Courage and action required in face of gun massacres

Rabbi Hillel said: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” (Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14).

We formed our Gun Violence Prevention Group at Temple Sinai in Washington, in 2016 to be part of the national movement that says “No More” to the insanity of allowing anyone and everyone in the United States free access to weapons and ammunition of mass murder.

Like many of you, we were heartbroken on Oct. 1, when 58 innocent concertgoers were murdered in cold blood and without apparent motive by a gunman who had at least 23 high powered automatic rifles in his hotel room in Las Vegas. More than 560 people were injured and will suffer from those injuries for the rest of their lives.

Yet again, on Sunday, we learned in horror of the killing of 26 parishioners in a Sutherland Springs, Texas, church by a crazed son-in-law of one of the parishioners. He had been court martialed from the Air Force for abusing his wife and child.

We are all at risk because of lax and dangerous gun policies. The next mass shooting can and will happen until we change this treacherous course. But mass shootings are only a small part of the more than 33,000 deaths a year — or 93 deaths a day — caused by handgun and other gun violence in America.

The vast majority of Americans want much tighter gun restrictions. After the Pulse nightclub attack in June 2016 in Orlando, 92 percent of Americans wanted expanded background checks, 87 percent supported a ban on gun sales to felons or people with mental health problems, and 85 percent said they would ban people on federal watch lists from buying guns.

Fifty-four percent want a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition.

We need real leadership that listens to that majority, that finally says “No!” to the ongoing insanity of U.S. gun policy. We reject claims that these violent attacks are inevitable.

We reject the calls for prayer and condolences to victims without real policies in place to prevent gun violence and common-sense gun regulation.

The rates of gun violence in the 10 states with the weakest gun laws are more than three times higher than those in the 10 states with the strongest gun laws, according to a 2016 study by the Center for American Progress (CAP). Connecticut has mandated background checks for all gun sales, required safer gun storage, limited the types of guns that can be sold, and required that all guns in the state be licensed.

According to Connecticut’s governor, “In the two completed years that have been analyzed since we passed our updated gun laws, Connecticut has seen the sharpest drop in violent crime of any of the 50 states.”

When Missouri eliminated the same requirements, its gun homicide rate increased by 25 percent.

Strong gun policies keep firearms out of the hands of the most dangerous individuals and they limit the number of guns and ammunition any one person can purchase. The Las Vegas gunman had multiple automatic weapons. There were no limits on the number he could buy.

Yet each time a mass attack occurs Second Amendment proponents call for more guns, more ammunition, more arming of Americans. We say no to this ongoing insanity. Unlimited guns and ammunition means more killings of innocent Americans.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, expressed the standard GOP party line when he said the aftermath of a tragedy “is not the best time to look at any legislation.”

Really? What about all the legislation Congress passed within weeks or months of the 9/11 attacks? Congress acted quickly then to make it safer to fly, created the Department of Homeland Security, and enacted the USA Patriot Act, curtailing some civil liberties under the First and Fourth Amendments in the name of national security.

The Second Amendment should be no more sacrosanct in 2017 than the First and Fourth Amendments were in 2001.

There are many things that each of us can do to support gun violence prevention. You can join a gun violence prevention group such as ours at Temple Sinai. You can attend our program on domestic violence and guns on Nov. 16. You can educate yourself about evidence, analysis and policies that support the reduction of gun violence in America. You can support candidates for office who support sensible gun violence prevention policies and legislation.

And you can urge constituents to contact their senators and representatives to urge them to oppose non-sensible, harmful gun legislation.

Sally Greenberg is a member of the Temple Sinai Gun Violence Prevention Group. Steve Klitzman is the group’s chair.

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