Preventing Gun Violence a Year After Newtown

The days after the Newtown massacre, I, like so many religious and civic leaders, had the difficult task of meeting with scared parents and frightened students about the school shooting. There was nothing I could say that could possibly console them or alleviate all of their fears. My role was primarily one of listening and helping people find words to describe what they were feeling.

In many streams of Jewish thought, as in many other traditions, reflection is thought to be the basis for action. Careful, thoughtful, concerted action in response to what we learn through the reflective process. To the dismay of many, we as a country have not taken decisive action to prevent gun violence.

Gun violence has continued. I and many others feel far too passive as we watch the news and see story after story about it.

But a group of thoughtful clergy is taking it upon themselves not just to talk the talk, hold the hands, and hug the grieving, but to walk the walk -- and in this case take the flight and try new approaches to preventing gun violence.

Four clergy members, in collaboration with a representative from the Industrial Areas Foundation, will visit Germany, Italy, and Austria from December 9-13 as a first step in getting the ear of gun manufacturers. They come with the promise that many, many more clergy will follow suit if they are not received and heard.

Their goals are straightforward:

  1. Meet with executives at the major gun manufacturers Glock, SIG Sauer, and Baretta, as well as officials, policymakers, and local leaders.
  2. Learn more about European efforts to develop the relatively "safe gun" and firearms tracing technologies.
  3. Discuss the importance of conditions placed on firearms export licenses from Europe to the U.S.

In taking this trip, the clergy also hope to honor the memories of those whose lives were lost in Newtown, and the thousands of other victims of gun violence in our communities.

Rabbi Joel Mosbacher is a friend and mentor and will be one of the clergy leading this trip. His connection to gun violence -- and passion for preventing it -- is both religiously motivated and deeply personal. Nearly 15 years ago, his father Lester was murdered at his place of work outside of Chicago. The hurt, the pain, the enduring loss is one that Rabbi Mosbacher knows to well.

But what he also embodies is a desire to harness the hurt and pain he has experienced, temper it with careful thought, and marshal it through concerted action. It is a remarkable model not only of leadership, but also of the courage we must muster to live out our values.

So many of us have directly or indirectly been affected by gun violence. So many of us understand at a personal, spiritual, and social level the insoluble pain that gun violence can cause. A year after Newtown, we are still overdue to put actions to match our words, gather for change to match our gatherings for prayer and healing.

We do honor to those lost when we live differently in homage to their memories. May their memories ever be for a blessing, as well as a call for much-needed change.

The pilgrimage of clergy representatives to Europe is but a beginning.