An epidemic. 30,000 deaths. And I’m not even talking about ebola. This is the number of Americans that die each year due to gun violence.
Columbine, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Gabby Giffords, on and on, just when it seemed we wouldn’t hear about another mass shooting, we were again offering prayers of comfort in synagogue. Words are beautiful but it is time for action. When the tragedy in Newtown, CT happened, I remember walking to the door of my son’s elementary school and staring at it. It could have been my son, my school, my town. Though I didn’t have a personal connection to any of the victims in Newtown, I knew those who did. One of my Bar Mitzvah student’s camp friend’s sibling hid in a closet…and survived.
So many of us thought our national legislators would finally take action to address this epidemic of gun violence in our country after Newtown. That was almost two years ago. But they chose to stand idly by. So often we come to the synagogue to pray and offer prayers of comfort in times of tragedy. That is helpful but we also want to take action to prevent more tragedies. There have been more school shootings since Newtown.
When I learned of my friend and colleague, Rabbi Joel Mosbacher’s personal connection to gun violence (his father was murdered at his place of business in Chicago in 1999), I felt a deeper connection to this issue and the need to act. I’m proud to be involved with NJ Together (part of Metro IAF www.metro-iaf.org) and address this issue. The power analysis is this. As taxpayers, we purchase 40% of the guns in our country for police and military. It’s time to hold the gun manufacturers accountable for their sales (are they selling to straw purchasers) and the guns they sell. This approach has the potential to make an impact and decrease gun violence. Raising awareness of gun purchasing is important for all Americans who care about their safety. Most guns are purchased from European companies and it is time for us to show them there is a market for safer guns. (Sig Sauer in Germany, Glock in Austria and Beretta in Italy).
This is an interfaith national effort. Community organizing is usually a local process but with the issue of gun violence, it’s national and local. Lay people, town council members, mayors, governors and Essex County Executive are among the more than 50 who are part of this campaign’s Gun Buyers Research Group. Individual meetings are helpful to explain the campaign and invite towns to join. This past summer, Kevin Johnson, chair of the United Conference of Mayors, endorsed the campaign and invited mayors across the country to join.
I invite you to join me at an Assembly to Fight Gun Violence on Thursday, October 30, 7:30 PM at Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield.