Gun Control

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Some Jewish views of Obama’s efforts after Sandy Hook.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy on Dec. 14, when 20 schoolchildren and six adults were murdered in Newtown, Conn., President Obama called on Congress Jan. 15 to renew a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and to implement universal background checks for those purchasing firearms.

While many Jewish organizations support the measures, many Jews say the problem of violence is caused not only by guns, but by other widespread causes, and the bans trample on Second Amendment constitutional rights.

Sharon Lipton, president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Metropolitan Detroit, cited a “long-standing policy” supporting stricter gun control laws and has been opposed to more permissive concealed weapons regulations.

Sharon Lipton

“Our Jewish community has a deep and abiding concern for public safety, firmly rooted in Jewish tradition, which compels us to uphold the sanctity of life and the commandment against murder,” she said.

Lipton, who also serves as the Michigan state policy advocate co-chair for the National Council of Jewish Women, said that issues that affect quality of life and public safety are important to both organizations.

“Since 1969, NCJW has worked hard for sensible gun legislation,” she said. “NCJW will work to ensure the success of the White House initiative. As citizens and members of faith-based communities, we need to find a way to come together to have a serious national conversation about the culture of violence in our society and that Congress can work in a bipartisan way to pass comprehensive gun violence legislation.”

Rabbis Weigh In
Rabbi Joseph Klein of Temple Emanu-El in Oak Park said the measures would not infringe on the rights of citizens, and there is no reason to be paranoid that the country is going the way of Hitler in the 1930s, when the government took away guns from citizens.

Rabbi Klein

“If there are Jews who favor free access to guns in order to protect themselves if the government ‘comes to get them,’ then they don’t live in the same country I do,” he said. “My America is not Germany in the 1930s. I do not live in fear that my country will turn against the Jews. I am, however, very fearful of the proliferation of hand- guns and assault rifles that increasingly threatens the well-being of all Americans. I favor banning all weapons with detachable magazines.”

Rabbi Alon Tolwin of the local Aish HaTorah said the issue is very complex.

“We are a product of many sub-cultures, and it is that very diversity that makes us so great,” he said. “Who would attempt to tinker with this balance that has taken 300 years to create? It is clear that there must be some way to limit the access to guns by people who are mentally ill. Who is mentally ill? Who is not mentally ill at one point or another in one’s lifetime?

“The Talmud says that dogs are stupid because they bite the stick that hits them and don’t notice the person holding the stick. The gun is a stick and biting the stick is stupid. We are faced by very serious social issues.

“Look at the cancers that are eating us away from the inside. When the rates of illegitimate births in most major urban areas are more than 85 percent, and, in that very environment, the No. 1 cause of death among young men is gun-related violence, and when only 21 percent of these children are graduating high school, we have much more serious problems,” he said.

“These laws are a bandage on a cancer that is eating us alive, and that bandage will fall off the first time we take a shower.”

Jewish Shooting Club
Since 2007, Jews — men and women, Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative, Reform, Conservative and Orthodox from 20-75 years old — have been meeting regularly to participate in the sport of trap and pistol shooting at local gun ranges.

“This is basically a sports club,” said Ron Miller, founder of the Detroit Jewish Cigar and Shooting Club, which has slightly more than 100 members. “It’s for people who want to shoot because they enjoy shooting. There’s no hunting, no self-defense; it’s not a political group. We’re not getting hyped up about anything; we just enjoy shooting as a sport.”

Miller of West Bloomfield, a member of the Bais Chabad Torah Center, said that Obama has been an advocate of gun control, and he’s using the current situation “to change the way we look at guns in the country.”

Stu Weiss

Shooting Club Secretary Stuart Weiss said Obama’s actions are misplaced.

“Any actions targeting lawful gun owners will have no effect whatsoever on violence, including gun violence,” said Weiss of West Bloomfield.

“Obama’s actions are consistent with the views he has always held. He is on record as stating his support for state legislation to ‘ban the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns,’ and he voted to not allow the use of a firearm to defend oneself in one’s own home.”

Weiss, also a Bais Chabad Torah Center member, said many have decided to “vilify gun owners but continue to coddle violent and deranged people. These incidents [Sandy Hook] are horrific, but punishing law-abiding gun owners for the acts of a very small number of sick people is nonsensical.” 

By Harry Kirsbaum, Contributing Writer

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