To the Temple Beth-El Community:
Like many of you, I have watched the images coming out of Parkland, FL and sat quietly, weeping, angry and numb, all at the same time. And like many of you, I have listened to the platitudes, read the tweets, and sat not-so-quietly, ranting at the top of my lungs. You can imagine how it feels to be a rabbi who screams when people talk about sending their prayers. In the words of so many, 'enough prayers, do something!'
Each time there is a shooting, people of reason wait for a tidal wave to overcome Washington, D.C., leading to common sense legislation--not that we can solve this epidemic with laws, but at least we can take sensible steps to make some sort of an impact. But, instead, life goes on and inaction rules the day.
Let's be forthright—up until now this largely has been a bipartisan failure of catastophic proportions. Politicians fear the NRA perhaps more than any other lobby, and yet research conducted in 2012 by Republican pollster Frank Luntz makes it clear that gun owners favor a number of common sense gun control proposals. Here is what Luntz found:
- Around 80% of gun owners support criminal background checks.
- About 75% of gun owners support prohibiting those on the terrorist watch list from acquiring guns.
- And there are similar levels of support from this same group for:
1) mandating that gun-owners tell the police when their guns are stolen; 2) restricting concealed carry permits to adults who are 21 and older and who have completed a safety training course; and, 3) prohibiting concealed carry permits from being issued to perpetrators of violent misdemeanors or individuals arrested for domestic violence.
The notion that there is widespread opposition to all legislation that targets gun violence is absolutely wrong!
Jewish tradition emphasizes the sanctity of human life. The Talmud teaches us “he who takes one life it is as though he has destroyed the universe and he who saves one life it is as though he has saved the universe.” Certainly there are common sense steps we can take that already enjoy overwhelming bipartisan support.
Something feels different following this traumatic event. This time, our youth are speaking up and demanding action, and their messages are compelling. The images of high school students lying in front of the White House yesterday, demanding action, will be forever etched on my heart and mind. And the call from survivors of the shooting--15, 16, 17 and 18 year olds who make more sense than some of the people we entrust in national leadership on both sides of the aisle--they give me hope!!!
I know it is easy to throw up your hands and give up on this issue… to believe that things will never change. But we cannot give in to this temptation. In Pirke Avot, the rabbis of old taught: "You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it." (Avot 2:21) The time for change is coming. Let us stand ready to do our part!
May the love of family and support of friends bring an extra measure of comfort during these trying days.
Rabbi Brian Beal