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WASHINGTON, D.C., January 5, 2016 — In response to the executive order announced today by President Obama to address gun violence, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
We applaud President Obama’s executive order to address the scourge of gun violence in the United States. Undoubtedly, bipartisan legislative action that encompasses the many aspects of gun violence would be a preferable means of addressing the gun violence epidemic that affects Americans of all political ideologies, races, genders and economic classes. Yet, the ongoing obstinance among members of Congress make the steps announced today by President Obama necessary – even as we know more must be done to meet the scope of the crisis.
Under the order announced today, which seeks to clarify existing understanding of what it means to be engaged in the business of dealing in firearms, more individuals will have to obtain a federal firearms license, narrowing the scope of dangerous loopholes in our gun purchasing system and strengthening the process of background checks on gun sales. The order also acknowledges the federal government’s power as a purchaser of firearms and calls for a strategy for research and development into broader use of smart gun technology, which will ultimately help keep our communities safer. These are important steps toward preventing further devastating tragedies of gun violence that have become all too familiar.
The Reform Movement, including our youth movement, the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY), has made gun violence prevention a priority, calling on Congress and the President to address this key issue. In a letter sent in December, URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs and NFTY President Jeremy Cronig specifically called on President Obama to use the power of his office to address this issue. We are pleased that today the President has done just that.
As the RAC’s Director, I am proud to stand with my colleague, Jeremy Cronig, NFTY President, who in response to the executive order said, “As Reform Jews, as teens, and as Americans, we are serious about our commitment to respecting the spark of the Divine present in every person who is entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Today’s announcement addressing an important aspect of preventing further gun violence makes these ideals more achievable.”
Jewish tradition teaches, “he who saves one life, it is as though he has saved the universe” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5). This executive order has the potential to save countless lives and help repair some of what is broken in our world for the future.
We commend President Obama for his leadership on this issue, even as we know there is much work that still needs to be done in order to curb gun violence in the United States. We call upon Congress to work with President Obama to keep our country safe by enacting long-overdue legislation that will curb the threat of gun violence.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose nearly 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 2,000 Reform rabbis. Women of Reform Judaism is the umbrella for over 400 Reform Jewish women’s groups in North America and around the world. Visit www.rac.org for more.