Once again, we’re shocked beyond words at yet another school shooting, this time at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Twenty-one innocent souls, 19 children and two adults, were gunned down in what was the deadliest school shooting since 2012, when 20 children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Parkland, Oxford, Columbine, Sandy Hook, Uvalde – we must ask ourselves, what are we? What kind of society fails to protect its most vulnerable members?
As I read about this shooting, and the reactions of parents whose children were murdered in earlier shootings, I couldn’t help but cry – tears of sorrow but also of rage. After Sandy Hook, I said to myself, “Now, there will be sensible gun reform in the US. Seeing tiny six-year-old bodies being carried from that school, how could we possibly not, finally, take action on gun reform.” And yet, here we stand, 10 years later, again listening to platitudes, to “thoughts and prayers” for the victims and their families from legislators and politicians and no closer to sensible gun reform now as we were then.
This year alone, there have been at least 30 shootings at K-12 schools in the US. While I, thankfully, have not experienced the gun-related death of a loved one, I know that that is more luck than planning. No one is safe, in their grocery stores, schools, synagogues – anywhere.
In our own Michigan legislature, not even one out of at least 20 gun safety reform bills introduced have been brought up to a hearing, let alone a vote. And this, while polls consistently show that the vast majority of Michiganders favor enacting specific forms of gun safety, including universal background checks.
By focusing here on school-related shootings, I don’t at all mean to downplay the many deaths by shooting because of hate crimes, such as last week’s Buffalo grocery store tragedy or the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in our own region, domestic violence, accidental shootings (many involving children) and suicides. These preventable deaths should weigh heavily on our collective conscience – I ask again, what kind of society are we?
Maybe the question is better stated, what kind of society do we want to be? And what steps do we need to take to get there?
New Zealand answered that question definitively after the March 2019 Christchurch attack, where a lone gunman killed 51 Muslim worshippers. Within weeks, their legislature almost unanimously passed a law banning military-style semi-automatic firearms. “Within weeks” – given the years we’ve been grappling with this issue; it seems miraculous that a country had the political will to act so swiftly and decisively.
I know, as president of Hadassah Greater Detroit, that I, and all Hadassah members can be proud to be part of an organization that supports legislative action on gun reform. Hadassah’s policy on gun safety is unequivocal. It states in part:
“Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. deplores the on-going scourge of shootings plaguing our schools, workplaces and communities nationwide. We believe that the widespread availability of, and easy access to, firearms significantly escalates this violence.
… Hadassah reaffirms and expands the scope of the original 1981 gun control policy statement, which urged additional federal and state legislation to provide stronger gun control laws. Hadassah urges Congress and state legislatures to immediately enact stronger gun control legislation, including a ban on assault weapons, and ensuring more consistent enforcement of current laws, which will protect our communities and our nation. Specific legislative changes that Hadassah supports include raising the minimum age for purchase of a firearm from 18 to 21, requiring a mandatory waiting period for purchase, implementing universal background checks, and mandatory seizure of household guns when an emergency restraining order is issued for domestic violence.”
Friday, June 3 is National Gun Violence Awareness Day. I will be wearing orange to show my support for an end to gun violence in our country and I hope you will, too. And always, contact your state and national representatives to let them know where you stand on the issue.
As Hillel stated, “If I am not for myself, who will be? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?”
Let us be for those whose deaths through gun violence can be prevented in the future. And the time is now.