Grassroots civic and faith groups, relatives of shooting victims and activists are joining mayors and other politicians to press President Obama for effective gun controls in the USA, following the appalling elementary school shooting in Newton, Connecticut.
The influential independent New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who is national co-chair of Mayor's Against Illegal Guns, declared: "With all the carnage from gun violence in our country, it's still almost impossible to believe that a mass shooting in a kindergarten class could happen. It has come to that. Not even kindergarteners learning their ABC's are safe."
He continued: "We heard after Columbine that it was too soon to talk about gun laws. We heard it after Virginia Tech. After Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek. And now we are hearing it again. For every day we wait, 34 more people are murdered with guns. At Newton, many of them were five-year olds."
"President Obama rightly sent his heartfelt condolences to the families in Newtown. But the country needs him to send a bill to Congress to fix this problem. Calling for 'meaningful action' is not enough. We need immediate action. We have heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership - not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end now. This is a national tragedy and it demands a national response. My deepest sympathies are with the families of all those affected, and my determination to stop this madness is stronger than ever," said Bloomberg.
The National Council of Churches USA, which has also lamented the Newton killings, points out that it has been expressing its concern about gun violence for decades.
The Council’s most recent resolution, “Ending Gun Violence, A Call to Action” in 2010, called for a unified effort on the part of churches, government and individuals to address the problem.
The resolution called upon “our local, state, and federal legislators to enact reforms that limit access to assault weapons and handguns, including closing the so-called federal 'gun show loophole' which allows for the purchase of firearms from private sellers without submitting to a background check, or providing documentation of the purchase.
In the immediate aftermath of the latest tragic shooting, more than 100 people gathered spontaneously outside the White House on 14 December. They lit candles and held signs calling for stricter gun-control laws.
Karl Swarts, aged 29, of Washington DC, who has voted for Barack Obama twice, told reporters that he is disappointed by the president’s reluctance to push Congress for stricter gun control.
He admitted that he was pessimistic that any action will come, saying “the gun lobby is too powerful” and for lawmakers. “It’s one of those things where you fear alienating your constituents by even bringing it up. If 20 kids at a school killed senselessly doesn’t change anything, I don’t know what will.”
But gun violence activists say that it is important not to be swayed by the massive propaganda being financed by the highly profitable gun lobby and channelled through bodies like the National Rifle Association (NRA) and right-wing radio chat show hosts.
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino declared last week: "As a parent and grandparent, I am overcome with both grief and outrage by the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. This unspeakable act of violence will forever imprint this day in our hearts and minds. My heart goes out to the families impacted by this senseless tragedy and the many others we have recently witnessed across the United States.
"As a Mayor who has witnessed too many lives forever altered by gun violence, it is my responsibility to fight for action. Today's tragedy reminds us that now is the time for action. Innocent children will now never attend a prom, never play in a big game, never step foot on a college campus. Now is the time for a national policy on guns that takes the loopholes out of the laws, the automatic weapons out of our neighbourhoods and the tragedies like today out of our future."
* Mayors Against Illegal Guns: http://www.mayorsagainstillegalguns.org/
* The full text of the NCCUSA resolution can be downloaded here (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document) - http://www.ncccusa.org/NCCpolicies/endinggunviolence.pdf