Rabbi Saperstein: "The dehumanizing of the human being and the carelessness with which human life is taken by guns stand in direct violation of the affirmations of our tradition."
WASHINGTON, D.C., April 27, 2011 -- Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism recently sent a letter urging Congress to take action to address the tragedy of gun violence and reduce unnecessary loss of life by once again outlawing high capacity ammunition clips. The full text of the letter follows:
Dear Member of Congress:
On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, which includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis, I urge you to cosponsor and support S.32 to ban the manufacture and sale of high-capacity ammunition clips. These clips were used at Columbine to kill 13, at Virginia Tech to kill 32, at Fort Hood to kill 13, and in Tucson to kill 6 and wound another 13. They are deadly, and must be removed from our streets.
Over 32,000 Americans die each year as a result of gun violence. The number and severity of violent shootings in recent years can only be described as an epidemic. It is imperative that Congress take action to reduce this unnecessary loss of life by once again outlawing ammunition of over ten rounds per clip, which was included in the 1994 federal Assault Weapons Ban and allowed to expire in 2004. Since then, these deadly high capacity magazines have once again flooded our streets.
The clips can hold 30, 50, or even 100 rounds, enabling shooters to cause serious casualties before needing to reload. Jared Lee Loughner, the shooter in Tucson, was able to fire 32 bullets in only 16 seconds, and was only able to be subdued by bystanders when he was forced to stop and change magazines. Disasters like this could be greatly mitigated if we remove high capacity ammunition clips from our streets. There is no legitimate self-defense or sporting purpose for these large capacity magazines; they are, however, the choice of people who desire to cause high numbers of fatalities in as short a time as possible.
Jewish tradition emphasizes the sanctity and value of human life. The Torah commands us, "Thou shalt not murder." The Talmud teaches us, "He who takes one life it is as though he has destroyed the universe and he who saves one life it is as though he has saved the universe." The dehumanizing of the human being and the carelessness with which human life is taken by guns stand in direct violation of these affirmations of our tradition. Furthermore, Isaiah exhorts the people of the earth to "beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks." (Isaiah 2:4) We are commanded to turn weapons of destruction into tools for the greater good of society.
We look forward to working with you to enact common-sense measures to reduce gun violence.
Rabbi David Saperstein
Director and Counsel, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism