Gun Control Today, Not Tomorrow

Cartoons courtesy of Mike Stanfill.

Cartoons courtesy of Mike Stanfill.

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In Orlando, a gunman carried out the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, killing 49 and wounding an additional 53 at the gay nightclub Pulse. With such an atrocity comes the normal tragic dialogue regarding how this has once again occurred, and the motivations of the perpetrator have already come into question. While the act was undoubtedly an act of hate during the height of Pride month, the deaths of these innocent club-goers have already been politicized to suggest that ISIS ties were the catalyst. Instead of acknowledging prejudice and discrimination against the LGBT community and the issues of gun control, national dialogue has focused elsewhere.

Many people have questioned why guns were sold to an unstable man such as Omar Mateen. Politicians and community leaders see this tragedy as a call to action. From Columbine to Virginia Tech, from Sandy Hook to Orlando, innocent citizens have become victims of gun violence with little to no policy changes made to prevent such violence in the future. The time to take a stance is not tomorrow, but today. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C. took a stance on Monday, asking Paul Ryan when debate about new gun policy would occur. As the congressman drew attention to the one year anniversary of the Charleston shooting approaching this Friday, House Speaker Ryan promptly dismissed the call for gun reform and moved on.

6-17-16-slave-patrolsShortly after the San Bernadino shooting, when Senator  Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) proposed another bill requiring background checks and a mandatory waiting period, it was shot down 50 to 48. As Democrats continued to push for the immediate passage of a bill preventing people on terror watch lists from buying firearms or explosives, Republicans argued that the government could mistakenly place innocent people on the watch list and thus mistakenly deprive them of their Second Amendment rights.

Dismissing problems and moving on without resolution is far too common in today?’s political climate, especially in regards to violent gun crimes. The leniency of the U.S gun control system has allowed for massacres such as these to occur unchecked.

Comprehensive background checks are a necessity.  Far too many individuals bypass background checks and rarely renew gun licenses, as Mateen purchased his weapons with an expired gun registration and was on the FBI list of suspected terrorists. Florida is specifically known to have very relaxed gun control policies. The Brady Campaign, a prominent gun control group, gave 26 states including Florida an F rating in 2013. Assault weapons, such as the one used by Mateen to carry out the Orlando attacks, are legal for any citizen to purchase who can pass the background check.

Guns can change lives in a matter of seconds. These items should be treated as weapons and not toys. Roughly 16,272 murders were committed in the United States as of 2008. Of these murders, about 10,886 or 67% were committed using firearms. While guns won?t stop murderers, or prevent disturbed individuals from executing acts of terror, we have the power to slow their course and reach.

No person thinks they will fall victim to an act of gun violence. While walking across campus at Virginia Tech, no student expected to be gunned down and murdered. No Sandy Hook Elementary School parent expected to drop their child off for class only to never see them again. No one expects the terror and effects of gun violence will touch them. Yet attacks could happen anywhere, any place, anytime and we allow for it.

Close to 33,000 Americans were victims of gun-related deaths in 2011 and an average of 268 citizens are shot every day. By focusing efforts to reform and combat the current system, we can prevent future attacks and save lives. While we may never be able to bring back those lost in brutal attacks, we can rise to the occasion, bettering society in their memory so no child, parent, or friend has to go through the pain and grief of losing a loved one through gun violence.

As our government once again failed to act for the safety of its people by passing significant gun reform legislation, innocent lives once again paid for their negligence. This time it was the 49 dead and 53 wounded who were celebrating Pride at a nightclub in Orlando. Unless our government acts now the question is, who will be next?

Reprinted with the permission of the National Jewish Democratic Counsel

NRA and CeasefirePA: Two Visions of America’s Future

Click the title to view the videos.

Above are two videos. Each presents a very different view of America: should there be requirements for kids to know how to handle firearms? Should there be limits to who has guns?

In light of the events this week in Ferguson, MO., it’s time to think about what America has become, and what role guns have played in that development.

Please watch the videos and leave a comment. What do you want America to be?

Mugbook or Facebook for Gun Traffickers?

— Ellyn Grimm

Earlier this week, undercover police in northwestern Iowa busted a man for illegally trying to get a handgun on Facebook.

As a convicted felon, the suspect wasn’t allowed to own or buy guns. And Iowa law blocked him from buying handguns without getting a background check and a purchase permit. So he turned to his next best option — Facebook — where users can buy and trade guns with zero oversight.

