Statement By Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Keeping Dangerous Weapons Off the Streets: Renew the Assault Weapons Ban
Contact: Alexis Rice or Eric Gold
September 9, 2004
Thank you for being here this morning. I am standing alongside representatives of millions of Americans of faith - Jews, Protestants and Catholics - who believe that by Congress's failure to reauthorize the Assault Weapons Ban, it is ensuring the tragic and violent deaths of an unknown number of Americans across this country. Maybe here in Washington DC; maybe in Chicago; maybe in Portland; maybe in Atlanta; maybe in Houston. We don't know where the UZI will be sold or where the AK-47 will be purchased. We don't know where the TEC 9 pistol will be fired. But we do know that by failing to reauthorize the Assault Weapons Ban, Congress is ensuring that these weapons that do not belong on our streets will be out there.
The 10-year old Assault Weapons Ban has helped ensure the safety of our communities and schools. Since the ban's enactment, the number of crimes linked to assault weapons has decreased more than 66 percent. But if Congress fails to act this week, the Assault Weapons Ban will expire on Monday.
Yesterday, Congressional leadership in both houses said that reauthorization would not happen. The Senate Majority Leader said the will of the American people is consistent with letting the ban expire. We stand here today to say loudly and clearly that it is not our will to be silent as the universally acknowledged "weapons of choice" for violent criminals inundate our neighborhoods. It is not our will that more than 10 children are killed by guns every single day.
The House Majority leader also said yesterday that there are not enough votes to pass a reauthorization bill. And yet across the country, 8 in 10 Americans support reauthorizing the ban. The Majority Leader called the bill "feel good" legislation. Let me state clearly, on behalf of the Reform Jewish Movement and many of our brothers and sisters in faith communities nationwide: NOTHING "feels good" about putting military-style assault rifles into the hands of America's criminals. NOTHING "feels good" about a child being able to purchase a brand new Kalishnikov assault rifle through a classified ad or at a gun show.
Our tradition teaches us to "beat our swords into plowshares," to take weapons of violence and use them for peace. Allowing this ban to fade into memory is a leap away from peace toward violence. Allowing this ban on assault weapons to expire threatens our safety and our peace of mind.
With 135,000 guns already brought into our schools each year, do we need more weapons in our classrooms? When 35,000 Americans already die from gun violence each year, do we need deadlier firearms on our streets? When guns are the second leading killer of children in our country, how can Congress and the White House - both occupied by people of faith - literally stand idly by the blood of our neighbors (Leviticus 19)? Americans of all faiths deserve the protection that the Assault Weapons Ban has provided for the last decade and it is time for members of Congress to cease being idle.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office 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(CCAR) whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis.