23 October 2015

Hope on Guns: Is It Possible?

For the first time in a long, long time I'm feeling a stirring of hope that we can stem the plague of gun violence.

The idea, and I think it's brilliant: when the US Army and the NYPD and all the other government agencies buy guns, put language in the contracts with the manufacturers that holds them accountable for selling to the dealers that evade background checks, which they can do by selling at gun shows or on the internet or in states with lax laws and enforcement.

An interesting statistic: one percent of dealers are responsible for almost 60 percent of the guns used to commit crimes.

I just came from a press conference at Town and Village Synagogue, of which I'm proud to say I'm a member, launching Do Not Stand Idly By. As in, "Do not stand idly by while your neighbor's blood is shed" (Lev. 19:16).

Ten years ago, according to Rabbi Laurence Sebert, the major cause of death among children was car crashes; today, it's gun violence. And Sen. Chuck Schumer pointed out that we have limitations on the First Amendment, guaranteeing free speech; we need limitations on the Second Amendment, guaranteeing the right to bear arms.

This strategy to put direct pressure on gun manufacturers by way of public-sector contracts is the brainchild of Metro IAF, an interfaith coalition of religious leaders. Turns out that 40 percent of guns sold in the US go to the military and law enforcement agencies. That's a lot of buying power, and they want to use it by working with police chiefs and mayor's offices around the country to make manufacturers accountable.

You'd think the guns are all made in the US, right? Hmmm. Turns out that manufacturers from Germany, Austria, Italy and Brazil are making a lot of these guns. And they're giving NRA lobbyists a lot of money to push for unrestricted gun sales.

So what can YOU do? Go talk to your local police chief, your mayor, your council person. Get them to add their name to the Gun Buyers’ Research Group Commitment Form. Write to your representatives in Congress and tell them to get behind this initiative. Let me know what you think.