(JSPAN) The Jewish Social Policy Action Network strongly supports federal and Pennsylvania state
legislation as well as municipal ordinances designed to reduce the incidence of gun violence in our state and nation.
Each year more than 30,000 Americans die from senseless gun violence. Each day men, women and
children – mothers, brothers, sisters, children, family, neighbors, and friends – are taken from us as a
result of our inability to advance common-sense firearms regulations.
More after the jump including video of the 20/20 Special “If I Only Had A Gun”
JSPAN has a long-standing concern with the easy access to non-hunting firearms in the United States. The recent mass shootings of students and teachers in Connecticut, movie goers in Colorado, members of the Sikh community at their house of worship in Wisconsin, and other armed attacks on both civilians and law enforcement officials throughout our nation, dramatically underscore the urgent need for more effective measures.
We are reminded that Jewish tradition emphasizes the sanctity and primary value of all human life. The Bible commands us, “Thou shalt not murder” (Exodus 20:13). The Talmud furthermore 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.” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5)
As the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism tells us, “The number and severity of violent shootings in recent years can only be described as an epidemic.” As in any other epidemic, it is society’s collective responsibility to take measures to alleviate the pain, suffering and loss of life it causes.
We recognize an individual’s right to obtain and possess firearms, but that right is not without reasonable limitations. In the opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States in District of Columbia v. Heller, Justice Antonin Scalia states:
“Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose … Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms … We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller (an earlier case) said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those ‘in common use at the time.’ We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.'”
The Court recognizes long-standing judicial precedent “… to consider… prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons.”
The Jewish Social Policy Action Network joins with numerous other faith- based and social policy bodies in calling for Congress and state legislative bodies to take prompt and decisive action to advance sensible gun control laws, including, but not limited to, taking assault weapons off our streets and out of the hands of those who have no legitimate purpose in owning such firearms, and by greatly improving our system of background checks for gun purchasers.
We also call attention to numerous remedies on the state legislative level, including the requirement that the loss or theft of a firearm be reported to law enforcement agencies, and limits on the purchase of specified firearms to one per month.
We welcome the call for a renewal of the ban on nineteen assault weapons passed in 1994, but allowed to expire when it came up for reauthorization in 2004.
Furthermore, we applaud efforts to limit the sales of high-capacity ammunition magazines, which can enable a shooter to fire off dozens of rounds of ammunition without having to reload. Weapons such as these have been used in several mass shootings.
JSPAN decries the opposition by the gun lobby to improved background checks for those who wish to purchase firearms. Both advocates and independent researchers say that such a measure would have a greater impact on gun violence than any other step under consideration. Approximately 90 percent of those polled in several public surveys support background checks. Currently, criminal background checks are required only for guns sold through licensed firearm dealers, which account for only 60 percent of all gun sales in the United States. The current system also allows those not “engaged in the business” of gun selling to sell firearms without a license or without filing any paperwork whatsoever.
We applaud those measures taken by Pennsylvania to end the so-called Florida loophole, in which residents of our state who are not eligible to purchase guns in Pennsylvania are able to buy guns in Florida and then legally possess them here in their home state.
We hope that the courageous examples of support for strong gun controls set by some of our federal and state legislators will serve as an example for other elected officials. We call upon all of our legislators to pay attention to their consciences and to pass legislation to make all people residing in our nation safer from gun violence.
20/20 Special: “If I Only Had A Gun”