President Joe Biden has called for reducing gun violence and banning assault weapons in the US to defeat “domestic terrorism” and hate in all its forms, including the “poison of white supremacy,” while condemned the attack on a Sikh gurdwara in Wisconsin in 2012. on the 10th anniversary of the heinous act.
On August 5, 2012, a white supremacist opened fire inside the Oak Creek gurdwara in Wisconsin, killing six people. A seventh severely paralyzed person died of his injuries in 2020.
“The Oak Creek shooting was the deadliest attack on Sikh Americans in our nation’s history. Tragically, attacks on our nation’s places of worship have become more common over the past decade. It is up to all of us to deny this safe harbor to hate. No one should fear for their lives when they bow their heads in prayer or move on with their lives in the United States,” Biden said in a statement Friday.
The president said the Oak Creek incident “showed us the way” and recalled how, after the attack, the Sikh community returned to their Gurdwara and insisted on cleaning it up themselves. The son of one of the victims became the first Sikh in US history to testify before Congress, successfully petitioning the federal government to track hate crimes against Sikhs and other minority groups.
Every year, the congregation now hosts an annual memorial run to honor the victims. The event bears the words ‘Charhdi Kala’, which means “eternal optimism”, she noted.
“Driven by that spirit of undying optimism, we must continue to take action now to reduce gun violence and keep our fellow citizens safe. We must do more to protect places of worship and defeat domestic terrorism and hate in all its forms, including the poison of white supremacy.
“We must ban assault weapons, used in many mass shootings at houses of worship and other sites across the country, as well as high-capacity magazines,” Biden said.
Noting that the House of Representatives last week passed a bill to do that, he said the Senate must also act.
“To defend religious freedom, we must come together to ban the weapons that terrorize congregations across our country,” Biden said.
Recalling the attack, the president said that when generations of Sikh-Americans in Oak Creek built their place of worship after years of renting local halls, it was a holy place of its own and a shared connection to the larger community. That sense of peace and belonging was shattered on August 5, 2012, when a white supremacist wielding a semi-automatic pistol arrived at the Gurdwara and began shooting.
“The gunman killed six people and injured four that day, as well as another victim who survived his injuries only to succumb to them years later. Jill and I know that days like today bring back the pain like yesterday, and we mourn with the families of the victims, the survivors, and the community devastated by this heinous act,” he said.
The United States is poised to match or exceed its worst year on record for the number of mass shootings, according to data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit organization that tracks gun violence incidents across the country.
There have been at least 246 mass shootings as of June 5 of this year. That’s the same number the country saw through June 5, 2021, the worst year on record since the Gun Violence Archive began tracking mass shootings in 2014.
There were a total of 692 mass shootings in 2021, CNN reported in June. That number of 246 also means there have been more mass shootings than days so far in 2022, a trend that has repeated every year since 2020, underscoring the growing prevalence of gun violence in American life, according to the report. .
Several mass shootings and a sustained rise in gun violence in the US have prompted law enforcement officials and lawmakers to push for more gun control measures.
President Biden signed the first major gun safety legislation passed in decades in June. Although the measure failed to ban any weapons, it includes funding for school safety and state crisis intervention programs.
Meanwhile, in a joint statement, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and US Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai co-chair the White House
Initiative and the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, listed steps the Biden administration is taking to promote policies that protect the fundamental right to practice one’s faith without fear.
“Our hearts are heavy as we remember Suveg Singh Khattra, Satwant Singh Kaleka, Ranjit Singh, Sita Singh, Paramjit Kaur Saini, Prakash Singh, Baba Punjab Singh and all those affected by the tragedy. The Oak Creek attack was not just an assault on the Sikh community, but on America itself, and we join millions of others who have been touched by the unwavering Sikh principle of Charhdi Kala, or eternal optimism,” they said.
“Though a decade has passed, Sikh Americans continue to face unconscionable harassment and violence, including in the houses of worship where so many seek peace and solace. It is our responsibility to do everything we can to protect our communities, and the Biden-Harris administration continues to work closely with religious leaders across the country to combat bigotry and bigotry in all its forms,” Becerra and Tai wrote. .
The Oak Creek incident was like a wake-up call that despite co-existing in America for over 100 years, people were not aware of the Sikh identity, their piety, the teachings, our values, welfare principles universal and Seva, the UN-affiliated non-profit organization United Sikhs said in a separate statement.
This year’s Oak Creek commemoration focuses on the message “Heal, Unite, Act,” said SALDEF, another Sikh body. “For us, this lights the flame to do more in our community.
“The Sikh faith is based on the oneness of humanity and we believe there is divinity within everything. It is through our relationships with each other that this change is possible,” he said.
The 10th Annual Oak Creek Sikh Memorial Anniversary Candlelight Vigil of Remembrance was held Friday night from 6 pm to 8 pm local time at the Wisconsin Sikh Temple.
“Ten years ago, our sangat (community) suffered the most devastating attack on Sikhs in our nation’s history. As always, our hearts go out to the families of Prakash Singh, Paramjit Kaur Saini, Sita Singh, Ranjit Singh, Satwant Singh Kaleka, Suveg Singh Khattra and Baba Punjab Singh, as well as those who were injured during the shooting and those who bear the burden of trauma and loss to this day,” said the Wisconsin Sikh Temple.
“This anniversary means many things to many people. Some still feel a painful loss and absence from their homes and families ten years later. Others have come of age in the last decade, learning to lead and finding their voice in the shadow of tragedy. And still others have joined our growing community and become a part of our continuing story.
There is room for this commemoration to contain the unique truth that each of us feels,” the temple said.
“As we reflect on this anniversary, we know that we must continue the shared work of making our society free from intolerance. In the Sikh tradition, we choose to fight for this better world without fear or hatred, and we do so in the spirit of chardi kala, or eternal optimism,” he said.