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Enough Guns!

After the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I thought our country would finally address its epidemic of gun violence. After students spoke out and organized following the murders at Parkland’s Stoneman Douglas High School, I thought our nation would finally develop gun safety laws.

I don’t know why we cannot agree. It is first and foremost about guns.

It is about Americans’ love affair with guns and the easy access we have to these lethal weapons. Our nation is unique among affluent countries. We experience sixty times more gun deaths than people living in the United Kingdom and six times as many as neighboring Canada. There is one explanation for these staggering differences. There are more guns in the United States than people. Why does a nation of 330 million people need 393 million guns?

Will laws eliminate gun deaths? Of course not. Will regulations prevent every person intent on doing harm from injuring or killing? Again, of course not. But can we do more? Should we be doing much, much more? Absolutely.

I cannot even scroll through all the pictures of these adorable, smiling and loving children. I make it only to Amerie Garza and then must look away. Their teacher Eva Mirales’ beautiful smile, framed by our country’s breathtaking landscape, makes me gasp and look elsewhere.

Have I already forgotten Celestine Chaney and Roberta Drury who were murdered in Buffalo last week? How many people remember the name of Daniel Enriquez who was killed in our very own city’s subway? I must not look away. I must take in every single one of these now erased smiles.

Do I even know the names of the approximately fifty people shot and killed by guns every day? Can I even count the names of those additional fifty who use guns to take their own lives every single day of the year?

It is about guns. And it is about our inability to develop better laws that will allow us to continue using and owning guns while also better protecting us from the dangers of these very same guns. How do these innocent lives now taken from their families not call us to do more? I recognize that the young man who pulled the trigger again and again is disturbed. But let us also recognize that he used guns to commit these murders.

It is not an infringement of rights to regulate something that is known to be lethal and injurious.

I still remember the protests against seat belts. I still recall my complaints about how burdensome and uncomfortable these belts were. And now I even clip the belt into its buckle when backing out of the driveway. Cars are dangerous. And yet, I have been witness to them becoming far safer and even more importantly, far less lethal. Part of that transformation is technological advances, and innovations such as seat belts, anti-locking braking and air bags.

The other part of that change is better laws.

We belong to a tradition that believes laws, and commandments, can make our lives better. That is the Jewish contention. This week the Torah declares, “If you follow My laws and faithfully observe My commandments…. I will grant peace in the land, and you shall lie down untroubled by anyone; I will give the land respite from vicious beasts, and no sword shall cross your land.” (Leviticus 26)

The Hebrew does not actually say, “follow” but instead “walk.” The laws are a path that we walk upon. They help us to live and allow us to thrive. They enable us to walk proudly.

And so, my prayer is twofold. May we develop laws that guarantee the rights of those who wish to use and own guns. May we write laws that better guarantee the safety of all our citizens and protect every person from needless gun violence. It is not an either/or choice. We can live in safety while affirming the rights enshrined in the second amendment!

I pray. May the memories of Xavier Lopez, Jose Flores, Eliahana Cruz Torres, Jackie Cazares, Ellie Garcia, Jailah Nicole Silguero, Jayce Carmelo Luevanos, Tess Marie Mata, Nevaeh Bravo, Makenna Lee Elrod, Maite Rodriguez, Alexandria Aniyah Rubio, Uziyah Garcia, Amerie Jo Garza, Annabelle Guadalupe Rodriguez, Irma Garcia, Eva Mirele and Roberta A. Drury, Margus D. Morrison, Andre Mackniel, Aaron Salter, Geraldine Talley, Celestine Chaney, Heyward Patterson, Katherine Massey, Pearl Young, Ruth Whitfield and Daniel Enriquez as well as the hundreds of others whose names I do not know serve as blessing and inspiration to help us once and for all work to reduce the number of murdered souls.

May we work to banish the need for these far too commonplace and frequent public memorials when we recite a litany of murdered six-year-olds and ten-year-olds.

Walk by these laws. Stand in safety.