In the wake of the slaughter of the little children of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut several years ago, I came to the sad conclusion that no tragedy of any proportion would move this country in the direction of sane gun control laws. Now, after two more back-to-back, mass casualty shootings this week, I see a flicker of hope for rational change in American gun laws. Polls are suggesting that a slight majority of Republicans and an overwhelming majority of Democrats and independents favor Red flag legislation.
While the nexus between gun ownership and mental health is complex as is the treatment of mental health patients, at least it is the beginning of what may be a genuine national dialogue. Of course, we are still miles away from outlawing assault style rifles and oversize magazines. But at least it is a beginning and there is an ember of hope for some sanity in America.
The personal and national tragedies we are enduring at this moment are beyond the scope of human emotions. To read about a young mother cradling her little newborn baby and then her husband wrapping himself around both of them, and a single bullet killing both of them and rendering the baby and the other two children in the family as orphans is overwhelming. Perhaps a weakened NRA will be unable to withstand the tide of grief and outrage sweeping this country.
Over 150 years ago, at another time of national carnage, President Abraham Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address. It was heavily inspired by the ancient Hebrew prophet Isaiah. It spoke of binding the wounds of the nation and taking care of one another by honoring our basic covenant with one another as a democratic society.
I deeply believe that most of us still believe in the America of Lincoln and Isaiah that we will not give in to despair even in the face of unbearable loss. The Psalmist wrote, “Those who sow in tears, will reap in joy.”
Join me in a prayer for America and the world that the day will come when the lives of children will be valued as our most precious asset and that all people will be seen equally as the children of God, no matter the color of their skin, their place of origin or their chosen faith.
The right to bear arms does not supersede all other rights. Like pieces of a puzzle, God-given rights must fit together and form a perfect whole, which creates a picture of peace, prosperity and hope. Let us join together to make that vision a reality in our time.
Rabbi Lance J. Sussman, Ph.D.