Congressional Letter for Gun Safety Recommendations, June 2013

June 4, 2013

Honorable Representative,

As Hindus across the country joined their fellow Americans in mourning yet another horrific tragedy at the hands of gun violence, this time the theft of 26 beautiful and innocent lives from Newtown, CT, the cry for meaningful dialog and action to curb our nation’s gun violence epidemic could not have been louder. To this end, the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) is joined by a coalition of Hindu American organizations and leaders, and friends of the Hindu American community from across the nation to urgently call upon you to work with your colleagues towards common sense legislation to prevent needless gun-related deaths and injuries.

Since 2006, Americans have witnessed over 25 horrific mass murders, including those in Oak Creek, WI, Aurora, CO, and Tucson, AZ. More than half of all mass shooters use assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. We sadly boast the highest rates of homicide amongst all advanced nations and have non-fatal gun injuries in the tens of thousands each year. Of course, the cause of gun violence cannot be attributed to guns alone. Studies show that the average elementary school child, before the sixth grade, will witness over 8,000 murders and as many as 100,000 other acts of violence in the media. And far too many Americans in dire need of mental health services lack the access necessary for early detection and prevention of episodes which might lead these individuals to not only harm themselves, but harm countless others.

The majority of the populace clearly does not want this loss of life and limb to go in vain -- survey after survey suggests broad-based support for governmental restrictions on the availability of firearms. However, state legislatures and the U.S. Congress have been hesitant to do the necessary. We are urgently asking you today to do the necessary.

Hindus affirm the inherent divinity of all beings and recognize that for the welfare of society, a balance is required between one’s individual rights, for example, the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, and one’s responsibility to society, which may suffer as a result of gun violence. Hindu teachings also proffer the dual concept of ahimsa (non-harming) and himsa (harm or violence). The highest duty for a Hindu is to practice ahimsa in their every thought, word, and action. This practice frequently entails individual sacrifice for the greater good. Hindu scripture has also, however, very clearly detailed the variety of life situations, faced moment to moment throughout human existence, in which the difficult choice must be made between a path that incurs harm, but supports an end of truth and justice,or a path that is not harmful, but allows injustice and evil to continue unabated. The lack of common-sense legislation for gun safety is a prime example of what Hindu scripture advises against in its censure of privileging the individual over the good of society -- that is, at the expense of the public safety of the American people, our laws privilege a nearly unfettered right to gun ownership or are complacent towards the lack of adequate access to mental health services.

In the wake of America’s latest gun massacre and in the context of the wisdom offered by Hindu teachings for maintaining a just and peaceful society, this coalition of Hindu organizations offers the following recommendations. These recommendations are not original by any means and have been proposed by a variety of advocates, elected leaders, and members of civil society. Still, we find these to weigh the variety of competing interests fairly towards the end of reduced gun violence and increased gun safety.

  1. Computerized tracking of gun sales and transfers with periodic licensing of those who purchase, own, carry or use a firearm
  2. Universal background checks, including stronger mental health background checks and criminal background checks for every gun sold (retail, online, trade show, etc.)
  3. Meaningful federal limits on assault rifles, high capacity magazines, and other weapons capable of inflicting widespread harm
  4. Meaningful federal limits on any handguns, assault weapons, automatic weapon conversion kits, and weapons not detectable by traditionally used metal-detection devices
  5. Increase federal funding for research on guns, gun violence, etc.
  6. Increase federal funding for improved access to mental health care
  7. Promote civic, faith-based, and school-based awareness programs or awareness weeks encouraging social gatherings, outreach, volunteer opportunities, and involvement to increase social ties and community
  8. Urge media and advertising and entertainment industries to curb promotion of gun violence and the Entertainment Software Rating Board to improve and further detail ratings as they pertain to gun violence, particularly mass gun violence, and violence in general

We understand the challenges that lie ahead and urge you to work towards meaningful policy solutions to ensure the safety and security of all Americans.

Respectfully,

Organizations

HINDU AMERICAN FOUNDATION
ARYA SAMAJ OF GREATER HOUSTON
HINDU AMERICAN SEVA CHARITIES
HINDU MANDIR EXECUTIVES’ CONFERENCE
HINDUS OF GREATER HOUSTON
TEMPLE OF UNDERSTANDING
WORLD HINDU COUNCIL OF AMERICA (VHPA)

Individuals

Jagdip Ahluwalia, Executive Director, Indo-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston
Kumar Barve, Majority Leader, Maryland House of Delegates
Jaydeep Chaudhari, Executive Director, Chanakya International Foundation
Rev. Canon Charles P. Gibbs, Executive Director / United Religions Initiative
Rajen Giri, President, Bhutanese Community in California (BCC)
Sant Gupta, Past President, Durga Temple of VA; Program Co-Chairman, Hindu Mandir Executive Conference; Vice Chairman, Life In Yoga Institute Associate; Inter-Faith Conference of Metropolitan Washington
Sulekh Jain, Chairman, International School for Jain Studies
Romesh Japra, M.D., Chairman, Federation of Indian Associations
Harish Kotecha, Founder, Hindu Charities for America
Ramdas Lamb, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Religion, University of Hawaii
Uma Mysorekar, M.D., President, Hindu Temple Society of North America
Aline O'Brien, Interfaith Activist
Rahul T. Pandit, M.D., Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology, Weill Cornell Medical College; Assistant Member, Methodist Hospital Research Institute
Dinesh Patel, M.D., Associate Clinical Professor - Orthopedic surgery, Harvard Medical School; Massachusetts General Hospital - Orthopedic Surgery
Rev. Dr. John T. Pawlikowski, OSM, Catholic Theological Union, Chicago
Anantanand Rambachan, Ph.D., Professor of Religion, St. Olaf College (MN)
Shekhar Reddy, Founding Trustee, Gandhi Square of Florida; Trustee, Global Hindu Heritage Foundation
Shafi Refai, President, United Muslims of America (UMA)
Raj Salwan, Councilmember, City of Fremont (CA)
Vijay Sazawal, M.D., International Coordinator, Indo American Kashmir Forum
Anju Sharma, IT Manager, Hewlett-Packard Company; Board Member, Hindu American Political Action Committee
Rita D. Sherma, Ph.D., The Swami Vivekananda Vis. Prof. of Hindu Studies School of Religion, University of Southern California (USC)
Fred Stella, Outreach Minister for West Michigan Hindu Temple; President, Interfaith Dialogue Association
Chinghui Jianying Ying, Abbot, Chung Tai Zen Center of Sunnyvale (CA)