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.
CONGREGATION BETH ISRAEL
Rabbi Michael Z. Cahana