Asian American leaders work toward gun violence prevention

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Courtesy: Po Murray

By Puneet Bsanti, AsAmNews Intern

As mass shootings and hate crimes targeted towards the Asian American community rise, and continue to inflict trauma on various communities, AAPI activists advocate for gun control, despite government disappointment.

Po Murray, the chair of Newton Action Alliance and former neighbor of the shooter of the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy said gun violence impacts anyone who lives in America and she has been working with urban and suburban communities to help tackle these issues.

“I’ve been working in this movement for the past 10 years since my neighbor killed 20 children and six educators to create the necessary changes to all forms of gun violence,” she said. “I think it’s really important to learn about the issues facing the community and then for the Asian American community to learn about the gun violence community.”

Murray attended a rally recently in San Antonio, Texas called #StandWithUvalde where funds were raised for the families who were impacted by the shooting. It was also a way to support the Uvalde community.

“I felt that it was really important to visit the Uvalde community because Newton went through the same type of tragedy and we understand firsthand what they are going through.” Murray said.

Varun Nikore, Executive Director of AAPI Victory Alliance, said they noticed an uptake in acts of hate and violence against all aspects of the Asian American community, but especially Asian women and East Asian women since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What we wanted to do as an organization is be centered, particularly around gun violence,” said Nikore. “One of the sorts of effects of the pandemic and COVID and the rise in violence has been the fact that gun ownership in the AAPI community has increased to very high levels.”

Nikore said most AAPI members are first-generation who do not come from countries that have a history of guns, or where guns are not legal. He noted that other than mass shootings or hate crimes, some other incidents of gun violence in the AAPI community are domestic violence, suicides and accidental deaths.

“We suspect most people who are buying guns are not going to gun safety courses. It just makes for a very unsafe, unhealthy dynamic. If you’re not getting trained in how to properly store a gun, how to use a gun then it could lead to a lot of unfortunate incidents,” he said.

Nikore hopes for responsible gun safety legislation in the future, and with Victory Alliance, launched the first ever AAPI think tank last year.

Recently, the Senate announced a bipartisan senate framework for gun violence prevention which was negotiated by Democrat and Republican senators.

“What’s being proposed is not enough, that just is scratching the surface and the NRA and the Republican Party are working in lockstep to essentially try to minimize any meaningful reform. We need to frankly ban assault weapons in the country,” he said.

The bipartisan agreement has a collection of measures to combat gun violence, however, the agreement does not list measures that activists such as Murray, were hoping for.

A statement made by Newton Action Alliance said some measures that were not listed were banning assault weapons, limiting high-capacity magazines, or establishing the age at which someone can purchase a gun.

“So we are going to continue to push Congress to do their job of protecting all its citizens, but we’re also urging the President to do more as well, using the power of his executive pen. We have been urging him to declare gun violence a national emergency so that this issue will be a priority for the White House and his administration. And to also be able to provide resources to communities that are impacted by this man-made tragedy.” Murray said.

Murray said they are encouraging President Joe Biden to establish a federal office of gun violence prevention and to appoint a director so that this individual can spend 100 percent of their time tackling the issue of gun crimes.

“We are continuing to build an army of volunteers who will engage with their representatives on Capitol Hill. We are also building coalitions with other gun violence prevention groups and progressive groups, and building a coalition within communities like Asian American so that we can build a larger coalition to tackle this issue that’s impacting all of our communities,” she said.

For more information on Newton Action Alliance

For more information on AAPI Victory Alliance

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