Author: Shaul Praver

Rabbi Dr. Shaul Marshall Praver, the "Newtown Rabbi," was recognized by Newsweek magazine in 2013 as one of the 50 most influential Rabbis in the United States. He became known to millions of people in America and abroad when he ascended the stage on Sunday, December 16th 2012 in the presence of President Obama in Newtown Connecticut to intone the Hebrew memorial prayer, God full of Mercy, that stirred the nation. Praver has demonstrated his ability at inspiring both liberals and conservatives to come together as partners for needed change.

Everyone sheds tears for the students so brutally slaughtered a month ago at the Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. May their souls rest in peace. To the families, I am ever mindful of the unspeakable loss you’ve suffered. Words never suffice but please accept my heartfelt words of condolence. It is a tremendous loss and source of trauma for all the surviving students as well. The Parkland shooting sent shock waves throughout the country. From Newtown to Parkland, deep calls to deep. May you be comforted, and may you find the strength to overcome.

I am the “Newtown Rabbi,” and I have a few things to say today. We must get busy working to heal the gun violence epidemic in the United States. First, I want to offer the very highest praise to the students who are speaking out and acting out in a powerful way. They are brave young people who have the right to live and they are standing up for that right.

To parents throughout the country, I believe you love your children as much as I love my children. And since I truly believe this, I know we can agree that the safety of our children is more important than anything else. All human rights, including the right to keep and bear arms, must bow before the most sacred of all rights—-the right to live! In the U.S. declaration of Independence, the right to life comes before the right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The U.S. Declaration of Independence advises that if our government refuses to safeguard our right to live, and becomes itself destructive of this right, then an overarching “Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government who will protect (our) safety and Happiness,” may arise.

We must prepare ourselves physically, politically and spiritually for the distinct possibility that we may be destined to stand together declaring in one resolute voice, “protect us or else we will replace you.” Depending upon the response of our government, we may have to follow through with our threat. A government that does not protect the public safety, does not deserve to be a government. The government must protect the safety of the citizens from foreign and domestic enemies. And if they refuse, “We the People” must rise in multitudes “to alter it or to abolish it.” I have pledged that throughout my sojourn on the planet, I will do everything I reasonably can to cure the gun violence epidemic. I invite you to join me and all others throughout the country who have voluntarily made this same solemn pledge. Since schools in the U.S. have become killing zones, students may one day find it efficacious to simply not attend until the matter has been satisfactorily resolved. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. The key thing to realize though, is that, We the People are not helpless and there are remedies at our disposal. Isaiah 11:6 says, “Child(ren) shall lead them.” Today, the first school walkout took place. If adults are not going to speak up, it is certain that the children will!

We must make this change because we are sick and tired of our children being murdered. Our pain rings across the country today. Even the stones in the orchards are crying and the rivers are weeping. The wind has lost her breath and the people have been thrown to wolves. To those who think this is too dramatic, please consider that if it were your own flesh and blood ripped apart by bullets, suddenly you’d see it differently. The victims never thought it would be them, they thought it would be somebody else. Nobody thinks it’s going to be them or anybody they know personally. It’s always something that happens to somebody else in some other place. It’s never us until it is us.

I am for the second amendment right along with the most patriotic Americans. I am even for the second amendment to ameliorate the tyranny of government. This means, as a Jewish person born a mere fifteen years after the Holocaust, I think it’s a possibility that one day a ruthless fascist like Hitler may attempt to gain power in the United States. But with millions of armed Americans serving as a deterrent and a credible counter force, such a debacle is extremely unlikely.

But what we have right now is not a “Well-regulated militia” protecting us, but a poorly-regulated militia killing us! This was never the intent of the second amendment! “A well-regulated militia” is the preamble to “the people’s right to keep and bear arms,” and the former is missing in our public policy. All we hear about is, “My right to bear arms! My right to bear arms!” We rarely hear, “My right to live! My right to live!” Isn’t it time we hear it? Isn’t it time we proudly declare, “I have a right to live! I have a right to live!” And isn’t it time we say it together in one resolute voice, “We have a right to live! We have a right to live!”

