Last Dec. 14, 20 children and six staff members were fatally wounded by gunfire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., the second-deadliest mass shooting by a single person in U.S. history. Shortly afterward President Barack Obama signed 23 executive actions to reduce gun violence, which claims the lives of 30,000 people living in America each year.

Since then, no federal legislation has passed to reduce gun violence. Tragically, as reported by Huffington Post, there have been 27 more school shootings in the past year. In that same time 173 children under age 12 have died from gunshot wounds, NBC News found.

In a letter sent to Congress this week APHA strongly urged the immediate passing of common-sense, comprehensive laws aimed at preventing gun violence, especially among children, including:

  • expanding the requirement for criminal background checks to all gun sales, including those at gun shows and on the Internet;
  • banning assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines;
  • increased funding for gun violence research and surveillance;
  • expansion of access to mental health services; and
  • providing support for comprehensive measures in community and school-based prevention, including initiatives to prevent gun violence and prepare schools for emergencies.

“As a nation we should not ever have to witness heartbreak like we did last Dec. 14 in Newtown,” said APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin in a statement to the press. “Sadly, such gun violence will not diminish without the right safeguards in place to stop it. It’s up to us, from public health professionals to our leaders in Washington, D.C., to take a stand immediately.”

Residents of Newtown are hosting its first-annual “Year of Service” on Saturday, aimed at fostering communication and compassion.