If Not Now, When?

The only thing more predictable than this wave of gun violence is the response from the GOP and the NRA: “Now is not the time to politicize this tragedy.”

When would be a more appropriate time to consider our gun policy? After the Minneapolis bridge collapse in 2007, Americans were rightly concerned about the state of our country’s bridges and other infrastructure, and pushed to have their bridges inspected and make long delayed repairs.

As Ezra Klein writes:

If roads were collapsing all across the United States, killing dozens of drivers, we would surely see that as a moment to talk about what we could do to keep roads from collapsing. If terrorists were detonating bombs in port after port, you can be sure Congress would be working to upgrade the nation’s security measures. If a plague was ripping through communities, public-health officials would be working feverishly to contain it.

Similarly, Americans have every right to question now how well we are protecting our children. Should we really make assault weapons available to the general public? Should guns be sold at gun shows without the usual background check? If we require a medical evaluation, written test and practical safety test before giving someone a driving permit, then why not require the same before letting someone own a gun?

As Mark Kelly, the husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) wrote:

This time our response must consist of more than regret, sorrow, and condolence. The children of Sandy Hook Elementary School and all victims of gun violence deserve leaders who have the courage to participate in a meaningful discussion about our gun laws – and how they can be reformed and better enforced to prevent gun violence and death in America. This can no longer wait.

Or as the Jewish scholar Hillel said:

If not now, when?

Another Horrific Gun Massacre: Children Slaughtered At Will

Time for the American Faith Community to Acknowledge Gun Violence as Religious and Moral Issue and Demand Action

— by Bryan Miller

According to press reports, as many as 27 people, including 18 elementary school children, were shot and killed by a lone gunman who attacked a school for 1st to 4th graders in Western Connecticut this morning.

Rabbi Linda Holtzman, Vice Chair of Heeding God’s Call and Senior Rabbi of Mishkan Shalom Synagogue in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia said:

In this time of year sacred for so many Americans it is beyond rational comprehension how such a massacre of innocents could occur, but it did.  How much more obvious can it be that such senseless loss of life — loss of God’s Children, as we all are — demands that the American faith community call on all people and communities of faith to address gun violence as the religious and moral issue it is.

More after the jump.
The Reverend James F. McIntire, Board Chair of Heeding God’s Call, the growing faith-based and grassroots movement to prevent gun violence, and Pastor of Hope United Methodist Church in Havertown, PA, said:

First, we pray for the lost and all that knew and loved them.  Second, we pray for our country to heal from the deep psychic wound this morning’s slaughter has opened.  Thirdly, and most importantly, we pray that the American faith community goes beyond prayer – to demand action to move this country to safety from mass shootings and the daily carnage of illegal guns that cities like Philadelphia suffer every day.

The Reverend Belita Mitchell, Chair of Heeding God’s Call’s Harrisburg Chapter and Pastor of Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren said:  We at Heeding God’s Call have long recognized gun violence as hostile to God’s peaceable kingdom, so we believe it is absolutely a religious and moral problem that demands that all people of faith take activist roles in diminishing it – which is exactly what we are about.  We call today and everyday on our sisters and brothers in faith to join with us in seeking an end to the carnage, for God’s sake and ours.

The Reverend Todd Stavrakos, Heeding God’s Call Board Member and Pastor of Gladwyne Presbyterian Church in Gladwyne, PA said: “This is the time of the year when Christians witness to the birth of a child, yet we just lost eighteen.”

Heeding God’s Call is the faith-based and grassroots movement to prevent gun violence.  Headquartered in Philadelphia, Heeding is growing rapidly and has active chapters in NW, NE and West Phila, in its western suburbs, in Harrisburg, Baltimore and Washington, DC.  Heeding seeks to bring faithful and public pressure on gun shops to persuade them to avoid selling to those who would put guns on the street.  Heeding was instrumental in leading federal authorities to shutter notorious Colosimo’s Gun Center on Spring Garden Street in late ’09.  Heeding is currently active at two gun shops in NE Philadelphia.

PA’s Tough Penalties For Handgun Straw Purchases

Last week, Governor Corbett signed a bill that will enforce tough minimum penalties for straw purchasers found guilty of buying more than one gun for people who can’t legally buy guns themselves. Groups like Ceasefire PA have lobbied for such a law to keep handguns out of the hands of convicted felons. This issue was addressed in the very first issue of the Phialdelphia Jewish Voice. For over a decade, the NRA’s allies in Harrisburg used obstructionist tactics to prevent this bill from coming up for a vote. However, after a series of massacres this position became politically untenable and the bill was able to move forward.

