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May 2021 Reducing Gun Violence

May 2021 Reducing Gun Violence

Addressing Gun Violence

Jewish Values:

The mission of the Jewish Community Relations Council is to advocate for policy that supports the principle of Pikuach Nefesh, which reminds us that the preservation of human life overrides virtually any other religious rule. Addressing the issue of gun violence is based on the commandment “Do not stand by the bloodshed of your fellow” (Leviticus 19:16). As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said, Judaism calls upon us to take “a leap of action,” and the time for us to act is now. The Jewish community has a deep and abiding concern for public safety. Driven by our beliefs in the sanctity of life and the commandment against murder and our moral concern for public safety, we are committed to a comprehensive approach to confronting the problem of reducing gun violence.

Contemporary Problems:

Gun violence is a problem that affects many aspects of American life.  We recognize a comprehensive approach to address gun violence also includes addressing environmental factors--such as poverty, mental health, domestic abuse, poor educational or job prospects, inadequate early childhood opportunities, and substance use.  While JCRC has policy statements that address some of these issues, the focus of this statement is on addressing the primary connection between guns and violence.

·        There have been 119 mass shootings in America from 1982 to 2020, in public places including places of worship, schools, shopping malls, and concert venues. [1]

●     On average in America at the time of writing this policy, guns kill over 100 people daily, 36% of these are homicides, and 51% are suicides, the rest are unintentional shootings.[2]

●     Homicide victims of gun violence are disproportionately young Black males.  African Americans are 10 times as likely to be homicide victims as people who identify as White.[3]

●     The number of Americans killed by guns in the U.S. from 2000-2013 is more than the number of Americans killed by AIDS, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, illegal drug overdoses, and terrorism combined.[4]

 

Weak gun laws and gun violence are starkly correlated.  Public opinion surveys consistently show a significant majority of Americans support stricter gun safety such as requiring universal background checks for all gun sales and creating new programs to identify, assess and manage individuals who may pose a threat; as well as creating and strengthening laws that keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have them and keeping guns out of sensitive places.[5] 

Not just a national problem, gun violence is a serious challenge in the St. Louis region and in the state of Missouri.  Gun-death rates in Missouri are above the national average. From 2013-2017, 69 Missouri counties reported gun death rates above the national average and 38 counties reported it as being above the state average and in 2018 Missouri ranked fourth highest in firearm deaths per capita.[6]

“Gun violence is often perceived as an urban problem. ...In fact, many rural counties are affected by gun-related suicides at higher rates than in neighboring urban counties.”[7] The Missouri Foundation for Health explains, “for many people, the most surprising fact about gun deaths is how much suicides dominate the data; about 60% of gun-involved deaths are suicides.”[8]

Gun violence is more than just a crime and public safety problem; it is a public health concern. The Missouri Foundation for Health explains, “There’s another public health problem that’s facing Missouri – one that affects the health and well-being of individuals, families, and communities. It is the problem of gun injuries and death, which includes self-directed violence, interpersonal violence, and accidental shootings. Suicides, homicides, and accidental deaths have different causes and circumstances, but they are all affecting Missouri’s health, well-being, and peace of mind. Gun-death rates in Missouri are above the national average.”[9]

“Public health experts say gun violence is an epidemic, and the way it spreads continues to infuriate the doctors trying to contain it. They point to easy access to high-caliber weapons and poor public health infrastructure as key factors driving the violence they see in their operating rooms”.[10]  [Social conditions like]…“poverty, social unrest, racial inequality, food, and housing insecurity — all contribute to how comfortable people feel in their environment and could be addressed with a robust public health system.”[11]  Like many problems in Missouri, funding is an issue.  “Missouri has one of the country’s lowest-funded public health systems. In 2019, the state ranked sixth-to-last: Missouri spent about $57 per person, compared to the national average of around $87 per person, according to the United Health Foundation.”[12]  Taking a public health approach to tackling gun violence offers a broader array of solutions than a traditional, criminal approach.

Call to Action:

Dignity of life is a sacred tenet that we hold central to our mission at the Jewish Community Relations Council. That is why we believe that stronger gun safety laws are essential in order to prevent mass shootings and keep our neighborhoods safe, but we need to advocate for improved lives, not just the prevention of needless deaths.  Consequently, we need to tackle this issue on many fronts.  JCRC is committed to working in coalition toward a multi-tiered approach of support for:

a) Legislation that addresses purchase and possession of guns and gun safety as well as legislation that provides funding for gun violence research and increased spending on public health; and

b) Educating of our community about ways to address gun violence issues including community-based programs to address gun violence in our region.

The  JCRC should:

●     Join and participate in broad coalitions to advocate for reforms in the community including the St. Louis Area Violence Prevention Commission.

●     Educate the public, especially the Jewish communities, about the impacts of gun violence and common-sense solutions, including safe storage and gunlocks.

●     Educate our community about how gun violence overlaps with issues like public health, poverty, hate crime, crime, domestic violence, other environmental factors, and law enforcement shootings, with unique manifestations and impacts on different individuals and communities. 

●     Urge Congress and Federal Government officials, as well as state and local governments, to pass laws to reduce gun violence and to enforce existing gun laws.

●     Advocate for complete and open communication and coordination among all levels of government in the fight against gun violence.

●     Encourage our community to participate in organizations on the front lines of de-escalating gun violence in our region. 

 

[1] Follman, M., Aronsen, G., & Pan, D. (2012, December 28). US mass shootings, 1982-2020: Data from Mother Jones' investigation. Retrieved June 15, 2020, from https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/12/mass-shootings-mother-jones-full-data/, (mass shooting is defined in this source as four or more deaths).

[2] Everytown for Gun Safety/Moms Demand Action Annual Conference August 7-9, 2020.

[3] Lopez, G. (2015, October 03). America's gun problem, explained. Retrieved June 15, 2020

[4] Lopez, G. (2015, October 03). America's gun problem, explained. Retrieved June 15, 2020

[5] E.g. Guns. (2020, March 31). Retrieved June 15, 2020, from https://news.gallup.com/poll/1645/guns.aspx

[6] https://mffh.org/news/gun-violence-prevention-a-public-health-challenge/

[7] https://publichealth.wustl.edu/missouri-gun-related-homicides-and-suicides-2015-16/ 

[8] https://mffh.org/news/gun-violence-prevention-a-public-health-challenge/

[9] https://mffh.org/news/gun-violence-prevention-a-public-health-challenge/

[10] https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/st-louis-doctors-face-two-raging-epidemics-gun-violence-and-the-coronavirus/article_c2903a2b-c646-5541-8c11-53c7f8d98c16.html

[11] https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/st-louis-doctors-face-two-raging-epidemics-gun-violence-and-the-coronavirus/article_c2903a2b-c646-5541-8c11-53c7f8d98c16.html

[12] https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/st-louis-doctors-face-two-raging-epidemics-gun-violence-and-the-coronavirus/article_c2903a2b-c646-5541-8c11-53c7f8d98c16.html

  • The JCRC is a beneficiary organization of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis

    The JCRC is a beneficiary organization of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis

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