After the 2012 slaughter of 20 schoolchildren and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut, we assumed America had reached a watershed moment, when at last society would address the crisis of gun violence.
We were mistaken.
After Sandy Hook, we heard craven politicians utter the usual “Now is not the time” and “Let’s not politicize the tragedy.” Families were left with their unbearable grief as the news cycle moved on. Until the next slaughter. And the next. No congressional action was taken after the 2016 massacre at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub (49 dead, 58 wounded) or last fall’s carnage at a Las Vegas concert (58 dead, 500 wounded). All we got were more thoughts and prayers.
That is, until last week’s Valentine’s Day massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida. After the deaths of 17 students and several teachers who died shielding them, we may have reached a tipping point.
The gun lobby and its toadies in Congress messed with the wrong kids.
Since the tragedy, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have taken to the streets and the airwaves, expressing their outrage. They even borrowed a phrase from post-Holocaust Jewry, dubbing their movement #NeverAgain. They have planned a March 14 school walkout and a March 24 “March for Our Lives” across the country.
We applaud the eloquence and courage of these teenagers, and hope they may lead their flat-footed elders to enact the tough gun regulations a majority of Americans want. A brand new Quinnipiac poll shows support for universal background checks at 97 percent and an assault weapons ban at 67 percent.
Naturally, the pushback has begun. Already we hear the tired refrain that any gun regulation is a slippery slope toward eroding the Second Amendment.
We thus urge gun-rights supporters to consider the other side of that slope. It is slippery all right — slippery from the blood of Sandy Hook, Parkland, Orlando, Las Vegas and every mass shooting that might have been prevented had we acted.
The time is now. The intransigence of the National Rifle Association and its congressional allies must end.
Why are we, a Jewish newspaper, weighing in on this subject? Aside from the fact that it could be any one of our kids, who step into harm’s way every time they set foot in school, it raises a question that is profoundly moral, and thus profoundly Jewish: If pikuach nefesh — saving a life — is one of the strictest Jewish commandments, is it not incumbent upon us as a community, and as a nation, to put the saving of lives first? It surely towers over the perceived right to own a military-grade weapon capable of mass slaughter.
We join with the extraordinary students of Parkland, Florida, and others across the country, and demand sensible gun safety laws now. No more excuses.