Cigarettes are a form of slow death. Handguns are a much quicker means to an end. So why are we so quick to buy our children the latest Super Soaker or Laser Gun and not so keen on a sugary white stick that resembles a cigarette? Why not just hand our five year old an imitation alcohol bottle and call it a day. Even alcohol will kill a person more slowly than a gun, yet people fear that more than guns. This article isn’t about not showing guns to your children (although that is another issue on its own). It is about taking a stand and protecting yourself and your family from becoming yet another casualty.
I attended a funeral last year of a friend’s father in southeast San Antonio, a good area where mostly middleclass people resided. The standard of living decreased over the 16 years that the family lived there. My friend’s dad was very religious with many friends in the community. He was on the neighborhood committee trying to come up with ways to protect the small business owners in the area. He unknowingly sacrificed his life handing a man who belonged behind bars back to the police for his murder. The ex-con, who had just been released from jail only months after his felony conviction for assault, raped a woman, stole her car and headed to this friendly neighborhood gas station. After refusing service before payment, the man pulled out a gun and shot the gas station owner, ending his life. The following week hundreds of loyal customers, family and friends lined the entrance of the store with flowers, cards and candles crying in his memory. As I accompanied my friend into the store and saw blood spattered all over the back wall covered in pictures of God and his family, there was nothing I could do to stop tears from flooding my eyes. “This shouldn’t be happening. Someone should do something about it.” Those were the things going through my head at the time. Most people would simply pass it off as a bad things happening to good people, or even convince themselves that God may want him by his side. Whatever the reason, I see a need for change in our legal system. How is it possible for a man on probation with a sentence sliced down to 1/10 of its original time to get possession of a gun, and why are we not stopping this. It would not have been possible if he wasn’t able to purchase a gun. With so many loopholes in our system, it’s amazing that the government stands witness to these kinds of cases and doesn’t feel the responsibility to make changes. With groups like the NRA (National Rifle Association) lobbying and spending over a million dollars on Congress to gain supporters, we need to make our voices heard.
During Clinton’s presidency the US made strides in the race to stop gun violence by bringing the Brady Bill into practice. The Brady Bill demands a given period before purchasing a handgun in order to pursue proper background checks. This prevents people such as domestic crime offenders or people under protective orders from purchasing a firearm. President Clinton felt certain that the Brady Bill was a good idea. He said, “It will be step one in taking our streets back, taking our children back, reclaiming our families, and our future.” Though the bill was a “compromise” of the originally proposed 1987 bill and took 7 years to pass, it was still a success in the eyes of many. In 1994 another bill was passed to ban assault weapons. Clinton declared to opponents of the bill, "For all the things that will be debated, you can mark my words, the Brady law and the assault weapons bills are here to stay. They will not be repealed."
As our Indian community is very involved in small business ownerships ranging from small convenient stores to small diamond businesses, we should take a more active role in trying to ensure our own safety. Even with the Brady Bill in practice there is still a large flaw in the system. People who would not be able to pass the background check can simply buy guns from someone. They can even buy a gun from a gun show since neither requires the paperwork of a proper gun purchase. People who purchase guns for felons are called Straw Purchasers, and they promote the illegal market of gun sale. Private sellers don’t have to do background checks and account for up to 40% of all gun purchases. Gun shows are temporary gun markets held at various locations where anyone can sell guns. 25% of these sellers are usually not licensed and this is a place where non-eligible purchasers can easily get guns. This is otherwise known as the “gun show loophole” where even children and the mentally ill can potentially buy weapons. Very few states have laws requiring background checks for all gun purchases including private or gun show sales to try and curb the risks. While Federal law prevents individuals 18 and under from possessing guns, state laws have different limits. Montana has a minimum age of 14 for gun possession. There is NO federal law for the minimum age possession of a long gun though there is a law stopping under 18 individuals from purchasing them.
If passed, the McCain/Reed/DeWine/Lieberman bill would require, “a criminal background check at all gun shows and public events where at least 75 guns are available for sale” for up to three days. Most background checks currently last anywhere from a few minutes to 2 hours. Less than 1/3 of checks last for more than a day increasing the likelihood of finding a banned buyer 20-fold. In 18 months 10,000 banned buyers slipped through the current system and got guns after a 2 minute background check. We absolutely must do something about this. This bill could help prevent a huge number of unauthorized sales. Another bill that would be useful is the McCarthy-Dingell bill which requires “states and federal agencies to provide the FBI with all relevant records necessary to conduct criminal background checks, including domestic violence and mental health records.”
To support these bills you must do a couple of very important things:
* VOTE!!! In a recent survey I conducted only half of my friends whose parents are US citizens said only one parent voted (mostly fathers). Every vote counts. With only 25% of the Indian population voting, we are barely making a dent in the voting curve when we could be making waves. Very few women are able to take a stand and put their opinions into practice. This MUST change. Women, you are capable of making a difference, not only to protect your families from suffering the tragedy of gun violence, but in a lot of other aspects dealing with the current system. To sign up to vote go to:
* Once you’re registered you can take further steps by writing to Congress and start learning about what laws your state has created to protect you and your family. You can find this info at
* There are also a number of organizations that you can get involved in. A few are listed below. This list and much of the information in this article was found on
Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
Coalition of 44 civic, professional and religious organizations and 100,000 individual members advocating for a ban on the sale and possession of handguns and assault weapons
Million Mom March
National grassroots, chapter-based organization dedicated to preventing gun death and injury, and supporting victims and survivors of gun trauma
An organization that opposes gun violence and develops media and organizing strategies to reach out to students and families to build a movement against gun violence
“With 300,000 gun-related crimes and 10,000 gun-related homicides occurring every year, there is more we can do to lock up criminals who use guns, effectively enforce the existing gun laws, and close the loopholes in those laws that make it all too easy for criminals and children to get guns in the first place.” PLEASE DO YOUR PART TODAY.
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