In too many ways, the days after a tragic school shooting become predictable platforms for the gun industry and its cronies (NRA) to hit the replay button to their canard, "We need more guns. More guns = more safety." It's not just that it's counter-intuitive and statistically wrong; it's that implicit in this statement (besides a desire for more revenue) is the enduring will of the industry and its lobby to allow for and foster a landscape more and more prone to tragedy. Why do we stand for this?
Long ago, the rabbinic tradition recognized this inadequate response as it formulated its daily liturgy. A prayer experience reaches its pinnacle with the Amidah -- the 19-blessing Standing Prayer -- a space for personal requests, but the words are filled with communal language. Set in the middle of the petitions are two paragraphs that demand our attention:
"Restore our judges as in days of old; restore our counselors as in former times. Remove sorrow and anguish from our lives. Reign over us, God, You alone, with loving kindness and mercy; with justice sustain our cause. Praised are You, God, Sovereign who loves justice with compassion."
"Frustrate the hopes of all those who malign us. Let all evil soon disappear; let your enemies soon be destroyed. May You quickly uproot and crush the arrogant; may You subdue and humble them in our time. Praised are You, God, who humbles the arrogant."
The juxtaposition delivers the message. The removal of evil in our midst, the transformation of those plagued from dangerous to healthy citizens, and the dismissal of arrogance that diminishes life -- all require not only our vigilance, but first a system of compassionate justice in which the end goals are actually attainable. A community, accountable to holding and attending to all its inhabitants. Bandages may offer the illusion of safety and healing, but true restoration begins first with a shared communal diligence in instituting a justice-filled template that obviates the need for temporary solutions.
Yes, we certainly need more regulations and oversight over who can buy a gun, what guns are acceptable for public ownership, and when and where they can be carried. Laws that will engender justice and compassion, not subvert it. But we also must demand from our leadership a serious attempt to identify areas prone to violence, conditions ripe for abuse, and inundate them with programs and resources that work to stem the surge. That necessarily means reaching out to urban areas, too often forgotten and ignored, seeking out those saints who dedicate their lives to elevating the existence of others in danger, and asking for their assistance.
The longer we wait, the more we allow profiteers to suggest only bandages, the greater the challenge becomes. But justice demands we sustain and amplify our cause.