In March our 11th and 12th graders went to Washington DC to participate in the L'taken Social Justice Seminar, a program by the Religious Action Center that empowers teens to learn about issues that they care about and then advocate to their representatives and senators on the Hill. A few our teens wrote this speech about Gun Violence Prevention below, which they presented at Representative Katherine Clark's office.
Hello, my name is Olivia Brasher, I’m from Natick and I’m speaking alongside Julia Joseph from Natick and Michael Korbin from Weston. We are here representing the youth at Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Thank you so much for taking the time to meet with us.
Today we would like to discuss the issue of gun violence with you.
In the wake of the shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, only one of the latest of the numerous mass shootings that have devastated our nation in recent years, gun violence is an increasingly relevant and upsetting issue that we face. Over 30,000 Americans die each year from gun violence; this translates to eighty-seven deaths per day, including eight people under the age of nineteen. These are eighty-seven deaths per day that could be prevented by expanding background checks to all firearm sales, including the 40% of sales that go through unlicensed vendors, and by requiring increased responsibility of gun owners and federal agencies to provide information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. To allow these preventable deaths to continue would be morally inexcusable. As U.S. citizens, we closely value every person’s life and right to personal and public safety, and we rely on legislation not only to reflect these values and beliefs but to ensure our most basic sense of security. This sentiment is reflected by the 85% of Americans who agree that participants of private gun sales should be subjected to background checks. It is our responsibility to end this problem.
A gun has one purpose when it is created, to kill. When the Prophet Isaiah told the people of the earth to “Beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks”, It was a command to take our weapons and turn them into useful tools for society. As Jews we must stand together to eliminate this issue of gun violence that is plaguing our country. In the torah it is said “Do not stand idly by while your neighbor’s blood is shed” this is a key to help the Jewish people to understand that we cannot sit back and watch while innocent people are killed. Our religion expresses how activism is a primary importance to leading people to a more peaceful society. Back at home teenagers such as us have worked with the Roxbury Presbyterian Church to raise money to help with primary prevention programs. Adults in our community have been working hard with the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence on passing recent gun legislation. We hope you can help us pass similar legislation so it can affect the entire country.
Recently, my family and I walked off of an airplane, excited that we had reached our destination. When proceeding to baggage claim, a bitter presence was in the air and I suddenly felt unsettled. Just one month prior to the day we landed at the Fort Lauderdale- Hollywood International Airport, 11 travellers were shot, 5 killed, in the exact same terminal that I was standing in. I walked through the airport in fear and utter disbelief. a tense, anxious feeling encompassed me and I felt uneasy everywhere I turned. I felt guilty- why was I here, peacefully walking to retrieve my suitcase when only one month ago, another woman was doing the same thing, but lost her life for it? I felt ashamed. Ashamed that the country that my relatives came to a century ago to seek asylum, the country that I have been raised in my entire life, the country that I have supported, protested, and shown patriotism for through the prosperous and beastly moments within the last decade, was no longer a sanctuary for every american citizen in my country- the country that is supposed to welcome, empower, and protect all americans. As I have grown up and become more aware of my surroundings, my life has been drastically affected by the gun violence that I hear about almost everyday on the news. As a generation, I feel like my peers and I are growing up in fear. When we go to a movie, we want to enjoy the film and not worry that someone will pull a trigger. When we go to school, we want to go through one month without having practice lockdown drills. And when we go to airports, we want to look forward to our vacations and not worry about a shooter in the baggage claim.
We are a generation that has so much ability to do so much good in the world, and we do not deserve to have that opportunity taken away from us because of a senseless shot of a bullet. On behalf of myself, Olivia, Michael, and The Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, I would like to thank Congresswoman Katherine Clark for cosponsoring the Fix Gun Checks Act in the 114th Congress, and urge Representative Clark to support this bill or similar legislation when it is introduced in the 115th Congress.