A way forward on gun control

A way forward on gun control

There are plenty of items in this week’s Chronicle, but there is only one story. Everywhere in America this week there is just one story.

Twenty children from Newtown, Conn., are dead, gunned down in a senseless act of violence that will resonate in our hearts and minds for years to come. In many synagogues this past Shabbat, their young, fresh faces, were remembered just before worshippers chanted the Kaddish.

Additionally, six adults — parents, teachers and nurturers of these young people — also lost their lives.   

It didn’t matter that most of these children weren’t Jewish; it certainly didn’t matter that they weren’t from the Greater Pittsburgh Area. For this week, and many weeks to come, they’re our children, too.

And as such, it is our moral obligation to bring some meaning to their all-too-brief lives. After all, if this can happen in a peaceful, bedroom community such as Newtown, Conn., it could happen (God forbid) in Squirrel Hill — or Fox Chapel, Monroeville, Mt. Lebanon, Allison Park …

We must keep all our children — black and white, rich and poor, Jew and gentile, urban and suburban — safe.

As President Obama said when he visited Newtown Sunday, “We can’t tolerate this anymore.”

Some of you may be bristling, expecting us to launch into a fire and brimstone attack on the gun lobby and to make a passionate call for gun control.

But that’s not what this editorial is about.

Connecticut, after all, has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation, including a ban on assault weapons. But as the state’s Gov. Tom Malloy has said, it’s not enough to keep out assault weapons, such as the kind used in the shooting.

A 1994 federal law banning assault weapons expired in 2004. Since then, many attempts to renew the law have failed.

Our nation is awash in guns, many of which were legally purchased by responsible people. Nevertheless, we continue to lead the free, democratic and developed world in firearm-related deaths.

So, we are making a passionate call. We’re calling on pro- and anti-gun advocates to soften their rhetoric — and their positions — and come to together to find a way forward on this divisive issue. The Second Amendment will not be repealed and the president is not going to take away the guns.

By the same token, well-stocked arsenals are not the guarantors of personal freedom. In fact, as we saw last week, they can rob innocent people, of all ages and backgrounds, of their right to live.

This year alone, mass shootings have occurred at a Christian college in Oakland, Calif.; a movieplex in Aurora, Colo.; a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis.; the Empire State Building in New York; a sign company in Minneapolis; and a spa near Milwaukee.

And our area will never forget the 2000 suburban shooting rampage of Richard Baumhammers, which left five people dead (including Anita Gordon, who was Jewish), one man paralyzed for life and two synagogues, Beth El Congregation of the South Hills and Ahavath Achim in Carnegie, damaged.

And it wasn’t so long ago that a gunman opened fire at the Jewish Community Centers in Grenada Hills, Calif. (1999), and Seattle, Wash. (2006). Five people, including three children, were wounded in the first attack; one woman was killed and five injured in the second.

When will it end? Perhaps it will never end completely. But if enough good people on both sides of this issue realize that safety can only be found in the center, where all lasting solutions are found, then the scores of innocent dead in this country will not have died in vain.