More after the jump.
Facebook is already feeling the pressure from the campaign Mayors Against Illegal Guns launched asking them to prohibit gun sales on their site. Almost 55,000 supporters have signed the petition to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Boston Marathon, Guns and Israel

— by Steve Sheffey

The next time Israel responds to terrorism, remember how you felt when you heard about the Boston Marathon bombings — and then ask how you’d feel if attacks like these had happened repeatedly for the last 65 years.

Background checks for gun purchasers are favored by 90 percent of Americans, won a majority vote in the Senate, but failed because of a Republican filibuster. Ninety percent of Democrats voted in favor, ninety percent of Republicans voted against. An assault weapons ban was also defeated in the Senate.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will finalize a huge arms deal with Israel during his visit there, under which Israel will for the first time be permitted to purchase U.S. aerial refueling planes and other ultra-sophisticated military equipment that could prove vital to any Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The Obama administration has requested that aid to Israel remain untouched despite budget pressures.

Full article the jump.
Between the Boston Marathon terrorist attack and the defeat of gun control legislation in the Senate, this was a very bad week.


Courtsey of Yaakov “Dry Bones” Kirschen

What did you feel on Monday when you heard about the terrorist attacks at the Boston Marathon? Anger. Frustration. Tears. Sadness. Probably all of those and many more. But I’ll bet the one thought that did not cross your mind was “I wonder what we did to deserve this and what complaints the poor souls who committed these acts must have.”

Try to recapture how you felt on Monday the next time you read about Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israel. On April 7, someone was videotaping a Holocaust Memorial ceremony in Israel when rockets struck. Watch this. It’s 30 seconds long.

What kind of people would do this? The people who want a state right next to Israel. The people Israel is trying to make peace with. Yes, a two-state solution is in Israel’s best interests, but the people upon whom that solution depends have leaders who think that terrorism is a legitimate form of political expression.

Israel has been victimized by terrorism since its rebirth 65 years ago. Remember how you felt when you watched news reports about the Boston Marathon the next time you read about Israel’s efforts to defend itself. Try to imagine if you would show the restraint Israel has shown. And ask yourself how you would feel knowing that Iran, a terrorist state, is attempting acquire nuclear weapons.

How do we make sense of what happened in Boston? We don’t. We can’t. But I think Patton Oswalt was right. This is what he wrote on Monday:

Boston… horrible.

I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, “Well, I’ve had it with humanity.”

But I was wrong. I don’t know what’s going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.

But here’s what I do know. If it’s one person or a hundred people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running towards the destruction to help out… This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness.

But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.

So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, “The good outnumber you, and we always will.”

The Manchin-Toomey background check amendment failed because of a Republican filibuster. Fifty-four senators voted in favor, but that wasn’t the 60 needed for cloture. Only four Democrats voted no and only four Republicans voted yes. Ninety percent of Americans favor this amendment. Ninety percent of Democratic senators voted for it. Ninety percent of Republican senators voted against it. Don’t let anyone tell you that party labels don’t matter or that both sides are equally to blame.

President Obama was right: All in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington.

How many people need to die before we enact gun control? How many people need to die before we end the filibuster rule? How many people need to die before we realize that party labels matter? How many people need to die before we realize that the Second Amendment is not a suicide pact?

The Senate also rejected a ban on assault weapons. You can check the vote tallies on this and the other gun control measures the Senate rejected here. Yes, all in all, pretty shameful.

We cannot give up. Nothing will change until politicians realize that the price they will pay at the polls for opposing gun control is higher than the price they will pay for standing up to the NRA. If you haven’t read it yet, read what former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords wrote last week:

Speaking is physically difficult for me. But my feelings are clear: I’m furious. I will not rest until we have righted the wrong these senators have done, and until we have changed our laws so we can look parents in the face and say: We are trying to keep your children safe. We cannot allow the status quo — desperately protected by the gun lobby so that they can make more money by spreading fear and misinformation — to go on.

I am asking every reasonable American to help me tell the truth about the cowardice these senators demonstrated. I am asking for mothers to stop these lawmakers at the grocery store and tell them: You’ve lost my vote. I am asking activists to unsubscribe from these senators’ e-mail lists and to stop giving them money. I’m asking citizens to go to their offices and say: You’ve disappointed me, and there will be consequences.

The Obama administration will provide Israel with ultra-sophisticated military equipment and maintain aid to Israel despite budget pressures. The Times of Israel reports that “Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will finalize a huge arms deal with Israel during his visit starting Saturday, under which Israel will for the first time be permitted to purchase U.S. aerial refueling planes and other ultra-sophisticated military equipment that could prove vital to any Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.”

