Do not stand idly by
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Do not stand idly by

We must work together toward improving gun safety

Rabbi Joel Mosbacher is the rabbi of Beth Haverim Shir Shalom in Mahwah, and serves as one of the national co-chairs of the Do Not Stand Idly By campaign to reduce gun violence.

Three years since Newtown, and nothing much has changed in America.

Nothing much has changed — especially in Congress, where the deaths of 20 elementary school children didn’t motivate our elected officials to pass the most common-sense legislation that even 70 percent of NRA members supported.

Nothing much has changed. Except for the deaths of some 90,000 Americans by gun.

Nothing much has changed. Except for the $632 million dollars in profits earned by the four biggest gun manufacturers in America since December 2013.

Nothing much has changed. In our great country, the right to own a gun still wins out every time against the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It feels like nothing much has changed — and worse, it can feel like nothing ever will change.

But we know that change takes time. And there is one thing that has changed since Newtown: Public officials are committing to use their purchasing power to press gun companies to reduce gun violence in America.

Public officials all over the country — 82 in all as of this writing, including 18 in New Jersey — are doing more than lamenting each successive mass shooting. They’re doing even more than demanding that Congress use its power to act. These public officials, including Sheriff Michael Saudino here in Bergen County, are resolving to use their power.

They have said they will buy guns only from gun companies that hold the 100 worst dealers in America accountable for their sales practices, because mayors and police chiefs know that those 100 dealers are responsible for the sale of 60 percent of guns that turn up at crime scenes in America.

Public officials in 16 states, including those in Allendale, Closter, Fort Lee, Hackensack, Jersey City, Mahwah, Oakland, Paterson, River Vale, Tenafly, and Woodcliff Lake have expressed their intention to prioritize buying from gun companies that invest in safer gun technology — guns that can be fired only by authorized users. These officials know that this technology can reduce incidents of accidental shootings and suicide by gun. It even could help keep our law enforcement personnel safer because they would act differently if they could know that perpetrators might disarm them, but the guns they’d grab would be useless to them.

The Do Not Stand Idly By campaign to reduce gun violence, a campaign of the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation, is not about rolling back the Second Amendment, nor is it about taking guns out of the hands of lawful users. Instead, the strategy would dramatically reduce gun trafficking and increase gun safety for those people and law enforcement who feel that gun safety is important.

Surely the most ardent supporter of gun rights wouldn’t oppose reducing gun trafficking. And for those who oppose safer guns, for whatever unfathomable reason, we have one piece of advice: don’t buy one. But what logical, rational reason could there be to prevent the availability of this kind of technology? We’ve worked with State Senator Loretta Weinberg to change New Jersey’s smart gun mandate to a law that makes more sense in getting this technology to market, and we’re grateful for her leadership on this issue.

So how many public officials do we need to entice gun companies to play their part in reducing gun trafficking and increasing gun safety? Right now, we’re on our way to 100 public officials. We’re working across the country to invite mayors, police chiefs, sheriffs, county executives, and governors to use their power to reduce gun violence in America.

And we’ve called upon President Barack Obama to do more than mourn the next massacre and blame Congress for its failure to act. The federal government buys 25 percent of the guns sold in this country each year. We’re fairly sure that if the president called the CEOs of the biggest sellers of guns to the U.S. government into the White House to help reduce gun violence in America, they would be likely to take that meeting.

The president must stand idly by no longer while our neighbors bleed.

What can you do? Go to donotstandidlyby.org. If your town’s public officials have already signed on, send them a thank-you note. If they haven’t, tell them how important it is to you as a constituent that they sign on today.

Nothing much about gun violence has changed in America since Newtown. But it can. And it will. It will if we act — if we and our elected officials use our buying power to demand it.

 

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