CeasefirePA continues to lobby for lost or stolen handgun reporting requirements. A reporting requirement would enforce responsibility for gun ownership before the guns can be used in a crime.  

Another Day, Another Gun Massacre

This time in a house of worship…

Faith-based Gun Violence Prevention Organization Calls on Religious Institutions to Act to Halt the American Epidemic of Gun Violence

— by Bryan Miller

The most recent reports of another gun massacre, this time at a Sikh house of worship near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, speak of 7 dead and several wounded.  This predictable event, follows close on the heels of the killing and wounding of dozens at a movie premier in Aurora, Colorado.

The Reverend Belita Mitchell, Coordinator of Heeding God’s Call’s active chapter in Harrisburg, PA said:

We at Heeding God’s Call grieve for those killed and injured and their families, friends, neighbors and co-religionists. Americans believe that houses of worship should be places of safety and refuge, not places of carnage and terror.  But, as long as we allow people intent on mayhem to gain guns with ease, often illegally, houses of worship will be as dangerous as so many neighborhoods and communities are now in our country.

The Reverend James McIntire, Board Chair of Heeding God’s Call, said:

These predictable mass shootings keep coming and will continue to do so. We’ve barely begun grieving for those lost and wounded in Aurora and now more of the same. The response of our country’s leaders has, once again, been weak and limited to platitudes, while gun advocates tell us to be silent in the aftermath of such grievous acts.  The faith community has, largely, eschewed moral leadership, speaking only of prayer, grief and solidarity with the damaged community. This is far from enough. In addition to our grieving and our prayers, this country needs the faith community to be prophetic in its call for justice and to act for change in American attitudes and measures.

Bob Fles, Co-Coordinator of Neighborhood Partners to End Gun Violence, a chapter of Heeding God’s Call, in Philadelphia, said:

We at Heeding God’s Call and NPEG say unequivocally that enough is enough. When the easy availability of guns results in places of worship and those within them being shot up, it is time for all faithful to get off their couches and get active in seeking an end to the violence. We call on all faith traditions in this country to show courageous religious leadership and work unrelentingly to end the bloodletting.

More after the jump.
Bryan Miller, Executive Director of Heeding God’s Call closed with:

We also call on people of faith who are concerned about the rising tide of gun violence to join with us as Heeding God’s Call works in neighborhoods and communities to make guns less available to those all agree shouldn’t have them.  We seek, as well, to be the spark that ignites the faith community to activism to halt the American epidemic of gun violence.

Do More Than Pray & Grieve, Take Action to Prevent Gun Violence

From Heeding God’s Call

Heeding God’s Call, the faith-based and grassroots movement to prevent gun violence headquartered in Philadelphia expressed deep remorse about the ‘too predictable’ massacre of innocents early this morning in Aurora, Colorado.

The Reverend James F. McIntire, Board Chair of Heeding God’s Call, said: “As people of faith, all of Heeding God’s Call grieve the loss of life that occurred this morning in Colorado. We pray for those who mourn the lost, for the wounded, their friends and families and a community that will never be the same. But, prayer and grief are not enough. It is time for the faith community to stop ignoring the deep malaise that besets our nation. It is time for the faith community to lead this country out of the hell of gun violence.”

The Reverend James Atwood, Coordinator of Heeding God’s Call of Greater Washington, DC said: “There is something frighteningly wrong in this country when these massacres keep happening.  We, as a nation, cannot simply blame disturbed individuals and ignore the fact that our unique gun culture and the ease of availability of guns, especially those made to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible, is also to blame for the incredible loss of life and community.”

Bryan Miller, Executive Director of Heeding God’s Call said: “Despite the claims of the gun industry and lobby, these massacres and the daily toll of gun violence in this country are absolutely about guns.  It would be irresponsible and unconscionable for people of faith to just point to a disturbed individual and seek no change in American attitudes, policies and laws regarding guns.  If Americans, and especially people of faith, don’t seek real and meaningful change about guns it’s easy to predict more such massacres.  And, who knows who will die or be wounded in the next one, and the one after that and the one after that…”

Transcript of President’s remarks on the shootings follows the jump.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON THE SHOOTINGS IN AURORA, COLORADO

Harborside Event Center, Fort Myers, Florida

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, let me, first of all, say how grateful I am for all of you being here, and how much we appreciate everything that you’ve done.  I know that there are a lot of people here who have been so engaged in the campaign, have sacrificed so much, people who’ve been involved back since 2007. (Applause.)  And so I want all of you to know how appreciative I am.