President Obama has requested that American aid to Israel remain untouched for fiscal year 2014 despite budgetary belt tightening in other areas. Read more here.

Reform Movement Leader Shows Support of Stricter Gun Laws

In advance of the interfaith day of advocacy around gun control today, The Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs sent a letter to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urging Congress to pass stricter gun laws.

Dear Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell:

Nearly four decades ago, in 1975, the Union for Reform Judaism recognized the need for legislation that would limit and control the sale and use of firearms. Since the adoption of that resolution, the URJ’s first calling for the regulation of firearms, more than one million Americans have been killed as a result of gun violence. The URJ has spoken out repeatedly and passionately on gun violence and continues to insist that gun regulation is a vital necessity.

Continued after the jump.
As president of the Union for Reform Judaism, the membership organization for nearly 900 Reform synagogues and 1.5 million Reform Jews in North America, I follow in the footsteps of my predecessors and urge you to support the comprehensive gun violence prevention package before Congress (S.649 / H.R. 137), which not only will require enforceable background checks, but also will curb gun trafficking and enhance school safety, making America safer while keeping the Second Amendment secure. Congress also must ensure that the bill is enforceable by requiring private sellers who sell crime guns to produce a background check — just as dealers are required to do. There’s no question that the two minutes it takes to pass a background check is a wise investment in saving lives.

I ask, too, that you support the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines (S.150 / H.R. 437), which will ban these weapons of war that have no place in our schools or on our streets. These weapons — frequently used in police killings and mass shootings — dramatically increase the number of lives lost and the damage done.

Jewish tradition mandates tikkun olam, “repair of our fractured world” — and this country’s background check system is broken indeed. This flawed system, which does not require “private sellers” to conduct background checks, easily puts weapons in the hands of the vast majority of gun criminals. It is time to fix this broken system with passage of S.649 / H.R. 137, which will extend the current background check requirements to private gun sales, with dealers conducting the checks and keeping records the same way they have done for more than 40 years. Passage of these bills is the single most meaningful step you can take to stop senseless violence, honor all who have been lost to gun violence, and bring solace to survivors. On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism and its members across North America, I urge you to support these critical pieces of legislation.

Just as the prophet Isaiah exhorts the people of the earth to “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks,” so too do I urge you to vote for comprehensive and enforceable background checks and to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. As elected officials, it is your moral imperative to work to solve society’s problems. This is holy work and we are counting on you to do it, helping to shape a better and more hopeful world for us all. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Rick Jacobs

Obama Takes Steps To Stop “The Epidemic Of Gun Violence”


— by David Streeter

President Barack Obama took several steps yesterday in order to strengthen America’s gun laws and prevent future gun violence-including the signing of 23 new executive orders designed to stop
“the epidemic of gun violence in this country.” The Washington Post summarized the President’s actions yesterday:

More after the jump.

Obama called on Congress to swiftly pass legislation to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines for civilian use and to require universal background checks for all gun buyers. Obama’s proposals include mental health and school safety measures, as well as a tough new crackdown on gun trafficking.

Obama spoke in a White House ceremony to formally unveil the proposals and to sign executive orders and paperwork initiating immediate administrative actions, including steps to strengthen the existing background-check system, promote research on gun violence and provide training in dealing with ‘active shooter situations.’

Taken together, the gun-control proposals rank among Obama’s most ambitious legislative projects, along with his fiscal stimulus package, his health-care law and Wall Street regulations – all achieved when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. Administration officials said Wednesday that the proposals do not represent specific legislation. But they said that in the coming weeks, the White House would be working with members of a divided Congress to develop bills to implement as much of the package as possible.

The White House launched a new resource page on its website that outlines the President’s approach to curbing gun violence. Click here to learn more.

Jewish Organizations Applaud Obama’s Gun Violence Reducing Plan

In a speech at the White House today President Barack Obama has announced a plan with 23 executive steps for reducing gun violence:

I’m putting forward a specific set of proposals based on the work of Joe [Biden]’s task force. And in the days ahead, I intend to use whatever weight this office holds to make them a reality. Because while there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely, no piece of legislation that will prevent every tragedy, every act of evil, if there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there is even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try.

And I’m going to do my part. As soon as I’m finished speaking here, I will sit at that desk and I will sign a directive giving law enforcement, schools, mental health professionals and the public health community some of the tools they need to help reduce gun violence.

We will make it easier to keep guns out of the hands of criminals by strengthening the background check system. We will help schools hire more resource officers if they want them and develop emergency preparedness plans. We will make sure mental health professionals know their options for reporting threats of violence — even as we acknowledge that someone with a mental illness is far more likely to be a victim of violent crime than the perpetrator.

