Rabbi Jacobs’ Letter to the Senate on Gun Violence
In advance of an interfaith day of advocacy around gun control, URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs sent a letter to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urging Congress to pass stricter gun laws.
The letter was sent as part of the Reform Movement’s joint efforts with other faiths to mobilize constituents throughout the U.S. to call upon Senate leaders to help prevent gun violence. On April 9, as part of Faiths Calling’s Interfaith Call-In Day, thousands of religious Americans will contact their senators to demand comprehensive gun legislation. The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism has been leading the Faiths Calling community in this mobilization since just after the tragic school shooting in Sandy Hook, CT, last December.
The full text of Rabbi Jacobs’ letter follows.
Dear Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell:
Nearly four decades ago, in 1975, the Union for Reform Judaism recognized the need for legislation that would limit and control the sale and use of firearms. Since the adoption of that resolution, the URJ’s first calling for the regulation of firearms, more than one million Americans have been killed as a result of gun violence. The URJ has spoken out repeatedly and passionately on gun violence and continues to insist that gun regulation is a vital necessity.
As president of the Union for Reform Judaism, the membership organization for nearly 900 Reform synagogues and 1.5 million Reform Jews in North America, I follow in the footsteps of my predecessors and urge you to support the comprehensive gun violence prevention package before Congress (S.649 / H.R. 137), which not only will require enforceable background checks, but also will curb gun trafficking and enhance school safety, making America safer while keeping the Second Amendment secure. Congress also must ensure that the bill is enforceable by requiring private sellers who sell crime guns to produce a background check–just as dealers are required to do. There’s no question that the two minutes it takes to pass a background check is a wise investment in saving lives.
I ask, too, that you support the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines (S.150 / H.R. 437), which will ban these weapons of war that have no place in our schools or on our streets. These weapons–frequently used in police killings and mass shootings–dramatically increase the number of lives lost and the damage done.
Jewish tradition mandates tikkun olam, “repair of our fractured world”–and this country’s background check system is broken indeed. This flawed system, which does not require “private sellers” to conduct background checks, easily puts weapons in the hands of the vast majority of gun criminals. It is time to fix this broken system with passage of S.649 / H.R. 137, which will extend the current background check requirements to private gun sales, with dealers conducting the checks and keeping records the same way they have done for more than 40 years. Passage of these bills is the single most meaningful step you can take to stop senseless violence, honor all who have been lost to gun violence, and bring solace to survivors. On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism and its members across North America, I urge you to support these critical pieces of legislation.
Just as the prophet Isaiah exhorts the people of the earth to “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks,” so too do I urge you to vote for comprehensive and enforceable background checks and to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. As elected officials, it is your moral imperative to work to solve society’s problems. This is holy work and we are counting on you to do it, helping to shape a better and more hopeful world for us all. Thank you for your consideration.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs