Sensible Gun Control Legislation Demanded

In the wake of the mass murder in Newtown, CT – which followed the shooting deaths at the Clackamas Mall here in Oregon, there has been a renewed call for action to change our culture and protect our children. There is a great need provide improved mental health services to those in need. And there is an urgent need to stem the flow of powerful military-style weapons and ammunition whose only purpose is to kill large numbers of human beings.

Religious leaders and communities are taking the lead on this cause – seeing it as a moral as well as a practical issue. The Reform Movement has long stood for sensible gun control legislation and continues to provide important resources.

Congregation Beth Israel, as a leader of Reform Judaism in our region, is speaking out as well.

On December 17, Rabbi Cahana sent the letter below to the Senators and Representatives of our district, encouraging them to support sensible gun control. A few days later, Congregation Beth Israel’s Board of Trustees voted to endorse this letter.

Please add your voice and let our government know that the time to act is now.

You may copy this letter and send it on your own, share it with others. You may also consider signing a petition from the Jewish Council of Public Affairs (JCPA):

Keep the conversation and the pressure going. As the Prophet taught us, we have the ability to “beat their swords into plowshares.”

Listen to Rabbi Cahana's sermon on Gun Control from 12/21/2012. Click here and then click on the audio clip under "Selected Sermons".

Read the text of the sermon here.

Additional resources:

RAC’s main issue page

RAC action alert – enter zip code and send a letter to your Members

URJ page

Oregon's congressional delegation speaks on assault weapons ban, gun control

Read Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici's response to Rabbi Cahana's letter

Find you Representative

Find your Senator

Contact the White House


December 21, 2012
8 Tevet 5773

Senator Ron Wyden
221 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C., 20510

Dear Senator Wyden,

In the wake of the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut - which followed a terrifying mass shooting here in Oregon, it is time for united action to protect our children. We call for a courageous effort from our political leaders to enact sensible gun control legislation.

Judaism teaches a great respect for life. To save a life, accord to our Talmudic writings, is equivalent to saving an entire world - for each human being is a world of potential. How much the more so for a child. We weep for the 20 children of Sandy Hook Elementary whose potential has been wiped out in a single moment by a man wielding massively destructive weapons. While we acknowledge a right to bear arms for personal use and protection, we do not believe that weapons of war belong in the hands of civilians.

We recognize that these items are popular in our culture. But sometimes a greater need must take precedence. Another of our Jewish sacred texts, the Mishnah, calls the wearing of military weapons by civilians "shameful" for it spits in the face of the prophetic call "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation - neither shall they learn war anymore."

We are better than that.

We call for sensible legislation which would include:

1. A renewal of the Assault Weapons ban
2. A restriction on the sale of large magazines of ammunition - including over the Internet
3. Closing the gun show loophole exempting firearm sellers and buyers from the FBI's national instant criminal background check system (NICS).

It is, of course, not certain that these restrictions would have prevented a specific mad man from attempting mayhem. But our presently available easy access to military style weapons has certainly increased the horrific death toll we cannot tolerate. In the name of the deceased, we must act.

As a leader entrusted with the well-being of our citizens, we ask that you co-sponsor sensible gun-control legislation.

As President Obama said at the memorial for the 27 slaughtered in Newtown "there is no excuse for inaction."

This letter has been endorsed by the Board of Trustees of Congregation Beth Israel.




Rabbi Michael Z. Cahana
Senior Rabbi

Stuart Chestler