Founder, Serve 2 Unite

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