Faiths Calling

Taking A Stand Against Gun Violence (not gun control)

The bus ride from Suburban Philadelphia to Harrisburg, PA – the state capital – is only an hour and a half.  The shift in landscape leaving densely populated Montgomery County and the rural farmland passing into Dauphin County is symbolic of the political and cultural gap in Pennsylvania politics between the predominately liberal hubs around Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and the primarily conservative base of the rest of the state.

This ideological divide was none the more apparent than on Wednesday morning, Jan. 23rd for those waiting in line with me in the frigid weather to enter the State Capitol Building.  I had just arrived on one of several busses filled with other members of the Philadelphia Jewish community for a rally co-sponsored by CeaseFirePA and the Jewish Community Relations Council demanding that 2013 be a year of action to fight gun violence in Pennsylvania.  We were told in advance that there would be a counter demonstration by pro-gun groups.

While we were waiting on the left side of two lines outside the entrance, a police officer came out and made the following announcement, “Those who are checking guns stand on the right and those without guns stand on the left.”  Instantly participants on both sides of this debate were identifiable as those of us who had come on the buses to advocate for stricter guns moved over the right, while others who came to show their support for fewer gun restrictions crossed our path and made their way to the left side.   What could have been a very tense moment was relieved by the humor and irony of the whole incident.  There was civility between people of radically different beliefs, rather than the anger and hostility that is being portrayed in the media.  This, I believe, will be one key to the process of developing and hopefully passing of common sense gun laws – gun owners and anti-gun activists will have to work together to achieve the common goal of reducing the amount of gun violence that plagues our nation each day.

The rally against gun violence held in the middle of the state capitol building was a powerful and emotionally moving statement in support of passing common sense gun laws.  The first five speakers shared stories of losing loved ones – parents, children, and babies – people who were innocently caught in the line of fire of people wielding illegal hand guns and assault weapons.  This was followed by mayors of Pennsylvania towns and cities who are part of a national group called, “Mayors Against Illegal Guns” who shared how, as leaders of their municipalities, they have committed to address measures that will reduce gun violence.  These local politicians were followed by members of Pennsylvania’s Senate and House of Representatives who have formed a bi-partisan, bi-cameral coalition called PASafe whose sole mission is to introduce and pass legislation to reduce gun violence in the state.

Finally, four Middle School students, including Kenesth Israel’s Jessie Pritchard, read the four points of CeaseFirePA’s own legislative agenda.  This was one of the most important elements of the rally for me.  Most politicians spoke about the pressing need for gun law reform in the wake of the horrific school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.  Jessie is taking her activism one step further.  Her Bat Mitzvah project is anti-gun violence advocacy.  She came to Harrisburg with her mother and her father and her rabbi to represent her peers and to express her most heartfelt desire that they need not become victims themselves.  Not her, not the students in her school, not the children of Greater Philadelphia, this country or this world – to save a life, she said according to Jewish tradition, is paramount to saving the whole world.  So much of this conversation centers on protecting the lives of children and teenagers.  I am proud that our congregation and our movement empower and enable our students to develop their own beliefs from grounding in Jewish values and ethics and then teach them how to put it into action.

I left Harrisburg last week with very mixed emotions.  On one hand, I felt the power of the urgency of the situation to act fast to put legislative measures in place that will take illegal weapons off the street, make it harder for acquire legal guns, and restrict the types of semi-automatic and automatic guns and ammunition that can be sold in PA.  On the other hand, even if the best laws were passed tomorrow we will still be a state and a nation where it is too easy to get a gun on the street.  I am hopeful however, that just as gun owners became real people, not just an opponent, to me at the beginning of the day, the two sides of this issue can identify goals that are mutually beneficial and work together to pass common sense measures that will save lives.  Perhaps I am naïve, but I pray that compassion will win out over passion and that partnership will triumph over politics – and that ultimately we will all feel safer.

Participate in our interfaith call-in day to prevent gun violence on Monday February 4th by visiting! Worried you’ll forget? Text “FaithsCalling” to 877877!

Rabbi Kevin M. Kleinman is the Associate Rabbi Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel, Elkins Park, PA.


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3 Responses to “Taking A Stand Against Gun Violence (not gun control)”

  1. Katherine your statement, “We use the term gun violence prevention because we believe that gun violence leads to too many deaths in our country,” couldn’t have been more disingenuous. Your anti-gun cohorts dropped the phrase “gun control” and “anti-gun” after the 1994 election displaced 52 Democratic anti-gun legislators. “Gun control” and “anti-gun” became radioactive after the House of Representative and Senate shifted to Republican control in late 1994. President Clinton himself publicly lamented his support of Feinstein’s imprudent 1994 Assault Weapon ban.