And I know many of you came here today for a campaign event. I was looking forward to having a fun conversation with you about some really important matters that we face as a country and the differences between myself and my opponent in this election.  But this morning, we woke up to news of a tragedy that reminds us of all the ways that we are united as one American family.

By now, many of you know, many of you have heard that a few miles outside of Denver in a town call Aurora, at least 12 people were killed when a gunman opened fire in a movie theater, and dozens more are being treated for injuries at a local hospital.  Some of the victims are being treated at a children’s hospital.

We’re still gathering all the facts about what happened in Aurora, but what we do know is that the police have one suspect in custody.  And the federal government stands ready to do whatever is necessary to bring whoever is responsible for this heinous crime to justice.  (Applause.)  And we will take every step possible to ensure the safety of all of our people.

We’re going to stand by our neighbors in Colorado during this extraordinarily difficult time.  And I had a chance to speak with the Mayor of Aurora as well as the Governor of Colorado to express, not just on behalf of Michelle and myself, but the entire American family, how heartbroken we are.

Now, even as we learn how this happened and who’s responsible, we may never understand what leads anybody to terrorize their fellow human beings like this.  Such violence, such evil is senseless.  It’s beyond reason.  But while we will never know fully what causes somebody to take the life of another, we do know what makes life worth living.  The people we lost in Aurora loved and they were loved.  They were mothers and fathers; they were husbands and wives; sisters and brothers; sons and daughters, friends and neighbors.  They had hopes for the future and they had dreams that were not yet fulfilled.

And if there’s anything to take away from this tragedy it’s the reminder that life is very fragile.  Our time here is limited and it is precious.  And what matters at the end of the day is not the small things, it’s not the trivial things, which so often consume us and our daily lives.  Ultimately, it’s how we choose to treat one another and how we love one another.  (Applause.)

It’s what we do on a daily basis to give our lives meaning and to give our lives purpose.  That’s what matters.  At the end of the day, what we’ll remember will be those we loved and what we did for others.  That’s why we’re here.

I’m sure that many of you who are parents here had the same reaction that I did when I heard this news.  My daughters go to the movies.  What if Malia and Sasha had been at the theater, as so many of our kids do every day?  Michelle and I will be fortunate enough to hug our girls a little tighter tonight, and I’m sure you will do the same with your children.  But for those parents who may not be so lucky, we have to embrace them and let them know we will be there for them as a nation.

So, again, I am so grateful that all of you are here.  I am so moved by your support.  But there are going to be other days for politics.  This, I think, is a day for prayer and reflection.

So what I’d ask everybody to do, I’d like us to pause in a moment of silence for the victims of this terrible tragedy, for the people who knew them and loved them, for those who are still struggling to recover, and for all the victims of less publicized acts of violence that plague our communities every single day.  So if everybody can just take a moment.

(Moment of silence.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, everybody.  I hope all of you will keep the people of Aurora in your hearts and minds today.  May the Lord bring them comfort and healing in hard days to come.

I am grateful to all of you, and I hope that as a consequence of today’s events, as you leave here, you spend a little time thinking about the incredible blessings that God has given us.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you, Obama!  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

If Only Anne Frank Had Been Packing A Luger

Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher (R-OH) campaign video offensively blames Holocaust on gun control.


— by David A. Harris

Using the memories of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust to make a political point is never appropriate, under any circumstances. For Ohio Republican House candidate Samuel Wurzelbacher to imply that these innocent lives were taken because of gun control laws is simply beyond the pale. Wurzelbacher — who is just the latest in a long line of Republicans who seem to think it is acceptable to use the Holocaust for political gain-must apologize and remove this offensive video immediately.”

With this video, Wurzelbacher joins the ranks of other Republicans such as presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, Governor Rick Scott (R-FL), Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), Representatives Allen West (R-FL), Michele Bachmann (R-MN), and Trent Franks (R-AZ), WV Senate candidate John Raese and FL House candidate Adam Hasner who have shamefully abused the Holocaust to make political points.

Hunter Walker of the New York Observer reported today:

Samuel ‘Joe The Plumber’ Wurzelbacher, the 2008 campaign microcelebrity and Ohio congressional candidate, has an interesting theory about the Holocaust. Yesterday, Mr. Wurzelbacher released a campaign web video in which he blamed the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide on gun control laws.

