"They deserve a vote..." said President Obama in his State of the Union message, speaking to the country, especially to lawmakers about voting on gun legislation. In Bucks County Pennsylvania, many members of a citizen's group called Bucks Against Gun Violence, watched with renewed hope as the president told Congress to act.
After the Sandy Hook massacre, the Bucks County movement, which began with a petition by ex -school teacher and business woman, Mary Avino, is growing and members are determined not to back down. Cheryl and Steve Kessleman who lost their teenage son to gun violence last year, have joined the group and hope that the Obama administration will be able to fight opposition and pass common sense gun legislation which will keep America's children safer. Their son was shot in the head with an assault type rifle by another youth.
After the president's address to the nation last night, NBC 10 news (Philadelphia) interviewed Mary Avino and the Kesslemans. Ms. Avino emphasized that the group supports thorough background checks for all gun purchases, a ban on military style assault weapons and high capacity magazine clips and also wants to make gun trafficking a federal crime.
The members of Bucks Against Gun Violence (BAGV) are still looking for a clear stand from their Congressman on the subject of gun legislation. Republican Congressman, Michael Fitzpatrick's piece in a Bucks County paper was non-committal. He said, "On gun control, let us carefully examine every option." In response to his "wait and see," position, BAGV has urged Mr. Fitzpatrick to hear their voice. In an open letter, BAGV pressed Mr. Fitzpatrick to clarify his position and take a stand against those who profit from the sale and transfer of guns in the United States of America and oppose gun legislation.
More than 30,000 people are killed by guns each year in this country and mass murders have escalated in the recent past. Schools, colleges, malls, and theaters have been targeted with horrific consequences. In 1999, Columbine became the deadliest mass murder ever committed in an American high school campus. One teacher and 12 students were killed and many were severely wounded. In 2007, a Virginia Tech shooter killed 32 people and wounded 17 others. In July 2012, a lone gunman in mask and body armor killed 12 and injured 58 inside a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. And just 8 weeks ago, 20 children and 6 adult staff members were tragically slain by a lone gunman in Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Ct. And, just days ago, street gangs gunned down a fifteen year old girl, Hadiya Pendleton, in Chicago, a mile away from President Obama's house. Despite all of this innocent bloodshed, politicians like Mr. Fitzpatrick continue to cower down to the gun lobby, placing the Second Amendment above our inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Ironically, halfway across the world, there was another 28 year old gunman, also from a place called Newtown. In 1996, he opened fire in a tourist section in Port Arthur, Australia and killed 35 people and injured 23 others. This slaughter provoked a profound awakening in Australians, despite being known for their love of guns and hunting. The nation knew that something had to be done to prevent gun violence, and pushed for gun reform. Australia's law makers and bi-partisan politicians heeded the concerns of the people who elected them and came up with new, common sense gun laws in just over 12 days, including a successful government buyback program. Since those gun control laws were passed, no mass shooting has occurred in Australia in over 15 years.
Hours before the Sandy Hook massacre, a man knifed 23 people in a school in China, 22 of them children. However, in that attack, only one person died. That is the difference that attack with a gun makes, 26 dead instead of 22 saved. Law abiding citizens have the right to bear arms in this country, however the ease at which they are available without background checks and other practical restriction is alarming. Furthermore, military style assault weapons with high capacity magazine clips are designed for soldiers, and should not be in the hands of any citizen.
In his inaugural address, President Obama referred to guns, when he said: "Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm." Many Americans applaud that sentiment and will not stay silent while parents live in fear for their children, and even a night out at the movies is no longer safe. We will not stay silent at ludicrous solutions, like arming school teachers and janitors. Such suggestions are the warnings signs of society descending into a state of chaos. American lawmakers must stand with the safety of our children and our society and not with those who seek to profit from instruments of death.