    As we know it today, Roe v. Wade established “Privacy Rights.” The current foolhardy legislation calling for “mandatory background checks” are an intrusive violation of the “Right to Privacy,” and a precursor to, long advocated, gun confiscation. The NRA has always supported National Criminal Instant Background Check System (NICS.) Any problems with the existing NICS background can be laid directly at the feet of the Federal Government; the same one you are bent on evermore power. In 2010, the FBI denied 72,659 NICS checks out of a total of 14,409,616. But only 62 of these cases were actually prosecuted, and only 13 resulted in a conviction. According to a January 2013 report from the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice, the effectiveness of “universal background checks” depends on requiring gun registration.

    Unfortunately, you ignored my antecedent to provide only “independent real world studies” or a “legitimate study” where “gun control” has proven to decrease actual crime rates. The links you included connect to only to hoplophobic and biased gun haters. Your citation of “” is disingenuous, and certainly not smart. “” is the web site for the gun loathing “Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence” whose abhorrence of all things guns, except control, is universally known. Originally incorporated as the “Legal Community Against Violence (LCAV), the “Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence” immediately set about vigorously supporting the 1994 Assault Weapon Ban. The “Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence” is an unpretentious non-academic front dedicated to the oppressive stripping all of Americans of their ability to be armed against ruthless thugs.

    Your second biased citation is linked to a questionable review scribbled by Dr. Garen Wintemute, also known as an incessantly chatty anti-gun blowhard who opines before any anti-Second Amendment group. Dr. Garen Wintemute has never pretended to be anything other than a virulent extremist cloaked under a thin veil of academia.

    Your third partisan source was the perpetual gun-hating Sarah Brady. However, Sarah Brady’s confusion over the Second Amendment obviously extends to the ever changing name of her hoplophobic lobbing group. It’s very challenging to keep track of what the latest name is: National Council to Control Handguns (NCCH), later shortened to Handgun Control, Inc. (HCI), later dubbed the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, or is it, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, or, The Brady Campaign. These name changes may have been prompted by the cash strapped conditions Sarah Brady was afflicted with. Since 2004, revenues declined nearly 60% whose backlash resulted in, among other effects, a huge reduction in staff cut a few years ago. Sarah Brady’s abysmal legislative track record is reflective in a Federal Court ruling the enforcement sections of the 1993 Brady Act were found to be unconstitutional.

    The Brady paper you linked to is especially problematic. First, it’s just a “white paper” or “report” and not an “independent real world study,” by academics. Second, this report was generated under a paid contract by another well-known anti-gun and heavily biased group, with the oxymoronic name, of Crime Gun Solutions LLC. The primary authors, Joseph J. Vince Jr. and Gerald A. Nunziato, were both former supervisors in the scandal riddled government agency; the BATFE. Sexual Harassment charges, three Congressional Hearings convened over numerous BATFE abuses, Discrimination charges, perjury in court, abusive and destructive searches of innocent suspects, “entrapment” at Ruby Ridge, the botched raid on WACO were innocent 80 Americans were butchered, the “Fast and Furious” scheme to hand Mexican Criminal assault weapons and try to blame it on legal gun stores, hounding “whistleblowing” employees out of the agency, and so much more. With chilling zealotry, Mr. Vince and Mr. Nunziato spent their entire careers at BAFTE targeting honest gun dealers with intimidating tactics that bordered on the illegal. These vocally anti-gun bureaucrats would typically label Federal Firearm License holders caustically as “rogue” or “irresponsible.” Finally, these authors, who don’t even feign academic credentials, in the “conclusion” section of their report tellingly state; “…has raised concerns about whether the Act has had any measurable impact on the use of assault weapons in crime.” I couldn’t say it any better myself.

    You use of the phrase, “Gaping loopholes;” this is a deceitful illusion. The divisive construct known as, “loopholes,” exist only in the mind of an anti-gun advocate. A poorly written law is not a loophole; it’s just a poorly written law; blame the ignorant legislature, not law abiding citizens. A poorly enforced law is not a loophole; it’s just a poorly enforced law; blame the lackadaisical police, not law abiding citizens. Following the precise modus of a law is not a loophole; it’s just following the letter of the law; by definition, that’s what law abiding citizens do. Your sleight of hand use of the word “loophole” is intentional, misleading and disappointing.

    Your last source, Professor Daniel Webster has been on the payroll of John Hopkins University which is massively funded by the indelibly anti-gun Joyce Foundation (the same Joyce Foundation where President Obama served eight-years as a Board Member); all fellow travelers in their common quest to ban guns in America. The ardently biased Professor Daniel Webster continually laments, “…our inability to pass strong enough laws.” In truth, Professor Daniel Webster would never be satisfied until every firearm has been removed from all law abiding Americans, except, for course, from the Police or Military. Professor Daniel Webster champions an intermediary step of having the government first demand a law abiding citizen procure a “permit to purchase” a firearm. A government issued “permit to purchase” a firearm would be de facto firearms registration. Compulsory government firearms registration has always preceded government confiscation of lawfully purchased and processed firearms. This outrageous demand to mandate a “permit to purchase” a firearm is so unconstitutional it merits no further comment. That is, unless you think “poll taxes” should be reinstated.

