Singing For Our Lives

Josh Stepakoff, Survivor of the Jewish Community Center Mass Shooting in CA

In the summer of 1999, a neo-nazi and felon bought a gun in Washington State, without a background check, drove over the border into California and shot children at the Granada Hills Jewish Community Center. Just a few months before, the Columbine shooters’ guns were easily purchased from an unlicensed dealer at a gun show, also without a background check. More recently, in 2015, the San Bernardino shooter was able to buy several AR — 15-type assault rifles even though he was on a terror watch list.

What do these mass shootings have in common? They, and countless others, could have been prevented. Federal laws like expanded background checks and No Fly No Buy legislation could have stopped these tragedies and many, many more from happening. The American people have been asking for expanded background checks since the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012. It has now been four years since Sandy Hook, and mass shootings continue to occur at an alarming rate. Though several members of Congress have proposed bills and led sit-ins at the capitol, Congress as a whole has refused to strengthen gun laws to prevent senseless deaths.

It’s time for us to stop looking to Congress for solutions. Congress didn’t give women the vote, they didn’t lead the way for civil rights in the sixties, nor did they lead the push to make marriage equality the law of the land. The people made that happen. It’s time that we, the people, use our voices and say ENOUGH gun violence. This is why, on Sunday, September 25th, over 1000 artists in more than 250 cities will be performing in The Concert Across America to End Gun Violence, using music to get a message out across the nation. Gun violence is a public health epidemic that affects all of us, no matter where we live, where we are, or who we love, and we must empower ourselves and take action. In Los Angeles, gun violence survivors, artists and celebrities are working together to produce the concert, which features Don Felder (Formerly of The Eagles), Sam Harris of X Ambassadors, Carnie Wilson, Sebastian Kole, Ryan Cabrera, The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, and a very special surprise guest who will headline at The Standard, Downtown L.A. Entertainment Tonight host Kevin Frazier will emcee the event, and Ed Begley, Jr. will also be a presenter.

The Los Angeles concert is being planned by a coalition of activists including Women Against Gun Violence, The Brady Campaign, Temple Isaiah Gun Legislation Advocacy Committee, and many faith organizations, as well as survivors of the 1999 Jewish Community Center shooting in Granada Hills, CA. Our goal is that everyone leave our concert empowered with clear understanding of the problem we face and the actions we can take to save lives.

Jewish Community Center Shooting survivor Josh Stepakoff, now 23, was only 6 years old when he was shot at his summer day camp. He is just one of many gun violence survivors working on the concert alongside music industry professionals, faith leaders and activists. Though Josh still suffers from PTSD, he is now a powerful advocate for gun reform and is encouraged to see this concert bringing the community together. “I believe music is a powerful way to inspire people,” he said.

Sam Harris, the lead singer of X Ambassadors is performing at the L.A. concert because he agrees it’s time for the people to rise up. “We have to do more than just build awareness,” Harris said, “we have to contact our local government representatives, sign petitions asking for stricter screening processes for gun-owners, get on the ground with protestors, and engage in conversation both with proud gun-owners and victims of gun violence. Nothing will change if we all just sit around shaking our heads at our TVs every time we hear about another innocent person falling victim to gun violence.”

After the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando where the LGBT community was specifically targeted, Joe Nadeau, Director of The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles was quick to accept the invitation to perform at the L.A. concert. “We believe that our voices have the power to change the world,” he said, adding, “We are singing for our lives.”

In The Concert Across America on September 25th, we will be united across the nation, singing for our lives, for your lives, for every life. Join us.

For information on the Los Angeles concert, visit Sept25LA.org

The Concert Across America will take place nationwide on September 25th in cities including New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Chicago, Nashville, New Orleans, Minneapolis, Boston, Austin and more. For the full list of cities and venues, visit ConcertAcrossAmerica.org

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