As the Covid-19 pandemic has receded in America, a new epidemic has replaced it. A wave of gun violence has once again grabbed the nation. There have been numerous mass shootings this spring. People are no longer safe in their workplace or the grocery store. There were forty-five mass shootings in March alone. Americans are living in fear of gun violence.
In response to this, some have begun advocating for stricter gun restrictions. Proponents of gun control claim that by making it more difficult to purchase a gun, mass shootings will be reduced. They criticize the lax gun laws that are prominent in most of the United States. However, not every American agrees with stricter gun control. Some believe that any form of regulation towards guns infringes upon the Second Amendment. They insist that guns are simply tools that murderers use, and that if the guns are removed, the criminals will find a new way to kill people. But, the innocent will not have any weapons to protect themselves.
Gun violence impacts American Jews the same way it impacts other Americans. We all are forced to live in fear of mass shootings, regardless of our religion. However, American Jews were the target of a 2018 mass shooting in Pittsburgh. Jews have witnessed firsthand the devastation that guns can cause. Judaism advocates for compassion and nonviolence. Guns and their uses conflict with these beliefs. Why should Jews support something that is used for murder? But, most gun owners would argue that that is not the only purpose of guns. Guns can also function as tools for hunting or self-defense. This is permissible under Jewish law. Jews as a people value critical thinking and reason. Viewing guns as a black and white issue does not align with that. At the same time, it must be acknowledged that, for all their uses, guns are often used for harm. This has led to many Jews becoming staunch supporters of gun control.
Jews are not a monolith. The old joke about “Two Jews, three opinions” still rings true, especially for a complex issue like gun control. While some Jews support gun control, others oppose it. They typically cite not being able to defend themselves. With the rise of antisemitic hate crimes across the world, perhaps being well-armed is logical. Understandably, some Jews would prefer to not be vulnerable. Guns are an easy way to solve the issue of vulnerability. Jews who are more politically conservative also tend to be Second Amendment supporters. Regardless of whether they will ever own a gun themselves, they want to avoid the potential trampling on the rights of others. But, it could be viewed as ironic that those Jews wish to protect people’s gun rights, but not their lives.
It is unsurprising that there is no simple solution to gun violence. Gun control is one of the most divisive issues in American politics. Like everyone else, American Jews are split on the issue. While it sounds ideal to make guns illegal, this neglects people’s ability to defend themselves. It is also risky to allow the government to infringe upon the Bill of Rights. If they are given the clearance to remove one right, it could create a slippery slope. But, the idea of allowing complete freedom in regards to gun ownership is also flawed. Guns are currently relatively unrestricted, and this has resulted in numerous mass shootings. This pattern cannot continue. Perhaps, American Jews should help the public work towards a compromise. Merging the ideas of stricter gun control with free gun access could lead to a better result than the continued advocacy for one side or the other. The American public is intensely divided on this issue, but this division has not led to solutions. Jews should not contribute to this division. Rather, we should advocate for a solution that recognizes the merits of both sides. Whether Jews believe in gun control or not, there is one thing they should not do: ignore the issue. American Jews can no longer remain silent. We must advocate for solutions to gun violence. No matter how Jews think we should approach this issue, we must acknowledge that there is an issue. Americans are dying of gun violence. And Jews cannot remain silent.