Guns and the New Normal

This is the new normal.  A gunman enters a crowded place, whether a school, a movie theater, or a place of work.  In a few short minutes a tragedy ensues.  Multiple dead, many wounded.  Lives forever altered.  The gunman dead.  We stop for a few moments, watch with horrid fascination as the news covers the story, listen to the pundits, and then we move on, close the chapter, and get back to our own lives and concerns.  

I don’t know what is worse – that we’ve gotten used to it, that it has become almost common place, just another shooting, or that we’ve given up challenging the gun lobby about the crazy gun laws (or lack thereof) in this country.  Is it worse to be disinterested or hopeless?  Do we now accept the fact that we live in a country where these shootings happen with some regularity?  It seems that way.  There has been almost no response from the gun control side of the debate.  I suppose they figure that if nothing changed after children were gunned down in an elementary school in Connecticut, nothing will change when adults are gunned down in a military facility in Washington DC.  The new normal.  I imagine the NRA leadership is toasting itself over the last two days:  ‘Look how far we’ve come!  No one even blinks an eye!  No one even challenges us!’

I wonder if they believe the DC gunman should have been able to purchase his weapons with impunity.  That a man with a troubled history and two gun related brushes with the law should be able to just walk into a gun shop, pass a background check, and walk out with shotgun is a bit mystifying, to say the least.  

Judaism is quite clear on this issue.  The rights of the community trump the rights of the individual every time.  If the individual right to own a weapon is impinging on the communal right to be safe, the individual’s rights are curtailed.  That is the old normal.  Maybe it is time to figure out a way to get back to it.



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6 responses to “Guns and the New Normal

  1. Stephen Pomerantz


  2. RH

    Can you provide some examples of where Judaism makes it clear that the “rights of the community trumps the rights of the individual every time.”?

    • In Judaism in general communal needs trump individual rights. This is in contradistinction to the way Americans often view the issue – the sense in the US, and more so recently, is that the individual’s needs and rights should take precedence over just about anything else. But in Judaism the opposite. The idea is even extended to the individual’s home, his or her private space. In Deuteronomy 22 the Torah commands “When you build a new house you shall make a parapet for your roof, so that you do not bring bloodguilt on your house if anyone should fall from it.” That is to say even in your private home you are responsible for ensuring the safety of your community. A classic example is illustrated by how shiva is cut off by the onset of a festival – the individual’s need/right to observe shiva is considered less important than the communal need to celebrate the festival. The minyan requirement is another example – the individual may need to say kaddish, but if there is not a minyan, the communal requirement mitigates the individual’s need. Charity another example – the individual is required to give charity for communal needs, whether he/she wants to or not.

  3. Stanley Nachimson

    A little disappointed in this blog post. The issue here was that the shooter never should have passed a background check and been able to work and buy the gun. Also, he showed recent signs of mental illness which were not addressed. The real communal effort should be to help identify and care for those sufferring from mental illnesses. The gun is not the key problem here.

    • It seems to me that the problem is that it is just too easy to get a gun. Knowing what was known about the DC shooter, would you have sold him a gun? I don’t think so. And the only way to find that out is if we change the way back ground checks are done, waiting periods, etc. The NRA has resisted that every step of the way, and I think a lot of the blame has to fall at their feet.
      If the NRA leadership came out after an incident like this and said ‘we need to figure out a way to make the back ground check process work so this won’t happen, and we’re willing to do what ever it takes to make sure that changes are put into place’ I would take them seriously. But when they respond to this kind of thing by saying ‘we just need more guns out there’ it is ludicrous.
      And the fact that there are so many politicians in bed with the NRA is even worse. I don’t want to take anyone’s gun away. At the same time, regulating guns, magazines, and especially how guns are purchased is not taking a gun away from someone – it is just sensible, and would make our country safer for everyone.

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