Yes, I have fired a gun on more than one occasion; most recently at a training range on a Kibbutz in Israel* in 2009 and early on as a teenager at target practice with a friend and his dad. The experiences unnerved me; the echoing boom, the kick of the weapon and even more, the thought that the gun I fired, no matter how small, had the potential to take a human life.
My limited experience with weapons affirms for me the sentiments I have been hearing these past two weeks from my colleagues, friends and so many grieving families across the nation. Guns are far too easy to use — and misuse — and we must continue to demand from Congress reasonable regulations for guns and assault weapons.
The “solution” suggested last week by the NRA- placing armed guards in schools- is beyond absurd. Even since Newtown there have been other mass shootings, including in a church, to which Gail Collins of the NY Times said in context of the NRA’s comment, “We will await the next grand plan for arming ministers.”
Not in my time, I pray- may we not see armed ministers, rabbis or school security guards.
For decades the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) has decried “the power of the NRA in controlling the debate on gun control” (2000) and called upon “the U.S. Congress to eschew the support of the NRA and to vote their support of stringent gun-control legislation”(1987).
Our resolution has not changed; we continue to support meaningful gun control legislation that will stem these senseless episodes of mass violence. In the CCAR’s recent public statement about the Newtown shootings, we expressed our condolences to whose who suffered losses, sympathies for those wounded, and fear that the NRA will continue to thwart not just legislation, but even conversation, about the need to stop the gun violence.
But expressing these feelings is not enough.
Reform Rabbis who are on the front lines of Jewish communal life can join together, and with clergy of other faiths, to advocate in support of meaningful gun control nationwide and in their own communities- (studies indicate that “states with strong gun laws and low rates of gun ownership had far lower rates of firearm-related death”). At the CCAR we remain committed to providing rabbis with resources on ways that they may advocate and organize, such as in partnership with Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center.
Importantly, the CCAR also provides our rabbis personal support and resources as their communities turn to them for religious and pastoral comfort in time of tragedy. Our volunteer Rabbis on Call and Rabbinic Hotline, as well as CCAR’s Rabbinic Staff, support rabbis who themselves offer prayer and comfort to their communities. We also provide resources grounded in Jewish text, theology, and philosophy on subjects ranging from the sanctity of life to the abhorrence of violence.
Our rabbis also benefit from the strength of partnership. At the end of last week, the CCAR joined forces with the Rabbinical Assembly (the Conservative Rabbis), and the Religious Action Center to provide hundreds of rabbis the opportunity to learn from other leaders in our faith; including one of our rabbis who is serving Newtown as the Director of Spiritual Care at Danbury Hospital; a rabbi and advocate for Faiths United Against Gun Violence; and from the Executive Director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.
In the CCAR’s latest statement, we expressed our understanding that comprehensive laws cannot stop all gun violence. But we must continue to act in the words of our tradition: “one who saves one life saves a whole world.”
*Important footnote: As to the incorrect statements made last week by the pro-gun lobby, Israel is actually a country with strict control over weapons in the civilian population.