This resolution was prepared with reference to the Rabbinical Assembly’s 2016 resolution.
Gun violence is an acute public health and global concern, but the United States is a tragic outlier on this issue. America’s violent gun homicide rate is 25 times higher than those of 22 other high-income countries.
Women are disproportionately affected. Abused women are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if that abuser owns a gun. Having a gun readily accessible also makes suicide attempts easier and more successful. However, a 2017 gun violence study reports that background checks and waiting periods for gun purchases are consistent with lower suicide rates.
Another extreme example of gun violence is the epidemic of mass shootings in the U.S. These horrific incidents are often committed with military-style assault weapons. According to a 2016 poll, a majority of the U.S. population prefers an assault weapon ban, and that they feel less safe when more people are carrying guns.
Besides death, other consequences of shootings include medical treatments, criminal justice proceedings, security precautions, and a reduction in quality of life, all of which cost an estimated $100 billion annually. These losses are tragic and the vast majority of them are utterly preventable.
Comparing the United States to Canada and Israel reveals discrepancies in the way the US and these two countries approach the question of gun ownership. The US has no licensing procedure for this. Presently, Canadian law classifies firearms into three categories: prohibited (such as AK-47s and sawed-off shotguns), restricted (such as handguns and AR-15s), and non-restricted (usually rifles and shotguns). In addition, Canada requires anyone wishing to purchase a gun and/or ammunition to obtain a valid license under the Firearms Act. This license requires a screening process, which includes a safety course, a criminal history and background checks, a provision of personal references, and a mandatory waiting period.
Israeli gun laws are even stricter. There, too, a license is required. Preconditions include a minimum age, being in good physical and mental health, and having no criminal record. Israelis are permitted to own only one gun at a time, and must even ask permission to sell their gun. Moreover, the type of gun permitted is dependent on the need for which it is requested, and there are lists for each type. Approximately 40% of Israeli gun license requests are denied. Israelis are limited to just 50 bullets at any given time in their possession, and must shoot or return old bullets before they can buy new ones. Ammunition sales take place only at regulated shooting ranges, and the sales themselves are then registered. Finally, the Canadian firearm-related homicide rate is about seven times lower than that of the United States, while the Israeli rate is 33 times lower than the US rate.
The Times of Israel, 1 March 2018
The National Observer, 4 Dec 2015*
Israel News, 21 June 2015
*updated information included through May 2018
Whereas Jewish tradition affirms the inherent worth of each person, each created in the Divine Image; and
Whereas statistics strongly affirm that gun laws, when properly enforced, reduce gun violence; and
Whereas personalized, or “smart gun” technology can minimize accidental shootings, prevent law enforcement agents from being shot with their own service weapons, and make stolen shipments of guns useless to those who steal them; and
Whereas the increasing incidents of mass shootings show that everyone is at risk; and
Whereas Women’s League for Conservative Judaism has taken strong positions on gun control in the past, most recently in 2014; and
Whereas Jewish teaching commands us to not stand idly by the blood of our neighbors,
Therefore, this responsibility calls upon us to send a message to our elected officials at all levels of government that we care deeply about gun violence and will become actively involved in this cause; and that Women’s League for Conservative Judaism:
Encourages its members to advance the cause of requiring: background checks on all public and private gun sales; bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines; and legislation making gun trafficking a federal crime with severe penalties; and
Commits to deepening our gun violence prevention advocacy efforts; and
Urges its members to work with their state and federal representatives and senators to enact effective gun violence prevention legislation.
Whereas a synagogue is a house of worship, fellowship, and peace; and
Whereas training requirements for obtaining a license to carry a gun vary greatly and, in some states, require no training or marksmanship skills; and
Whereas negligent discharges of firearms have occurred in synagogues and churches in the past; and
Whereas children are at synagogue and are prone to explore during services,
Therefore, be it resolved that Women’s League for Conservative Judaism encourages congregations to prohibit guns being carried in synagogues by non-active law enforcement, congregants, or visitors.