    You completely and intentionally ignored the numerous Biblical and Talmudic obligations we have, as Jews, to protect the innocent and to save a life.

    Try honesty for a change. If you hate the Second Amendment, that’s your choice. But, don’t posture behind ill conceived, counter-productive, anti-gun laws that have a long history of resulting in higher crime and more deaths of innocents. If you hate the idea of law abiding honest Americans being armed and having the ability to defend themselves, their family and the innocent from ruthless thugs, well, it’s a free country, think what you want. If you are repelled by the idea of owning a firearm, then don’t own one. But don’t be so presumptuous as to tell me what I should own; especially in the light of the fact that I have a Constitutional Right to process a firearm, and, to self-defense. Remember, when seconds count, the Police are always minutes away. Until then, stop regurgitating voodoo studies and running cover for those angry agenda driven gun-haters who were hoplophobic before you were born.

  2. The recently minted gun-control phrase, so-called “gun violence,” is just another slogan in the seemingly endless effort to demonize and propagandize for more ever more restrictive laws against firearm ownership; just another Gun Banner false flag operation. Gun Control advocates, who attempt to disguise their true goal of banning all citizen ownership of guns, have never been able to prove that restrictions on law abiding citizens have ever reduced crime anywhere in the United States. Where is the proof that anti-gun laws reduce crime? A dozen independent real-world studies have all concluded that so-called “sensible gun legislation” have only increased violent crime by shifting the balance of power in favor of violent criminals while it disarms helpless victims.

    Social Action should always conform to Jewish Law and values. In the book of Genesis, Abraham “arms his 318 servants” to rescue his nephew Lot and others kidnapped by Mesopotamians. In Exodus 2:12, Moses slays the cruel Egyptian slave master who was about to murder an innocent Jew. It is written in Joel 4:10, “Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning-hooks into spears; let the weak say: ‘I am strong’.” In the biblical verse, “Neither shall you stand by the blood of your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:16), Rabbis teach us that the law of pikuach nefesh (saving innocent lives) takes precedence over all other laws. Modern “Good Samaritan Laws” derive from this Levitical precept. Furthermore, Rabbis recognize the obligation to defend our own lives (Exodus 22:1). The Talmud states, “[I]f someone comes to kill you, get up early in the morning to kill him first” (Sanhedrin 72a). Additionally, the Talmud compels bystanders to kill if necessary to prevent murder or other horrendous crimes (Sanhedrin 73a). The story of Hanukkah is not about candles and Sufganiyot, but one about a desperate armed struggle defending Jews and rescuing Judaism. These Judaic Principles are thoroughly embedded within the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment.

    Every U.S. State and Territory has “Sovereign Immunity” Statutes or stare decisis Decrees that grant near-universal immunity from prosecution when government fails to provide personal Police protection. You are on your own; ask Reginald Denny, the Trucker who had his head beat in with cinder blocks and kicking at the beginning of the Los Angeles Riots in 1993, and was televised live. Ask Congresswomen Gabrielle Giffords how long it took the Police to arrive; –seven agonizing minutes–; the Para Medics took even longer! In most situations we are the first responders. Remember, when seconds count…police are minutes away.

    Some say, “Gun control is worth it if it saves one life.” But, what if it costs one life…or the 250 killed in Chicago? What do you say to those 250 families? A dozen national studies of crime have all shown gun control laws don’t work and result in more crime deaths. The Jewish Philosopher, Philo of Alexandria, 2,000 years ago, thought it foolish to blame arms rather than criminals for crime. What’s changed? Tikkun olam, a Kabbalistic construct, embraces improvement or repair. “Sensible gun legislation” isn’t sensible because it is the antithesis of Tikkun olam. Prohibition against alcohol; how well did that work? War on drugs; how’s that going? Anti-gun laws have only resulted in higher crime rates and increasing victimization of the innocent. The war on guns has only filled cemeteries with the bodies of more crime victims. I challenge the gun-grabbers to provide one legitimate study proving that anti-gun laws actual reduce crime in America.

    • Katharine Nasielski
      Katharine Nasielski February 20, 2013 at 12:38 pm

      Thank you for your comment. We use the term gun violence prevention because we believe that gun violence leads to too many deaths in our country. We are not interested in controlling the activity of law abiding citizens, but rather want to ensure that only law abiding citizens have access to weapons that can easily be turned into tools of destruction. Regulations such as mandatory background checks in no way minimize the rights of law abiding Americans, but protect the god-given right to life weapons in the hands of a criminal might otherwise strip.

      In response to your questions on whether gun violence prevention laws work, there is ample evidence to suggest they do.

      Here are a few studies and papers that demonstrate the effectiveness of state-level gun laws in preventing violence:

      While it is true that some laws have not been as effective as we may have hoped, Professor Daniel Webster aptly explains that shortcomings are in large part due to our inability to pass strong enough laws, the intentional weakening of laws by oppositional politicians, and gaping loopholes which threaten the integrity of the laws themselves. His research out of Hopkins can be accessed at this url (

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