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Gun Violence

07/24/2013 02:35:40 PM


Montclair talk of the town: Local rabbi sounds off on gun violence

FRIDAY MARCH 8, 2013, 11:18 AM

What would you do if you saw a stranger in imminent danger from an attacker?

Would you turn away? Would you hide? Would you call the police? Might you scream stop or pursue the

Most of us hope that we would find the courage to intervene in some way to prevent to an attack. Jewish
law teaches from the verse, "Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor," Lev. 19:16, that we have an
obligation not only to respond but to pursue the attacker. It is a mitzvah - a commandment that we must
pursue and attempt to stop the attacker, specifically because when faced with danger we might otherwise
turn away in fear.

The shooting at Newtown and other recent gun tragedies have somehow woken us up to fact that we
have been standing idly by. We have been looking the other way and letting decisions about gun
ownership be made with inordinate influence of gun manufacturers and the lobbyist who represent them.
Perhaps in the past we felt that demanding more reasonable gun control measures would prove futile or
be perceived as naive, but we have failed to take action to stop the ongoing epidemic of gun violence in
our cities and in our homes.

While we may not be in a position to pursue an attacker, we must not stand idly by. We can pursue our
congressional representatives demanding that they enact meaningful legislation that institutes reasonable
background checks, that limits the size of magazine and the number of guns a single individual can

Even if Congress fails to act, we can ask our towns to go beyond passing symbolic resolutions and use
the gun purchasing power of police departments to turn the tables on the gun manufacturers. Our cities
can demand that the gun manufactures they do business with begin to voluntarily build identification
systems into their guns or stop selling the most lethal armor piercing bullets to civilians. We can similarly
ask that our local zoning boards not to wait for Congress to act but to enact ordinances to force gun
retailers to self enforce background checks and reasonable limits of their gun sales.

We have woken up to the epidemic of gun violence. Since Newtown there have been 1,700 gun deaths in
the U.S. The victims of this violence are not strangers. Ask people you know how they have been
impacted by guns. You will hear stories of incredible loss, of murder, suicides and injuries many of which
would have been prevented had their been less access to guns.

It is true that no one piece of legislation or single action will put an end to gun violence. But we can
humbly listen to our spirit refusing to not stand idly by. There are possibilities for change within reach. We
can bravely accept the command to pursue an end to gun violence.

-Rabbi Elliott Tepperman is a rabbi at Bnai Keshet Reconstructionist Synagogue.
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