To my Ayekah followers, I am sharing a message from a coalition of clergy and religious leaders from around metro Atlanta. I have been communicating with our Jewish community for the need of responsible and reasonable gun violence prevention measures to be passed in the Georgia legislature. I have heard arguments in favor of reducing restrictions on where to be able to carry weapons where advocates are talking about it as a civil right, a concern of property rights, and how the right to carry is given by God and the Constitution.
Let me share a brief response here and also give you an update from this interfaith coalition for those who choose to pick up the phone and contact your legislators and the Governor.
I think that Rabbi Eric Yoffie had it right in his article “Gun Worship is Blasphemy.” I think that there is a kind of worship of guns — weapons — in this country that I cannot begin to understand. Frankly, I see it as a kind of idolatry.
We have many police officers that come through our doors here to take care of us. Their opinions are diverse. There are also a number of congregants who also believe in the right to carry. Yet, I have found that most agree to reasonable and sensible gun ownership and carry restrictions. Thinking about our own synagogue — I am concerned that a congregant or guest who is carrying a weapon and felt a need to respond in a dangerous situation would not be able to determine who is the “bad guy” and who is the “good guy.” Being trained on how to shoot under controlled circumstances is a far cry from being trained in public safety. When it comes to security, I trust our law enforcement professionals who are here to take care of us after ongoing, meticulous training.
We are also a house of God and a house of hope. With that notion alone, I find that bringing a weapon into our building belittles our Jewish value to pursue peace.
Further, to entitle people to bring weapons into bars, as this bill advocates, makes no sense to me. If we argue that driving drunk is an abomination, then how can we agree to carrying a weapon into a bar where the whole purpose is to drink alcohol which leads to some level of impaired judgment.
And I am sorry, God has not given anyone a right to own or carry a weapon. To defend ourselves, yes. To protect our borders, yes. Is gun ownership permitted, yes. Can a government place reasonable limits for public safety… yes.
I heard testimony last week from the parents of a victim of gun violence. The father, a military veteran, spoke before the Georgia Senate Committee hearing testimony for and against this bill. His argument was passionate but had great clarity. He launched a petition here (it is worth reading, even if you choose not to sign). We have other congregants who have been affected by gun violence directly or their immediate families. They, too, are concerned that this bill will affect families like theirs — changing their lives forever. Even during this past year, there were two different times where our police officers needed to leave our synagogue on a Shabbat evening to support fellow officers in shooting incidents in close proximity to the synagogue.
Our local, state and federal governments have clearly permitted gun ownership among citizens. I don’t have a problem with that. However, restricting who is entitled to own a weapon, to carry a weapon, what kind of weapon can be purchased, and where individuals can bring it (airports, bars, schools, college campuses, houses of worship) — these are things that our government can and ought to restrict.
I take my lead from these sources:
How long, O Eternal, shall I cry out, and you not listen?
How long shall I shout to You, “Violence!” and you not save?…
Violence is before me, strife continues and contention goes on.
That is why decision fails, and justice never emerges:
The villain hedges in the just man – and judgment is deformed.
In the days to come,
The Mount of the Eternal’s House
Shall stand firm above the mountains
And tower above the hills;
And all the nations
Shall gaze on it with joy….
Thus, God will judge among the nations
And arbitrate for the many people,
And they shall beat their swords into plowshares
And their spears into pruning hooks:
Nation shall not take up
Sword against nation;
They shall never again know war.
Isaiah’s words are my hope; this is my prayer.
Isaiah’s call and Habbakuk’s cry is why I act…and I hope you will, too.
Here is a Clergy Statement that I signed on to: Clergy Statement 03 2014 on gun violence
Here is another Jewish perspective on people of faith responding to gun violence: Listen to Rabbi Hirschfield.
This letter, below, is from this Coalition on what we can do is below. Please read it and please make your call as you see fit.
Dear Clergy friends,
Here is an update on the last week at the Capitol. Please forward this message to your congregations as we need as many people as possible to call the Governor and Lt. Governor and go to the Capitol on Tuesday and Thursday this week.
There are now two gun bills that could come before the full Senate for a vote on Tuesday or Thursday of this week. The bills are complex and this is what we understand about them:
HB 875 – The original gun bill passed by the House of Representatives has been amended by a Senate Committee. The new version changes some provisions of the original bill, but guns would still be allowed in schools K-12, and places of worship and bars if the property owner permits weapons. You can view this substitute bill in its entirety at http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20132014/139285.pdf.
HB 60 – The House Sponsor took the original HB 875 (before being amended by the Senate Committee) and attached it to another bill, but with the campus carry provisions completely omitted. This bill allows guns in churches, bars and schools unless the property owners opt out. This would require every house of worship that does not wish to allow guns to vote on the issue and then somehow notify the public and their members with signs or screening mechanisms as to their decision. The General Assembly has not posted the text of the new HB 60 online so we are unable to supply you with a link.
With regard to airports, both bills provide that there is no penalty if a concealed weapon permit holder carries a gun past TSA security checkpoints if the weapon is immediately relinquished, and the penalty is a misdemeanor if either permit holders or non-permit holders do not turn over a weapon after being notified.
Both of these bills are still in play and both still expand the places where concealed weapons will be allowed.
What you can do to make your opinion known about the expansion of gun carry in Georgia:
1. Call the offices of Governor Nathan Deal, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, and your own state Senator and Representative. These calls are easy to make; you need only say whether you are opposed or in favor of the gun bills.
Governor Deal’s Office 404-656-1776
Lt. Gov. Casey’s Office 404-656-5030
Find your Senator and House member at www.votesmart.org. Send them an email or telephone their office.
2. Go to the Capitol on Tuesday, March 18 and Thursday, March 20 to talk with Senators about the gun bills or to help watch monitors and follow the bills. Reply to this message if you are interested and we can send you details about where to meet up with folks who can help guide you at the Capitol. You will not be doing this alone.
Outcry! Faith Voices Against Gun Violence
For those who will be commenting on this blog, please do remember, these are faithful conversations. If dissent or agreement is not respectful, it will be deleted from my blog.