The most sacred, most noble of all Jewish values is Pikuach Nefesh: the fundamental primacy of human life.
We live in a world where the “rights” of gun owners literally trump the rights of America’s children to survive elementary school. We’ve lived here for too long –– but we do not have to live here forever. No matter how stunned and hopeless we feel, how deep our grieving and our despair, we must act in order to honor that commitment to Pikuach Nefesh for every child and every victim of senseless gun violence in our country.
Anyone who tells you that nothing can be done, or that they “support the Second Amendment,” or that this isn’t a “Washington problem to solve” is either complacent or complicit. There are innumerable, common sense opportunities to halt the continuation of these weekly tragedies, like ensuring that teenagers cannot legally purchase weapons of mass murder or stockpiles of ammunition. Something so simple would have saved at least 19 children’s lives this week.
Last year the House of Representatives passed two essential gun safety bills, HR 8, The Bipartisan Background Checks Act and HR 1446, The Enhanced Background Checks Act. Neither will solve this problem on its own, but these are obvious places to start. We must demand that the Senate do their jobs and pass these bills. Either they protect human life or they should face the consequences of sanctioning childrens’ deaths.
More than 311,000 children at 331 schools have experienced a school shooting since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. Twenty-seven school shootings have taken place in 2022 alone. How many will be too many?
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, firearms became the leading cause of death for Americans age 1 to 19 in 2020. Between 2019 and 2020, firearm related deaths among children rose 29.5 percent. What percentage is too high?
The rabbis of the Talmud wrote “The world only exists because of the breath of school children.” (Shabbat 119b) This week, nineteen worlds were snuffed out in the blink of an eye and our elected leaders only offered a grieving nation “thoughts and prayers.” The meaninglessness of these platitudes is breathtaking. Every Senator who refuses to act should face the roar of an enraged nation.
As we remember our commitment to Pikuach Nefesh, let us also remember the Talmudic lesson that he who saves one life saves the entire world. Even when––especially when––you feel hopeless, your call, your email, your commitment to action can save a life, and therefore the world. Please join us in refusing to succumb to the numbness of this devastating moment.