Last weekend, we had our first L’Taken Social Justice Seminar of the season. Two students, Ian Berlin and Eddie Jenkins from Temple Sinai in Washington D.C., spoke eloquently about our country’s flawed background check system, and were able to thank their Representative for their support of the Fix Gun Checks Act of 2015 (H.R. 3411). The students’ speech is excerpted below:
We are sure you know that this issue has never been more prevalent in political discourse, especially with the most recent mass shooting in California just this week, and another a few days before in Colorado. Throughout the week, we have been singing a song with the chorus "If not now, then when", and with more mass shootings having occurred this year than days, has there ever been a time more important to act than now?
With that being said, we are not here only to present facts, as important as those are. We are here today to bring forth a Jewish perspective and voice to the table. Our tradition and Torah emphasizes in Exodus 20:13 the sanctity and primary value of human life. Furthermore, Leviticus 19:16 tells us, "do not stand idly by while your neighbor's blood is shed." We, as Jews, cannot stand by and watch as thousands of people are impacted by gun violence each year…
This is an issue with which I have a strong personal investment. Shortly after the Sandy Hook shootings in 2012, I joined the planning committee for the March on Washington for Gun Control. During that time, I had the immense pleasure to meet and work with a number of gun violence survivors, many of whom shared their personal testimonies. Paul recounted the time when he was shot in both legs and left lying in his own blood for several hours. He was eventually brought to a hospital, and was confined to a wheelchair for 6 months. Marina told me of a time when she was walking home here in DC and was raped at gunpoint. She is convinced that this crime would not have happened if the man had not had a gun. These people, as well as many others, grew to become my friends, and represent a small fraction of the 76,000 new gun violence survivors each year in our country. This issue not only affects adults, but also my peers. A quarter of those that are participating in L'Taken this weekend from my temple attend Wilson High School, where a student brought a gun just last week. Several of them, and many of their peers, now feel like it is unsafe to be at school. When our country's children feel unsafe in their own schools because of the ubiquity of guns, it is clear that that it is past time to act.
As constituents, future voters, and current members of Reform Jewish congregation, we are here today to ask for your continued support on this crucial issue both in Maryland and the United States. As we continue to see gun violence on the front page of newspapers around the country, we are reminded that this issue has never been more important. Homicide rates in Baltimore have not been as high as they are this year since before I was born. Gun violence is progressing in Maryland at an unprecedented pace. We would like to thank you co-sponsoring the Fix Gun Checks Act of 2015, and for taking the time to meet with us. We must continue to ask ourselves "if not now then when"...
The need for legislative action on the issue of gun violence has never been so important. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which our country uses to conduct background checks on gun sales, is not being used to its fullest potential as background checks are not required on all gun sales. The Fix Gun Checks Act (H.R. 3411), which was introduced by Jackie Speier (D-CA-14) would expand Brady Background Checks to all gun sales (including those made at gun shows and online) to keep guns out of the hands of felons, fugitives and domestic abusers. Although this bill has not been introduced in the Senate, the Background Check Completion Act (S. 2213), which was introduced by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), would prohibit a licensed gun dealer from selling a firearm to a person before their background check is completed. Currently, if a background check is not completed within 72 hours, a licensed firearms dealer can sell a gun to someone who might otherwise be prohibited from purchasing a gun. Both of these measures would be big steps in preventing the horrific tragedies that we have witnessed in the United States.
Take action and urge your Member of Congress to support gun violence prevention through an improved background check system today. To learn more about gun violence prevention, visit our issue page.