Guns and Our National Sickness

gun1.jpgThe young man who killed 31 people at Virginia Tech was a paranoid delusional psychotic. But there is something equally sick about a society that allows such a person to walk into a gun shop and buy two deadly firearms as easily as he would a candy bar.

According to my spiritual tradition, the most sacrosanct religious value is something we call Pikuach Nefesh – “Saving a Life.” Pikuach Nefesh means that saving lives is absolutely paramount in our world. Halacha, or Jewish law, stipulates that Pikuach Nefesh trumps virtually every commandment, obligation (or even “right,” as we would say in America.) Yes, it might be argued that according to this principle handgun ownership is a personal safety issue – but on a much more fundamental level, it also means that gun control is an absolute necessity in order to keep guns out of the hands of those who might present a threat to public safety.

Orthodox Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, in an important discussion of the Jewish legal approach to gun control writes,

(Because) a gun is a dangerous object, halacha (like many current gun control laws) requires that owners and vendors of guns take all possible precautions to prevent their guns from causing any harm.

Even by this benchmark, our nation’s gun control laws are failing us miserably. In Virginia, it is easier to obtain a Glock than it is to get a driver’s license.

Like many illnesses, this national sickness of ours’ only manages to catch our attention when it actually presents itself in an overt way. Shame on us. Shame on us that even though over 10,000 people die every year in our country from gun inflicted homicides, it has taken a singular tragedy of such proportions to put this epidemic back in the national spotlight.

The answers are as plain to us as they have always been. We know that there is much we can do to keep guns out of the hands of people such as Cho Seung-Hui. Please, please visit the websites of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence or the Brady Campaign. It will give you more information about how you can easily contact our nation’s leaders and contribute to a real and lasting solution.

For the sake of Pikuach Nefesh, it’s time to treat our national sickness once and for all.

7 thoughts on “Guns and Our National Sickness

  1. Paul

    As a parent my-self I am deeply saddened as to what transpired this week at Virginia Tech. I could not imagine the pain and agony that the parents must be going through, along with the despair that the perpetrators parents are also going through, let not forget about there guilt.

    If you go through history not that long ago we had Jews being led like cattle into trains and shipped to the concentration camps.

    I myself although not Jewish come from Russian descent. I can remember my father telling me how the communist came into his home when he was 12 years old, put them up against the wall, held a gun to his head, pistol whipped my grandfather, and raped my grandmother in front of him.

    On September 11 when the trade towers collapsed, I knew that it would be a period of time when amnesia would set in and the Liberals would forget about 3000 people that died in the towers.

    It just seems that this country jumps on the bandwagon when things are fresh in their minds, and then as time goes on we forget about it.

    I believe that there’s a reason behind crime and violence in this country. A recent radio news program cited a study showing that England’s violent crime rate was more than four times that of the United States. It was only a few years ago that anti-gun advocates were used in England as an example of the civilized society without firearms.

    A few years ago I read that an individual was visiting missionaries in Zambia, as part of what they call. “Operation footsteps” They were taken to see missionaries who had spoken at a church many years ago, they asked the question about gun violence in America.

    Before someone could answer a host jumped to his feet with his finger shaking and said guns are not the problem in America or anywhere else. The problem is the lack of moral values.

    He went on. You can raise your child with a gun in his hand if you instill moral values, and he will never be a problem to himself or others.

    If you raise a child without moral values in a world, he or she will be a danger to themselves and others with any implement they pickup, I believe this is true.

    During hurricane Katrina there are many towns along the Gulf Coast hit by the storm but New Orleans made news because of the looting and other violent behavior.

    Today, moral values are simply not taught enough. Television programs glorify sex and violence treat them as jokes. The Internet is a great resource for information and education, but look at the trash our children are exposed to if not supervised.

    Music degrading women in promoting violence has become mainstream environment, embraced by many. The media has glamorized Hollywood’s bad boys and bad girls and has made them into role models for our teenagers. Look at some of the clothes are children wearing, some of it is very degrading.
    Whatever happened to John Wayne and Roy Rogers? They sure look better to me. Even some sports heroes are contributing to the problem. Look at them multimillion dollar athletes using drugs and steroids because winning is all that matters to them.

    The moral fiber of our society is unraveling, and the result is more crime and violence. Look at what is happening today. Kids grow up not knowing their fathers, and in some cases, the mothers. What are children to think when they watch TV and see a United States president impeached for his immoral behavior, and congressmen being charged with bribery? The lessons they learned is that if you can get away with it’ it’s okay.

    Our country was founded with moral values. Look at small towns in the United States, people go to worship on the weekends and care for the children , there is less violent crime in these places. Prayer has been removed from our schools, and violence and criminal behavior has increased. There is a trend here we can no longer afford to ignore.

