By Rabbi Joel Mosbacher
It’s about violent video games and movies, they say.
It’s about mental illness, they say.
When they say these things, I want to scream.
They know it’s about guns, not about violent video games and movies, because they know that there are violent video games and movies in other countries, and, unsurprisingly, no other countries have this level of gun violence. Whatever effort there might be to curtail with legislation the content of video games will likely violate the FIRST amendment while protecting the SECOND amendment and do NOTHING to reduce gun violence in America.
They know it’s about guns, because less than 3% of all violent acts in this country are committed by people with mental illness. Passing Red Flag laws without also dramatically increasing insurance funding for mental health care will do next to nothing to reduce gun violence, nor will it help people living with mental illness get the help they need. But it may well help our politicians avoid having to pass legislation that would address the real problem underlying the scourge of gun violence.
That would be: easy access to weapons of war.
We are commanded by our Jewish tradition not to stand idly by the blood of our neighbors. And when we as a nation accept that 38,000 gun deaths annually is just the price of being an American, we have stood idly by for far too long.
We are commanded by our tradition to beat our swords into ploughshares and our spears into pruning hooks, and when we fail to hold accountable the congress, the President, and the companies that have made the 330 million guns in this country, we have failed to live up to Isaiah’s prophetic call.
So we’ll rest on this Shabbat. We will pray for the souls of those killed, and pray for healing, if healing is possible, for those who are wounded.
And then, when the sun goes down, we’ll remember.
It’s about guns. And continued unfettered gun violence – the mass violence that breaks into our regularly scheduled programming and the vast majority of gun deaths that don’t even earn a column inch of news in your newspaper of choice – that unchecked gun violence – we will remember that it is unchecked because the people with the power to stop it – elected officials, gun manufacturers – have decided to stand idly by while we, and our neighbors, bleed to death.
We know. And they know.