‘In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917 one-point-five million Armenians, unable to defend themselves were exterminated,’ Mr. Wurzelbacher says in the clip. ‘In 1939, Germany established gun control. From 1939 to 1945, six million Jews and seven million others unable to defend themselves were exterminated.’

Mr. Wurzelbacher’s video features footage of him on a shooting rage blasting fruits and vegetables with a shotgun. As the clip draws to a close, Mr. Wurzelbacher, gun in hand, proclaims, ‘I love America.’

The description of the video describes gun ownership as ‘our last line of defense’ from tyranny and poses a rather existential question about Mr. Wurzelbacher’s produce shooting hobby.

‘If you hunt or just like shooting guns, the 2nd Amendment will always be a good thing. History also tells us it’s our last line of defense in the face of an out-of-control government,’ the description says. ‘And killing fruits and vegetables is… what?’

Decision on who can carry a concealed firearm should be Pennsylvania’s

— by Pennsylvania State Rep. Babette Josephs (D-Philadelphia)

While we cannot tell other states how to issue firearm licenses or to whom, we must do so in Pennsylvania for our own residents. This would serve to protect Commonwealth residents from violent individuals who abuse the current loophole in state law to legally carry guns with an out-of-state permit after being denied one in Pennsylvania.

Case after case has been documented in which a violent person is denied a permit in Pennsylvania and then successfully applies for a permit in another state, such as Florida. Law-abiding citizens don’t seek to circumvent the law like that.

My proposal would not affect gun ownership rights, nor prevent residents of other states with permits from those states from legally carrying a concealed weapon in Pennsylvania. It simply would ensure that the Pennsylvania residents who are granted a license to carry have met the standards of our state and not the standards of another state that potentially could be less stringent.  

The bill (H.B. 1309) has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee for review.
 

Tucson Rampage’s Dangerous Combination: Extremism and Guns

— Bryan Miller

In the wake of the devastating shooting rampage of Saturday in Tucson, Arizona, Heeding God’s Call, the faith-based movement to prevent gun violence, expressed sadness at the predictable loss of life and damage to society, and called for citizens and the faith community to ‘step up’ and take the country from those who would use the deadly mix of guns and political extremism to endanger democracy and sell guns.

Rabbi Linda Holzman of Mishkan Shalom Synagogue in Philadelphia said: “I call on all of my sisters and brothers of all faiths to take courage, get off your couches and out of your homes to bring this country to a place of safety and sanity where persons like the Tucson shooter cannot easily acquire guns and where there is no tolerance for those who would use the deadly mix of guns and extremism to seek power or disrupt our democracy.  It is high time the faithful in this country said no to extremists and the gun industry and lobby.  We can no longer allow their narrow single-mindedness and selfishness to dictate policies and laws.”

See statement by State Rep. Babette Josephs (D-Philadelphia) after the jump.
State Representative Babette Josephs

State Rep. Babette Josephs, D-Phila., is expressing her horror, shock and outrage at Saturday’s attempted assassination of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, which wounded her and 19 others at a community legislative event in Tucson, Ariz., leaving six dead and Giffords in critical condition.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to all of the victims and their families, including Representative Giffords,” Josephs said. “This is a terrible tragedy for them, for Arizona and for this country.

“But this incident reminds us that there can be consequences to speech that makes it seem OK to physically attack people for having a different viewpoint. I fear that many extremist talk radio and TV commentators do not make that distinction. People who are unstable are likely to take this rhetoric of violence as permission to act. And in states with weak gun control laws, that permission can be deadly. This is not a First Amendment issue, but one of self-censorship, self-restraint and the assumption of responsibility.

“A great friend of mine, the late Larry Frankel, championed the First Amendment, but even he said the First Amendment does not give us the right to act like idiots,” she said. Josephs pointed to the oft-noted map distributed by former Alaska governor Sara Palin with cross hair marks on certain legislative districts, including Giffords’.

“One cannot shout ‘fire’ in a crowded room without cause because of what it may incite. Responsible individuals self-edit their comments in the same way.”

Josephs also said she believes that Saturday’s shooting puts more light on the issue of responsible firearm laws.

“There are many instances in which women are the intended victims of troubled young men. Who will be next? Pennsylvania is similar to Arizona in having weak gun laws. Now is the time to reconsider enacting responsible gun-safety laws,” Josephs said. “It is up to the politicians to temper their extreme discourse and enact responsible gun-safety laws.”