In the month of June, which also marks National Gun Violence Awareness Month, our nation witnessed the largest and deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. Despite no new laws being written as a result of this tragedy, what happened in Orlando has had a different impact than past mass shootings. You can feel it.
In the two weeks following the incident, not only did members of the U.S. Senate hold a filibuster to urge a vote on gun violence prevention, but also members of the U.S. House of Representatives staged a sit-in to urge action on gun violence. The Reform Movement even joined in with a campaign of our own, showing our solidarity with those who are working so hard to pass much-needed legislation (You can join our campaign too!)
These two acts by Congress demonstrated that laws to solve the epidemic of gun violence in the United States are more within reach than ever. But as the inaction in Washington, D.C. persists, we find ourselves turning focus to our state-level work on this issue. See, gun violence prevention activists have been taking their efforts to individual states, the hope being that enough states change their laws so as to put pressure on our national lawmakers to create sweeping reform.
This is exactly what Rabbi Daniel Weiner of Temple De Hirsch Sinai did last week, when he testified in person at Seattle City Hall, urging Mayor Ed Murray to sign onto the Do Not Stand Idly By campaign (Rabbi Weiner speaks an hour and 53 minutes in). Here’s an excerpt what he said:
“The bottom line for me is I think this is another example in which Washington State more broadly, and Seattle more narrowly, can really take the lead on the kind of common sense policy initiatives and change that our federal government seems unable or unwilling to enact. This is the kind of thing that if we can sign on with a 100-plus other communities — and growing — in the country that we can affect some real change a way that’s going to impactful with gun manufacturers by affecting their bottom line and by leveraging our purchasing power to enact some real lasting change at the source of gun violence and its attendant problems in our community.”
The Seattle City Council welcomed Rabbi Weiner’s powerful testimony (see video), which resulted in the Seattle Mayor signing on to Do Not Stand Idly By. This was another big step toward our nation reflecting the values that we hold dear as a Reform Jewish Movement. Leviticus 19:16 teaches us to not stand idly by the blood of our neighbor. As Reform Jews, we cannot sit still as horrific acts of gun violence continue to plague our nation. We must come together to support our hurting communities and take action to prevent further devastation from gun violence.