By Maddie Newman, NFTY Texas Oklahoma
Since living in Texas for the past twelve years, I’ve grown up with the concept of guns being in my friend’s houses, being used by my neighbor on his yearly hunting trip, and being on display in a decorative glass box. Until I was thirteen, I didn’t know what gun violence was. I was in my fifth summer at the URJ Greene Family Camp when my counselors were told about the deadly movie theatre shooting in Aurora, Colorado where twelve people were killed. I remember the shock on their faces and surprise we all felt after learning that a place of comfort and security for that community had been under horrific attack.
Four years have passed since the tragedy in Aurora, and now I see less and less shock on people’s faces when they hear about other senseless tragedies like Newtown, CT that took the lives of 27, Umpqua, OR where nine adults and college students passed away, and Charleston, SC that claimed the lives of nine. We have become numb to mass shootings, which are defined as leaving four or more people wounded or dead, and in our country that occur more than once a day. Why have we allowed these tragedies to become so commonplace that they don’t shock us anymore?
As Jews we are called to advocate around any act of violence that takes a person’s life as Maimonides writes “for if one destroys the life of a single [person], it is regarded as though he destroyed the whole world, and if one preserves the life of a single [person], it is regarded as though he preserved the whole world.” I find that the desensitized reactions of our communities when another mass shooting occurs, so frightens me into taking action on the issue of gun violence prevention.
Over the past year, since NFTY and the Union of Reform Judaism declared “Not One More” and placed us at the forefront of the fight for gun violence prevention in 2015, I have become immersed in this fight through my involvement with NFTY-TOR. Together we have memorialized gun violence victims, we have talked to local police officers about our communities, and together we have donated over five hundred dollars to Everytown, a national movement working to end the rampant gun violence epidemic in our country. On June 2, 2015, NFTY-TOR commemorated the first National Day of Gun Violence Awareness by posting a picture of someone wearing orange on social media every seventeen minutes. Each picture represented the national statistic that a life is lost every seventeen minutes due to a gun. As the Second National Day of Gun Violence Awareness quickly arrives, I am excited to put a year full of learning into action as I join six other NFTYites in meeting with my town’s mayor on behalf of NFTY & the Do Not Stand Idly By Campaign.
America is losing one life every seventeen minutes to gun violence, so we must push aside political biases to prevent gun violence. I care about this issue because too many families, communities, and people have lost loved ones due to a gun. I use my voice to advocate alongside others for preventative market based approaches, like Do Not Stand Idly By’s, because the Torah and Bible alike call us to “not stand idly by while our neighbor’s blood is shed.” Regardless of political affiliation, religion, or personal connection to this issue; this human rights issue will not end until we say enough is enough and work together to make change.