NEW YORK – Today, President Obama issued recommendations on reducing gun violence in the United States. On behalf of the Rabbinical Assembly, Gerald Skolnik and Julie Schonfeld issued the following statement:
In the Jewish tradition, the conclusion of the first month of mourning signifies a transition from the initial shock of tragic loss to a process of grieving that also keeps alive the gifts and visions of those who have died. Because the victims of Newtown were teachers and very small children who did not have time to share their talents with the world, it is up to us to honor their memories through moral action. Indeed, we learn in the Talmud that the world itself rests on the breath of schoolchildren.
It is fitting that as we mark one month since tragedy struck in Newtown, President Obama is taking the threat of gun violence seriously and releasing recommendations on how together, we can work to prevent it as a nation.
Extensive restrictions on semi-automatic assault weapons and high capacity magazines and requiring background checks for all gun purchasers have the power to help reduce violence for all Americans, especially children. Furthermore, we must ensure that we are keeping updated background information on those who should not own guns, and we must prosecute if they try to purchase a gun, as well as prosecute those who try to sell guns to them.
Our society has long neglected a woefully inadequate and poorly organized system of mental health services. In part, this is because we stigmatize mental illness. We mustn't allow the tragedy in Newtown to further misperceptions about mental illness, fueled by fear, but instead, we must engage in a comprehensive overhaul of the ways in which mental health services are made available to those who need them. Most importantly, because mental illness, like any illness, affects many American families, we must change our language from fear and ostracism to treatment and support for members of the mentally ill community, as well as for their families.
The Rabbinical Assembly supports the president and vice president in swiftly bringing forth substantive recommendations, and in turn, we urge Congress to enact effective and meaningful legislation aimed to curb gun violence. Nothing less than our most fundamental obligations as citizens to ensure a safe society are at stake.