Photo : Reuters

As Americans, we pride ourselves on our freedom to participate in the activities that make our communities rich and vibrant—to worship where we want, to see the movies that we want, to attend political rallies in supermarket parking lots if we so choose. But the fact is that we are not truly free to do any of these things, not when the very real specter of gun violence remains ever-present, threatening to take everything as we go about our lives.

With the nation still reeling from the mass shooting that left 70 people injured or killed in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, Americans were completely unprepared for another devastating tragedy just two weeks later. Six innocent people died and three were critically injured by Wade Michael Page at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin on Sunday, in another terrible reminder that gun violence can, and does, happen anywhere and at any time.

“You’re talking about Aurora one minute, and the next minute it’s you and your family,” [Kanwardeep Singh Kaleka, nephew of Sikh temple president Satwant Kaleka, who was killed in the shooting] said.

“I just never thought it would be at a temple, at a place of worship. I don’t want people to have to carry a gun at a place of worship,” said Kaleka, who added that he could have been at the temple during the attack, but for the fact he had stopped at a bank “randomly to make a deposit.”1

Gun violence shatters families nationwide every day. Every single day, roughly 32 people are murdered by guns across the U.S., almost three times the number of people killed in Aurora and over five times the number killed in Oak Creek. We hear almost nothing about most of the shootings that occur in America. If the media covered all of them, stories of gun violence would regularly eclipse all other news.

The media coverage of Oak Creek, like Aurora, will pass, but the gun deaths will continue, every day, in different places all over the country. That won’t change unless we seriously address the causes of this crisis. Right now, dangerous people have easy access to military-style weapons. Until our national leaders confront this challenge head-on – with courage, not condolences – too many in our communities will continue to suffer.

Solutions to our national gun violence epidemic do exist. Smart laws – like those requiring background checks for every gun purchase and restricting access to assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines – can prevent future gun violence tragedies. When it comes to holding our legislators accountable, we shouldn’t demand anything less.

  1. CNN Wire Staff, Police identify Army veteran as Wisconsin temple shooting gunman, Aug. 6, 2012. ⤴︎