Washington: Survivors and family members of the 2007 Virginia Tech shootout have jointly appealed to the the two Presidential candidates to take necessary steps to plug the loopholes in American gun control laws to prevent tragic incidents like the recent Gurdwara killings.
Thirty-two people, including an Indian student, were killed in 2007 in Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg in Virginia when 23-year-old Seung- Hui Cho launched two separate attacks before turning the gun on himself.
In similar letters to the incumbent Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, as many as 67 family members of victims and survivors of the incident reminded that in the absence of tighter gun control laws shooting incidents like the one on a Oak Creek Gurdwara that killed six people continue to happen.
"Let us remember the victims of Aurora and Oak Creek. And then let us honour their memory by working to prevent the next Virginia Tech, the next Tucson, the next Aurora and the next Oak Creek.
"Now is the time to fix our nation's broken gun laws, but we need our nation's leaders to tell us the specific steps you will take to prevent more bloodshed," said the letter.
In their appeal, more than five dozen Virginians affected by the shooting ask the Presidential candidates whether they support measures requiring a criminal background check for every gun sale and how they will work to ensure that all records of prohibited purchasers are included in the national background check system.
The letter is part of a larger campaign by survivors of gun violence and the 700-member Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition to demand that the presidential candidates offer specific plans explaining how they would address the fact that 48,000 Americans will be murdered with a gun in the next president's term if they fail to take action.
According to a recent poll by Frank Luntz for 'Mayors Against Illegal Guns', 74 per cent of National Rifle Association members and 87 per cent of non-NRA gun owners support requiring criminal background checks of anyone purchasing a gun.
In 2007, Seung Hui Cho had killed 32 people at Virginia Tech after passing two gun background checks because Virginia state agencies never shared his mental health records with the national database of prohibited gun purchasers.
After the shooting, Virginia substantially improved its reporting and now boasts the highest mental health record reporting rate in the nation.
"As survivors and families of the Virginia Tech shooting, we know the pain of losing a loved one to senseless gun violence. Our hearts go out to Aurora and Oak Creek, and we are keeping the families of the victims and survivors in our thoughts and prayers," the letter said.
"On April 16, 2007, 32 of our mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, and sisters and brothers were murdered by someone who never should have been able to buy a gun. On that day, our lives were shattered, and dozens of young dreams were forever extinguished," it said.
"Sadly, we are not the only Americans who share this unfortunate bond with the families and survivors of Aurora and Oak Creek. Every day, 34 Americans are murdered with guns in this country. That's more than a Virginia Tech or three Auroras every single day," they wrote.
First Published: Saturday, August 18, 2012, 10:29