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Move Us to Reduce Gun Violence

Rabbi Jonathan Biatch

Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if she saved an entire world. (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5; Jerusalem Talmud 4:9; Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 37a)

 

Praying for the souls of the dead,

support for the survivors and their families

and courage to press forward

with gun control in this country.

Radical love is the antidote for radical hate.

The heart of our work is recognizing

that our humanity unites all of us.

We must use every ounce of our being

to counter this culture

of dehumanization that infects our communities.

(--Rabbi Shawn Israel)

 

Let me say, at the outset, that my anger has been riled up again.

Let me say, at the outset, that I am not sorry for my anger.

And let me say, at the outset, that I want to use my passions for the truly achievable goals of gun control.

But there are some things I just don’t understand:

I don’t understand that unusual kind of pride when a legislator impedes legislation that can save lives.

I don’t understand the astonishing kind of patriotism that blindly defends the Second Amendment through heartless contributions to politicians who will do their bidding only to say in office.

I don’t understand the moral blindness of national leaders who turn away from parents whose children literally have been stolen from them and with whom they will never share another life achievement.

I don’t understand the callousness required to deflect attention from a commonsense debate on the need to reduce gun violence with the tired mantra of “Today is not the day to debate gun legislation.”

I don’t understand the heartless and calculating political mind that offers a facile condolence message after a gun tragedy, but then refuses to apply the political will to change laws to save lives.

There are so many things I do not understand.

Since the shooting in an elementary school in Sandy Hook, CT, in 2012, there have been at least 239 school shootings in our nation, in which 138 people were killed, 300 more were injured, and countless hundreds suffered the psychological effects of trauma, which will haunt them for the rest of their lives. And according to the Gun Violence Archive, already in 2018 alone there have been 1,829 deaths from gun violence incidents nationwide (http://www.gunviolencearchive.org/).

Every day that we avoid the difficult but achievable work of preventing gun violence, the NRA, the gun manufacturers, and the politicians who are beholden to them, get richer and more entrenched in office.

The recent Quinnipiac poll data indicate an overwhelming majority of our citizens want to enact common sense gun control legislation:

Levels of Support for national gun measures (https://poll.qu.edu/national/release-detail?ReleaseID=2492):

94% - 5% support requiring background checks for all gun purchases

93% - 6% of voters in gun households support universal background checks;

79% - 19% support a mandatory waiting period for all gun purchases;

64% - 32% support a ban on the sale of assault weapons;

86% - 12% support a ban of the sale of guns to people convicted of a violent crime;

58% - 38% support stricter regulations on ammunition sales;

64% - 34% support a ban on high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

I can understand these numbers, for these data must compel us to get excited and involved in the pursuit of gun violence reduction.

So, today is the day when we must talk about ways to prevent gun deaths.

Today is the day when we commit ourselves to address the out-of-control and widespread availability of weapons and ammunition.

Today is the day when we legislate for thorough background checks on any prospective gun buyer anywhere within our nation’s boundaries, and we insist that criminal, military, and civil court data bases be scoured for any and all facts that could disqualify someone from purchasing a gun.

Today is the day when we reinstate the ban on assault weapons and outlaw the manufacture of ammunition for any automatic or semi-automatic weapon available to citizens in our country.

Today is the day when we allocate more dollars for mental health services, to speak to the pressures that people feel which drive them to create scenes of carnage.

Today is the day to seize courage to confront the so-called gun lobby, and to tell our national legislators that they can successfully break the addiction of campaign contributions from peddlers of murder.

All it takes is for us to get angry, excited, and involved.

The poet Aaron Zeitlin wrote: “Praise me,” says God, “I will know that you love me. Curse me, I will know that you love me. Praise me or curse me, I will know that you love me. But if you sit fenced off in your apathy, entrenched in – ‘I don’t care,’” says God... “if you see suffering and don’t cry out… if you don’t praise and don’t revile, then I created you in vain,” says God.

Today is the day when we must be involved. Today is the day when we refuse to back down.

October 16, 2019 17 Tishrei 5780