More after the jump.
In response, B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:

B’nai B’rith International praises President Obama for his plans to introduce a legislative package next week that, among other things, would include reinstating the assault weapons ban, limiting the number of rounds in ammunition magazines, implementing universal background checks for those purchasing firearms and enacting new gun trafficking laws.

B’nai B’rith calls on both parties in Congress to work with the administration to swiftly pass effective gun legislation.

The shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., a month ago and several other gun related tragedies in recent years have demonstrated a growing need for reform of the nation’s gun laws.

Following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, B’nai B’rith was quick to call on the president and Congress to reinstate the assault weapons ban, believing there is no sane, acceptable, reasonable need in a civilian setting to fire off large rounds of ammunition.

On Jan. 14, the B’nai B’rith International Executive Committee passed a formal resolution that called for a ban on assault weapons, as well as a limit on ammunition magazine capacity.

This country needs meaningful, bipartisan gun regulation. B’nai B’rith pledges to work with all political parties, interest groups and coalitions to make these regulations a reality.

“We thank President Obama and Vice President Biden for these thoughtful and comprehensive proposals to prevent gun violence in America,” said Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

We recognize that this is a complex issue. In the month since 26 first graders and educators were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary, over 900 Americans have lost their lives from gun violence. The memory of Newtown is still fresh, and so is Aurora, Tucson, Fort Hood and other massacres that remind us that something must be done — and that there isn’t a single solution to preventing mass violence. We appreciate the Administration’s understanding that there are multiple causes which must be addressed. It is crucial that passions not ebb nor our country return to complacency. Gun violence claims new lives every day. We encourage the President to continue to move this conversation forward during his State of the Union address, keeping the protection of Americans front and center. As a community that has experienced mass violence, we appreciate the careful consideration that is being given to this issue. It is a national priority and we must keep up the momentum.

Lori Weinstein, Jewish Women International (JWI)‘s executive director issued the following statement:

JWI applauds President Obama’s bold leadership on reforming gun laws in an effort to reduce gun violence in our nation. JWI has pledged its commitment to support the banning of assault rifles and high-capacity magazines as well as strengthening and expanding background checks for gun purchasers. The executive orders announced by the President will give us added tools and strategies to further gun violence prevention. JWI calls on Congress to follow the President’s lead by enacting effective legislation.

As an organization that works every day to prevent violence against women and girls, we have seen all too often the devastating effects of gun violence. We and our network of more than 25,000 pledge to work with the Administration to make gun violence prevention a priority for the country. This issue will be of primary importance to JWI throughout the 113th Congress, and we hope for quick passage of gun laws to curb gun violence.

National Sabbath To Stop The Gun Violence


— Susan Myers

The shootings in Newtown, CT, have horrified our senses with the tragedy of loss, and highlighted for us the ongoing toll that gun violence takes daily on our American cities. This Shabbat in Adath Jeshurun (7763 Old York Road, Elkins Park, PA) is dedicated to understanding the current situation, considering how guns can be kept “out of the wrong hands while protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners,” and considering how we can work together to reduce the toll of gun violence in our society.

Rabbi Rosenbloom has invited as our Guest Speaker Shira Goodman. A lifelong member of Adath Jeshurun, Goodman is the Executive Director of CeaseFirePA, a coalition of citizens, mayors, police chiefs, faith leaders and community organizations taking a stand against gun violence in Pennsylvania. Shira has had a long career as a lawyer and public policy advocate, including ten years as Deputy Director of a statewide court reform organization and five years as a labor lawyer. CeaseFirePA focuses on common sense regulations to keep legal guns from becoming illegal guns that ultimately are used in crimes and empowering Pennsylvanians to take a stand against gun violence in their communities, in the courtroom, in the legislature and at the ballot box.

The event is sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence. Join the conversation about how to make our society safer, and prevent gun violence from plaguing our society. Services begin at 9:30 AM (Parashat Sh’mot).

Gun Toting Teachers

There has been a lot of talk since the Newton massacre about arming teachers in the classroom. The NRA and Second Amendment advocates are strongly in support of the idea. Unfortunately there has been a lot of misrepresentation by some in the media that in Israel the school children’s classrooms are filled with gun toting teachers. They are not.

I’ve been in Israel dozens of times and accompanied my grandchildren to their elementary schools and high schools and not once did I see a teacher packing heat. There may be rare exceptions as in the case of disputed territories, but that does not negate the rule that teachers do not carry guns in the classroom. However there is an armed security guard at the gate of every school.
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