Guest Blogged by Nina Chanpreet Kaur
The year 2012 has been a series of heartbreaks. �There is perhaps no greater pain than surviving a child. From Oak Creek, WI to the children whose lives were innocently lost in Newtown, CT and the millions of others who die as victims of violence every day, my heart breaks. �So far, our response as a nation in the wake of Friday’s tragedy has been�messy�and�presumptuous, but also�clear and action-oriented�at times. Deep pain, anguish, grief and conflict tend to have that affect: forcing us into action beyond our own daily lives and bringing us a greater sense of clarity.
In the wake of Sandy Hook, conversations about mental health, gun control laws and the root of violence in our schools, homes and communities continue to flash before our eyes.� In response, we each do what we know best — for some it is grappling with a �new world view to make space for such loss, for others it is taking time to grieve and release anxiety, and for several more it is taking quick action.� So far, the�Sandy Hook tragedy has transformed the views of some�politicians�and community members alike — Sikh Americans included. �I am hopeful that this will bring increased attention and action to the problem of gun violence that also deeply affects the Sikh community.
The Sikh American community has responded to Sandy Hook by�attending�and�organizing�vigils across the country. �A young Sikh boy imparted a�beautiful message�to the deceased children and national community, sharing his condolences. �The Kalekas, who lost their father and members of their sangat to the tragedy in Oak Creek, have organized a movement around the film�Nursery Crimes�and met on Monday on the steps of City Hall in New York City along with Mayor Bloomberg and other politicians demanding gun control. �They plan to travel with survivors from Oak Creek, Aurora and Columbine to Newtown, CT to lend a helping hand. �Both Amardeep and Pardeep Kaleka have been instrumental in shining light on the�roots of violence and hate�and taking quick action. Producing several videos, erecting�Serve 2 Unite�and building a movement around Nursery Crimes are among a few of their many tremendous efforts.� We need more Sikhs who are willing to speak up about the issue of gun control and systemic violence.
Though disturbing and shocking, the Sandy Hook shooting does not come as a surprise.� Turn on the TV, watch the news, read the headlines passing by–America teaches violence.� It pervades our society and homes.� Both the media and the U.S. military play a role in its perpetration.� Everyday, acts of violence around the world including those that take place on U.S. soil, particularly those in communities of color, go unnoticed by the broader American public and mainstream media. �In fact, gun violence disproportionately impacts people of color in the United States � especially children and teens from those communities.� A disproportionate amount of perpetrators of mass shootings are white men.� The perpetrators of this year�s gun rampages from Aurora to Oak Creek and Newton all telling examples.� Moreover, violence in America very much has its roots in white supremacy.
Policy and gun control regulations alone won’t solve the problem. � Attacking the roots of systemic violence, particularly hate-based violence that plagues our community, are not easily solved by policy itself, and anyone would be foolish to argue that. �In addition, gun control regulations create a gray area for the 2nd amendment.� For Sikhs, it is not easy to integrate our Guru’s demand that we fight justice by any means necessary with a clear stance on gun control. �Though we all have differing stances on gun control and how much of it we need, what’s clear and has been clear for a while to those of us tuned in: we need a better set of regulations and we need them now. �I am not suggesting we ban the right to bear arms entirely. �I am suggesting we set some seriously effective regulations on those rights, and we do so now. �I am hoping a more evolved, reflective and elegant conversation will emerge about the Guru’s vision and how we can look to the Sikh Gurus for a better response in light of recent world events. �I am also hoping we will begin to look at systemic violence.
Several countries around the globe, most notably�Japan�and the�UK,�have succeeded in reducing gun related deaths and violence through tightening regulations. �This, along with the�systemic nature of violence in the U.S.�(read: U.S. military) and�staggering statistics of deaths related to gun violence,proves the need for increased gun control more than anything else. �Given that so many Sikh Americans have been the victims of gun violence, especially in the wake of Oak Creek, I am surprised that more Sikhs aren’t taking a stand for increased gun control or forming large groups to organize around the issue as well as systemic violence. �By addressing only one aspect of the issue, the issue of bias and hate based motives, we cannot fully solve the problem.
During the process of organizing the NYC vigil, I received a big NO! when I expressed my desire to activate a gun control stance. �Over the last few days, I have witnessed several charged conversations in our community about gun control and I am left wondering if it is our fear of taking a stance and being unpopular or, in the case of organizations, loosing funding…or if the right to bear arms for some Sikhs is associated with what they perceive to be their right to self-defense in the face of gun violence…or if other Sikhs view the right to bear arms as somewhat related to their right to carry a kirpan, although I believe that is an entirely separate issue.
Regardless, until more of us join hands with others both inside and outside of our community to combat systemic and cyclical violence, we will bury many more children and loved ones at our feet. �If you do not support increased gun control, I would like to know how you plan to stop the alarming and increasing rate of deaths due to gun violence.� I would also like to know what you would say to the families of those who died in defense of the rights of gun owners.