Gun Violence Prevention
Gun Violence Prevention
Reform Movement Position:
RJV supports a variety of common sense gun safety regulations including the New York Extreme Risk Protection Order bill (S7133A/A8976B), the New York Hate Crime Amendment bill (S7072/A7547), and the New York Background Check Extension bill (S1414/A2406) that will enhance a solid base of gun laws and further protect New Yorkers.
Tragically, the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida has catapulted the issue of gun violence prevention to the forefront of North American political discourse. This most recent mass shooting follows the 2017 shooting in Las Vegas, the 2016 shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, and the 2015 shooting at Umpqua community college in Oregon, among others. As if these acts of violence were not enough, recent memory gives way to the shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) and others in Tucson in 2011, the Navy Yard shooting in Washington, D.C. in 2013, and the 2007 murders at Virginia Tech.
The vast majority of Americans, including gun owners, approve of common sense measures aimed at preventing gun violence. A New Yorkers Against Gun Violence study found this to be true of NY as well, where New Yorkers by a 2 to 1 margin approve of the SAFE Act, which created some of the most comprehensive gun violence laws in the nation.
Luckily, New York is one of the safest states when it comes to guns. In 2013, New York passed the SAFE Act, which instituted universal background checks and created a state fix for the federal gun show loophole. New York has also banned most assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines. New York also requires all handgun owners to obtain a license, regulates ammunition sale and requires that ammo purchasers pass a background check. These laws have helped make New York safer. In 2017, New York was the state with the third lowest gun deaths per capita. Still, even when compared to the national average of 11.7 gun deaths per 100,000 people, New York’s average 4.4 gun deaths per 100,000 people is still too high.
The New York Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) bill (S7133A/A8976B), would enable family members and others to petition a court to remove guns from individuals who are dangerous to themselves or others, helping to combat the threat of mass shootings and suicides. The NYS ERPO bill entitles a family member, household member, police officer, or district attorney to petition a court for the ERPO for up to a year. In 42% of mass shootings from 2009-2016 the shooter conveyed warning signs in advance of the fatal shooting. ERPOs would allow the state to remove guns from these dangerous individuals. A comparable law in Connecticut has also resulted in a significant reduction in suicide rates. A 2016 study shows that the Connecticut law prevented up to 100 suicides annually. ERPO legislation has passed the Assembly but has not yet passed the Senate.
The New York Hate Crime Amendment bill (S7072/A7547), would protect people vulnerable to bias attacks and communities disproportionately impacted by gun violence by prohibiting hate crime offenders from legally purchasing firearms. Under the current law, committing a hate crime is not considered a serious offense that would lead to restrictions on gun ownership. Committing a hate crime like spraying a swastika on a synagogue does not restrict the ability to own a gun, because spray-painting is not considered a serious offense. Ensuring perpetrators of hate crimes cannot purchase guns is important because approximately 8,000 hate crimes annually involve a firearm. This law would protect vulnerable groups from the violence of hateful people with guns, and similar laws are already on the books in Minnesota, Oregon, and New Jersey. The legislation is in the Codes Committee in both the Assembly and Senate.
Under current state law, a gun dealer must wait three days for the FBI to conduct a National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) background check before selling a gun to a purchaser. If the FBI has not reached a conclusion after three days, the dealer may complete the sale. This is not enough time to do thorough background checks, especially given that purchasers whose background checks take more than three days are eight times more likely to be prohibited from purchasing a gun. In 2016, 303,146 purchases were eligible to proceed because the FBI was unable to process the background check within their allotted three days. The New York Background Check Extension bill (S1414/A2406) would extend the New York State background check period from three to 10 business days, giving the FBI the time it needs to conduct a background check. This bill passed the Assembly on March 6, 2018 but has not yet passed the Senate.
Reform Jewish Values:
Jewish tradition emphasizes the sanctity and value of human life. The Torah commands us “Thou shalt not murder.” The Mishnah teaches us “he who takes one life it is as though he has destroyed the universe and he who saves one life, it is as though he has saved the universe.” Dehumanizing human beings and the carelessness with which human life is taken by guns stands in direct violation of our tradition.
Scripture encourages peaceful pursuit of our mutual welfare. Isaiah exhorts the people of the earth to “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.” (Isaiah 2:4) We are commanded to turn weapons of destruction into tools for the greater good of society.