    It’s about time to stand up and speak out for the moral values that have made America great. If you’re confused about what moral values are, I suggest you may get a copy of the NRA past president Charles Heston’s movie the 10 Commandments. Watch it, and you’ll see where moral values really started.

    I believe it’s not fair to imply that all gun dealers are bad. Unfortunately it’s our society today that dictates human Behavior. We are so afraid of standing up for our beliefs but yet we rather condone this so-called political correctness. I believe that this is the single most reason that this mayhem occurred. What we had here was a young adult that had serious problems within the school system along with many problems that he had when he was a child.

    Everybody knew this but yet they did nothing, because of the policies that are still within their society today. Why not speak up when there’s an issue with someone’s behavior? I believe in this case something very serious was overlooked by the counselors, the courts along with the judicial system whereas not wanting to make any so-called waves regarding so-called profiling and discrimination.

    I cherish my second amendment right as an American born citizen. One thing that I would suggest is that it would be better that the only people in this country that would be eligible to obtain permits to purchase handguns and/or any gun for that matter regardless whether it’s a rifle or a handgun, would have to be born in the United States of America. Just because somebody comes to his country as an exchange student and has applied for permanent residency, with a green card, does not give them the right to have this cherished second amendment privilege. I truly believe in my heart that if there was somebody in that building at that time, that was armed, that’s not saying that we would not have lost any children, but we would not have lost as many. It be wonderful to live in a utopia, but unfortunately that’s not the society we live in. We have to be realistic about what is really happening, not be so quick to point the blame at any one group and take a real good look at how we are raising our children and running our country, then we may stand a chance.

  2. Lesley Williams

    Thanks Brant for raising this issue.

    Paul, people are shot to death by Americans and non-Americans, by children and adults, and by those subscribing to a wide range of “moral values”. People with severe, psychotic mental illnesses are by definition unable to make moral judgements. Yet they can buy handguns.

    There was a great discussion on Morning Edition today of the near impossiblity of predicting whether or not a mentaly ill individual will actually become violent, (see )

    I’m always suspicious of vague “studies show” arguments, so let me mention a very specifc one, whcih directly contradicts your assertion abot crime in England. The _Journal of Risk and Insurance_, hardly a liberal rag, notes that based on World Health Organizaton data from 2002:

    “Several European countries have a firearm homicide rate that is insignificant: only 45 firearm homicides were reported in the United Kingdom, 15 in Denmark, 10 in Norway, and 7 in Ireland. While the United States experienced 10,801 firearm homicides, the European Union, with a total population of over 376 million in 2000, only recorded 1,260 homicides.”

    The study also concludes that “availability of handguns… increases the assault and homicide rates with a gun, but does not decrease the crime rates without guns, and that restrictive handgun laws reduce the homicide rate in a community.”

    –from “The cost of firearm deaths in the United States: reduced life expectancies and increased insurance costs”.
    _Journal of Risk and Insurance_ 72.3 (Sept 2005): p359(16).

  3. Ruth Rosen

    The 2nd Amendment refers to muskets in a well regulated militia in 1776. The twisted logic of the NRA has turned a public health and safety crisis into a political football. Our legislators have been blackmailed by this well funded organization, and cower in fear.

    In California there are more guns than people. And so we are all sitting ducks in a mad shooting gallery.

    Who cares WHY people shoot to kill. There have always been disturbed people. GET RID OF THE GUNS.

    Ruth Rosen

  4. Seth Weinberger

    Thanks Brant for posting this. We need a more sustained effort to overcome the influence of the NRA. Its not enough to raise our voices only at times of tragedy. We need the kind of noise being made about global warming: an incessantly loud drumbeat that could crescendo during a tragedy without decaying soon afterwards.

  5. larry townley

    sorry to all who disagree but i will keep my guns, I will not or allow anyone else be led to a camp as the nazis did in wwii.
    One of the first thing the nazis did was disarm those who disagreed with them. and arm those who they felt were on the nazi side. Hence you have the holocaust.
    No I will not be disarmed of my weapons, because what happened once will almost assuredly happen again.

  6. Ron Veillette

    I am dismayed at the comments regarding the need for gun control. I came across your website performing research about the Holocaust. For a part of your culture who suffered the horror of an event, that was not a freak of nature. Genocides have occured throughout history. And the Jewish people are currently under attack again. I feel it is ignorant to believe that the United States is immune from civil unrest or cataclysmic governmental change. Our founding fathers knew this and that is why the our Constitution was developed with the second ammendment so prominent. The founding fathers acknowledged human nature. As a citizen of the United States who is armed I will not let another Holocaust occur. I will stand up regardless if you do. The cost of freedom is not free, and acts of violence will occur. But, we must not let our guard down and run our nation with emotion. The right to bear arms is a key component to our nations freedoms.


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