RICHMOND HILL — The nephew of a Wisconsin shooting victim joined Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and members of the Sikh community on Monday to condemn the weekend shooting at a Milwaukee-area temple that left six victims dead.
On Sunday morning, a gunman opened opened fire at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek, near Milwaukee, killing six people and injuring a police officer. One of those victims was the uncle of Sikh Cultural Society Chairman Mohan Singh Khara.
On Monday, Khara said he does not believe something similar could happen in New York.
"We are safe here in New York," Khara said. "We are all American citizens."
Sunday's shooting came just weeks after a gunman killed 12 people at a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colo., sparking a national conversation about gun control.
At the afternoon press conference at the Sikh Cultural Society, at 95-30 118th St. in Richmond Hill, Bloomberg continued his campaign against illegal guns and criticized both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney for not taking a strong stance in response to the recent violence.
"Still the two presidential candidates have not given the American people a plan to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people," Bloomberg said. "The two presidential candidates can't keep avoiding an issue that's one of the most serious threats we face as a nation."
Bloomberg referred to Queens as the "center of Sikh life" in the United States, with about 15,000 Sikhs living in Richmond Hill and nearby areas.
"I think it's fair to say New Yorkers of every faith join the Sikh community in praying for the recovery of those gravely wounded in that terrible attack," Bloomberg said. "This is a close-knit and hard-working community, one whose faith urges self-discipline and good deeds towards others."
The NYPD increased security at Sikh temples across the city after the shooting, Kelly said.
"We used our critical response vehicles that are typically assigned to counter-terrorism duties," Kelly said.
Sikhs across the city reacted on Monday to the shooting.
Prabhjot Singh, co-founder of the Sikh Coalition at 40 Exchange Place in the Financial District, said Sikhs face hate crimes whenever an incident occurs in the Middle East.
Singh said his organization has received more than 500 reports of violence against Sikhs since 2001.
"Since 9/11, we've seen that the turban has been vilified and become a symbol of hate, because most Americans are ignorant of what the turban represents," Singh said. "The fact that every time I go to an airport my turban is double-checked versus everything else I might be wearing just validates the issues we have in the country."
A spokesman for the FBI said the bureau does not track hate crimes against Sikhs in particular, but includes them under "Anti-Islamic Attacks." The data is collected through voluntary submissions from local law enforcement agencies, the spokesman said.
Singh said a more targeted count of anti-Sikh attacks would help address the problem.
"Very clearly there's a climate of xenophobia in the country, and we have to get a handle on the data," Singh said.
Hardev Singh, 52, president of the Sikh Center of New York at 3817 Parsons Boulevard in Flushing, said the Milwaukee incident reopened old wounds. He remembered the days following 9/11, when many Americans mistook men of the Sikh faith for Muslim extremists.
"We are a peaceful people," Singh said. "This tragedy happened from 9/11. Because we have a turban and a long beard, people think we are terrorists and act on it."