As you may have read in the Providence Journal this week, the debate over the place of guns in Rhode Island intensified at our State House on Tuesday afternoon.
Members of our Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island joined me as part of the Religious Coalition for a Violence-Free Rhode Island. We stood with members of other non-violence and gun control organizations (including an eloquent contingent from the Ne explaining that the passage of specific legislation would contribute to making Rhode Island a safer place to live.
The bills we stood in support of would:
Passage of these laws would also make us more reliable neighbors to Massachusetts and Connecticut which have already passed such legislation.
Not everyone has the privilege I had of speaking directly to our legislators (at the House Judiciary Committee) . . . but our legislators do read Rhode Island's newspaper of record, The Providence Journal. If you live in Rhode Island, you can send a direct message to our legislators by participating in a very simple, one question survey: "So you support stricter gun control?" Your "yes" will help the members of the Rhode Island House of Representatives and Senate appreciate the desire of the residents of Rhode Island to make our state a safer place for everyone, of every ethnic background, of every economic level, of every neighborhood.
Click this link and you will be able to read a Providence Journal article about the gun legislation debate and you will also find the one-question survey. I hope that everyone reading this blog will agree that the pending legislation will bring us a little bit closer to a violence-free Rhode Island . . . a vision which those who legally own and safely store and use guns can certainly embrace as well.
Here is my testimony delivered to the House Judiciary Committee of the Rhode Island General Assembly:
I am Rabbi Amy Levin, President of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island and rabbi of Temple Torat Yisrael in East Greenwich.
Our Board of Rabbis, twenty-six colleagues from a comprehensive spectrum of denominations of Judaism, unanimously moved to become early and active partners in the Religious Coalition for a Violence-Free Rhode Island.
That's quite a vision, isn't it . . . A violence-free Rhode Island.
Our Religious Coalition's vision of a "violence-free Rhode Island" may seem like the pie in the sky day-dreaming of a bunch of clergy . . . for whom utopian envisioning is an occupational hazard . . . but I am here to tell you that we clergy don't work in ivory towers, we conduct the funerals of the men, women and children who lose their lives to violence, we sit at the hospital beds of those who suffer maiming physical and psychological wounds inflicted through violence. Were you to be present with us at the cemeteries and hospitals and houses of mourning you would share our sense of urgency about working towards a violence-free Rhode Island.
Were we to dedicate the time, and gather together many of the people in this room for a wider-ranging discussion, we would find that violence is a complex phenomenon and that firearms represent only one element in the chaotic morass that is violence. Indeed, our General Assembly legislators took a significant step on another violence-related front last year when you passed legislation funding educational efforts directed at domestic violence through marriage license fees.
But the pending legislation we are discussing today all focus on firearms. In the context of our acknowledgement that the overwhelming majority of those who legally and safely own firearms for hunting and target practice and personal security are responsible and well-motivated individuals who also embrace the concept of a violence-free Rhode Island, we do urge you to vote on behalf of all the residents of our state.
The Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island turns to you: You have the capacity to save lives:
We urge you to prevent individuals convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors from owning firearms.
We urge you to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines from Rhode Island.
We urge you to ban firearms from school grounds.
We urge you to take these concrete steps bringing us that much closer to a violence-free Rhode Island.
Rabbi Amy Levin
has been Torat Yisrael's rabbi since the summer of 2004 and serves as President of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island.