One year after the atrocity at Sandy Hook Elementary, the dead continue to pile up due to the ill-advised possession and use of guns.
Some bent on hate and some with severe mental illnesses continue to use automatic weapons to perpetrate mass killings and mayhem. These obscenities have become commonplace and the routine violence is numbing. Gun advocates ascribe accountability to every possible cause except guns, which remain sacrosanct.
More people buy more guns to protect themselves from others who buy more guns to protect themselves from yet more gun owners. They shoot each other intentionally and by mistake. The gun lobby proclaims the solution is more guns and opposes any regulatory oversight to limit gun purchases to responsible individuals and to prohibit the accumulation of weapons created for mass killing.
The lethal effects of our national obsession with firearms are staggering. Guns are the preferred means of suicide for men. Our police are outgunned by the criminals they try to arrest. Our citizens stockpile weapons of war in their homes, spin out far-flung conspiracy theories against our government and other institutions, and prepare to take up real arms against imagined enemies.
Food products, chemicals, make-up, travel, children’s toys, and so many other aspects of our lives are regulated for safety, although their risks are often far less than those posed by guns, which are largely unregulated and thrive in the marketplace for fear and violence. A minority of our citizenry has — through its zeal and the targeting of political candidates — stymied political progress and permitted too many of our communities to become killing fields. They appeal to our worst fears.
Too many responsible gun owners, who do not subscribe to these excesses, remain silent for fear of breaking ranks. Yet 50 years ago, even the NRA supported many of the reforms it now dismisses.
All this occurs within a society that purports to be religious, and which invokes compassion to guide our lives. Although most faith communities have called for comprehensive background checks and reasonable limits on weapons and ammunition — how loudly, and what of the rest? Our rabbinate and all religious leaders must stand up collectively — not simply as members of particular denominations, but as a single moral community — to say to congregants and to elected officials, this is wrong. Then, perhaps, change will begin.
Reform does not require violence against the Second Amendment. It simply means regulating guns to the limit of the Second Amendment. Let us bring our common compassion — not our weaponry — to this fight, and let us prevail through an unrelenting decency.