The Impact of July 28

By Nancy B. Greer
President & CEO
On July 28,  a number of measures strengthening our state’s gun violence prevention laws took effect. These policies will help protect our community.

There could not have been a more fitting day for that to happen. July 28 was the 13th anniversary of the shooting in our Federation building that stole the life of Pamela Waechter, z”l, a beloved leader of our Jewish community, and left five other Federation employees—Layla Bush, Carol Goldman, Dayna Klein, Christina Rexroad, and Cheryl Stumbo—terribly wounded. We all remember where we were when we heard the shattering news on that shocking day.

On July 28, Cheryl and I spoke at a press conference to commemorate the anniversary of the shooting and draw attention to gun violence. Since that dreadful day 13 years ago, our hearts have been wrenched again and again when other communities have been violated by cruel acts of gun violence in schools, houses of worship, and in public places. Poway. Pittsburgh. Orlando. Charleston. Sandy Hook. Gilroy. Close to home, Marysville, Mukilteo, Seattle Pacific University. There have been so many. One is too many.

We have mourned ours and other communities’ losses because our Jewish tradition calls on us to comfort those who have suffered the loss of loved ones. Our tradition also calls on us to repair the world, tikkun olam.

At the press conference, I spoke about the work that the 2006 shooting propelled us to undertake—outspoken advocacy for gun violence prevention. We do this work in partnership with like-minded organizations like the Alliance for Gun Responsibility and with legislative champions, many of whom joined us at the press conference.

Of the laws that took effect July 28, four were enacted thanks in large part to Federation advocacy. The new laws will strengthen protections that keep firearms away from people who pose a danger to themselves or others. Passage of the new laws built on past accomplishments to strengthen safeguards against gun violence. In three recent elections—2014, 2016, and 2018—our state’s voters approved ballot measures to authorize extreme risk protection orders, strengthen background checks, mandate safe storage, and raise the minimum age for purchasing semi-automatic assault rifles. All three measures passed by large popular majorities — a clear demonstration that support for gun violence prevention is both broad and deep.

We are so grateful for all the community members who support our advocacy and make this vital work possible. Thank you! You can be sure that the policies that you helped enact save lives. And if they save even one life, they are worth doing, because in our tradition, when you save one life, you save the world.

Yet more must be done. The scourge of gun violence continues to afflict our society. Just hours after our press conference, three innocent people, including two children, were murdered at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California and a dozen were injured. As long as gun violence threatens communities and cuts short the lives of innocent people like Pamela Waechter, the Federation, our allies, and our legislative champions will advocate strongly and persistently for common-sense measures to prevent gun violence.

We will act. As one of the great Jewish sages taught us centuries ago, we are not required to complete a necessary duty, but neither are we free to abstain from it.