There are a few organizations with great influence who have corrupted our government to the core; and they want to maximize the proliferation of firearms throughout the country while minimizing responsibility and public safety. They are quick to shout, “Infringement! Infringement!” But they do not yet understand that the one who bears arms must also bear some burdens and these burdens are not infringements. I understand the valiant notion of a proud and free peoples’ militia, but what we have is a rag tag legion of grim reapers shot out of the quiver of unspeakable bloody horrors. Most of our law makers and representatives have been owned by blood money, they’ve turned their backs on us and it’s time for change.

Liberals, get busy fixing the problem where the problem lives. Respect the hunter who explores the great outdoors by himself and with his family and friends. Respect the good and valiant gun culture that exists in the hills of Wisconsin or in the mountains of Oregon and on the islands of Maine. Don’t you dare villainize them, they are the salt of the earth! Fix what needs to be fixed and do not disturb peaceful hunters enjoying the quiet pleasures of life. It’s not the sportsmen who disavow the ethos of safety—they are self-regulating. It’s the cruel and the careless. It’s the gangs and it’s the people whose lives sadly end with suicide. Learn to listen and stop demonizing good upstanding citizens who could join you in your efforts to achieve better public safety policies. Teach your children to reach out to the loner whenever they can.

Certain rudimentary things such as background checks and the prohibition on the trafficking of firearms should be federal law, but aside from that, citizens living in zip codes and counties where no significant gun violence exists, should be left alone to enjoy the quiet pleasures of life — they are self-regulating. Go to work where the problem exists. Work through the states. Don’t try to decree everything on high for all states, counties and regions. Semi-automatics may be fine in the deep wilderness, but they are not fine in Parkland, Florida! We are a diverse nation and the law must reflect our diversity. Urban areas are different than rural areas. Gun’s play a different role in Alaska than they do in New York City.

Conservatives, don’t tell me guns make us safer because if they did, the United States would be the safest country in the world, and it’s not. Stop pretending and stop defending lies. Stop telling me that guns don’t kill, because they do. Don’t play word games or correct liberals on every technicality. You may have more knowledge concerning specifics, but you may also lack the big picture which they may possess. You too need to listen and learn and stop demonizing good upstanding citizens. If you bear arms, then bear your own insurance policies; tax payers shouldn’t have to keep paying for the damages of irresponsible and criminally minded gun owners among you. When you apply for a gun permit, come with two references from your own community, vouching for your sanity and nonviolent disposition. Stop saying the government is taking away your guns, because if they were, they are doing a lousy job! There are more guns per capita in the United States than any other country in the world.

Legislators, make firearm education and training robust like the process of earning a driver’s license. Do this and watch fatal shooting plummet. Arrest, try and incarcerate straw purchasers and gun shops who sell them merchandise. Enforce the existing laws and make new ones when necessary. The more powerful the weapon, the more robust the training should be, and training should be ongoing. We must do everything we can to prevent guns from falling into the hands of insane and violent people. Conservatives, don’t you dare cry infringement whenever the government vets for insane and violent people, they are trying to fulfill their obligation to protect the citizens. It’s not an infringement of your rights, it’s a fulfillment of a “well-regulated militia!”

Another thing I might encourage our legislators to do is to use technology to aid in our public safety. Open the markets to smart guns. Allow the 21st century to weigh in. Phase out all antiquated models that lack appropriate safety features in regions of the country where older models have been problematic.

Finally, legislators, be more proactive and proficient with the delivery of mental health medical services, particularly with patients with elevated risks, and do it with an aim of reducing suicide and homicide. Families need to be educated about the dangers of having a gun in the home where mentally unstable persons live. Support research and development in learning more about treating severe suicide disorders. The government should play a prominent role in all these matters because it is directly responsible to enforce public safety. In fact, government must be free to study gun violence in whatever way it deems beneficial. All ammunition should be micro chipped to aid law enforcement investigations.

And lastly, to the nation, I share this address today because I know you all love your children and you want them to be safe; and you yourself wish to be safe. We all have loved ones with whom our lives exist together in this God-given wonderful journey. The right to bear arms must bow to our right to live!