Gun Violence Prevention
Jewish text and tradition teach us that life is precious, and that saving a life is holy. From the Talmud, one of our most sacred texts, we learn that, “Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world” (Bavli Sanhedrin 37a). For many years, our Jewish values compelled us to work on gun violence prevention, organizing to defeat conceal and carry laws that the Minnesota state legislature ultimately passed. Through this work, we saw firsthand just how powerful the NRA and related groups can be, and how resistant many citizens and elected officials are to making even the slightest changes to gun policies. In the years following the conceal and carry campaign, Jewish Community Action has worked on other campaigns critical to economic and social justice, fighting for foreclosure prevention, immigrant rights, the freedom to marry, the right to vote, and more.
But following recent events in our nation, and even in our own community, we feel compelled once again to throw our full weight behind gun violence prevention. These events have reminded us that gun violence is part of a much larger epidemic of violence in our nation, and that it is closely related to many other facets of racial inequality and economic injustice. To rid our community of injustice, fear, and isolation, we must address gun violence, in tandem with our other work.
For the first time in many, many years, our state, country, and leaders seem ready to take the steps necessary to secure peace and opportunity for our children, health and wellness for our community. We finally have the opportunity to convince our neighbors of the urgency of gun violence prevention, and to have a louder, more powerful voice than the NRA, which has dominated this debate for far too long.
During the 2013 legislative session, we worked closely with Protect Minnesota and the National Council of Jewish Women as part of the Minnesota Gun Violence Prevention Coalition, and organized the Jewish community to turn shock and anguish into action. Together, we pushed our legislators to require more consistent background checks for all gun sales and transfers, and to ban certain assault weapons and the sale of high-capacity magazines. While this legislation did not reach the floors of the House or Senate in 2013, our members testified in hearings, participated in many phone banks, attended rallies and press conferences at the Capitol, and succeeded in passing gun violence prevention measures through multiple committees. We are still very committed to the goals of the Minnesota Gun Violence Prevention Coalition, and are hopeful that meaningful, common-sense legislation will pass in 2014.