If Not Now, When?

Almost as horrific as today's campus massacre in Oregon where a gunman killed at least ten people is the callous indifference on the part of most Americans and virtually all of our elected officials.

My Facebook feed of socially aware friends who are often outraged by the news was largely devoid of comments about the mass murders. President Obama acknowledged that "somehow this has become routine. The reporting has become routine. My response here, from this podium, has become routine." But he repeated what he has said after the previous 14 mass shootings while he has been president. "It cannot be this easy for someone who wants to inflict harm to get his or her hands on a gun."

I have no new statistics to cite or arguments to make in favor of gun control that haven't been made often and eloquently in the past. As the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence points out, "millions of guns are sold every year in 'no questions asked' transactions, and experts estimate 40 percent of guns now sold in America are done so without a Brady background check." And yet the enhanced background check bill that the President has repeatedly pushed for, failed to pass despite the fact that over 90 percent of Americans support the bill.

Those who say nothing can be done to prevent gun violence, or that criminals will get guns whatever the laws are, or especially those who argue ignorantly that more guns are the answer, have blood on their hands. As do the elected officials who are so fearful of a morally bankrupt lobbying group, that they say nothing and do nothing whenever a tragedy like this unfolds.

The Brady Campaign reports, in one year on average, 108,476 people in America are shot in murders, assaults, suicides and suicide attempts, unintentional shootings, or by police intervention. And that 32,514 of those gun victims are killed.

The president must continue to use his bully pulpit to call for gun control legislation. He should consider issuing executive orders where legally permissible. And all of us must challenge our local and national elected officials to vote for gun control legislation or else be faced with vigorous primary opposition. There must be consequences for those who value NRA money and endorsements over human life. And if voting for gun control means losing an election, then so be it. Doing the just and moral thing is more important than occupying a seat in Congress.

The background check legislation should be reintroduced in Congress today. The president must once again passionately fight for its passage. And all of us have the moral obligation to force our representatives to stand up against gun violence.

As the Hebrew scholar Hillel said, "If not now, when?"