Turn Your Guns into PloughShares

“Guns! Buy your guns here! We sell all types of guns: wild west guns, shot guns, guns, guns, guns!’

I’ve just returned from visiting friends in the Southwest. It seems that on every other block, I had an opportunity to purchase my own gun. There were more gun shops than fast-food joints. I almost felt assaulted by all the gun shops I encountered. Perhaps I could grab a burger and a gun to go?

My friends and I initially joked about what kind of gun we should purchase, but in reality, it is not a joke. Not when each week, we read of another school shooting, another accidental killing by gunshot, another drive-by gang killing.

We have some staggering statistics regarding guns and gun violence in the United States: On average:

  • 30,000 Americans are killed by firearms each year;
  • 12,000 Americans are murdered by firearms each year;
  • 30 Americans are murdered each day via gunshot
  • 200 Americans are wounded each day via gun violence; and
  • with 88 guns per 100 people, the United States has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world. (Statistics courtesy of the Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center).

This past June, Illinois (where I live) became the last state to pass the “Concealed Carry” Bill, allowing Illinois State Police to issue a concealed-carry license to any qualified applicant. The law just went into effect the beginning of January, 2014.

Many places, such as houses of worship, (including my own Congregation B’nai Torah),  restaurants, grocery stores display a “NO CONCEALED WEAPONS ALLOWED” sign:

No Concealed Weapons Allowed
No Concealed Weapons Allowed: Turn Guns into Ploughshares

Is this the kind of world we want for our children? A place where they become as familiar with the logo for “No Guns” as they are with the logo for the “Stop” sign? Do we want them to worry that they might not be safe at school or at the playground? Do we want them to worry that their parents might not be safe at work? 

I am sure that many of us know someone who has been personally affected by gun violence. And it isn’t something that only takes place “out there”: it takes place in JCC’s, in synagogues and in our own homes as well. Guns do not discriminate when it comes to age, gender, race or religion.

In last week’s Torah portion, Yitro, from the book of Exodus, we receive the 10 Commandments. The first two Commandments are statements: 

I am the Eternal Your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage.

You shall have no other Gods beside Me. (Exodus 20: 2-3)

Our text tells us: God exists. And the singularity of God’s nature suggests that all of us are equal in God’s eyes. As such, we need to treat every human being with that same sense of equality. With dignity and respect.

We need to combine the first two commandments with the Sixth Commandment:

“You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20: 13)

It becomes clear from our text that guns and other weapons of violence are not to be used indiscriminately. That if we are to preserve our relationship with God and our relationship with each other, we need to carefully think through what our society does to prevent gun violence.

The Reform Movement supports Gun Violence Prevention Advocacy and offers congregations educational and programmatic resource materials.

Visit the Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center (RAC)website: www.rac.org for more information or click below for the RAC’s

Gun Violence and Prevention Program and Resource Guide

“Don’t stop after beating the swords into ploughshares, don’t stop! Go on beating and make musical instruments out of them. Whoever wants to make war again will have to turn them into ploughshares first.” –Yehuda Amichai