Youth Leadership on Gun Violence Prevention Is Heartening

By Nancy B. Greer
President & CEO
It’s heartening to see students take the lead on gun violence prevention in the aftermath of the horrific shooting in Parkland, Florida. By stepping up and speaking out forcefully, these young leaders have strengthened the momentum for sensible legislation and added a unique moral sensibility to the cause – their perspective as students who can’t vote and must rely on adults to ensure schools are safe havens of learning and growth.

With students in mind during the recently concluded legislative session in Olympia, the Federation supported a number of gun violence prevention measures that did not pass, but was able to help pass two common-sense, bipartisan measures: SB 5992, which will help make shootings less deadly by outlawing bump stocks – the trigger modification devices that allow semi-automatic weapons to operate like automatic weapons; and SB 5553, which will prevent suicides (which make up almost 80 percent of gun deaths in Washington State) by allowing individuals with serious mental health challenges to place themselves on the “do not purchase” list.

While there is no single policy that will stop gun violence, each action taken moves the needle of change. But we need every voice to continue making progress. Only together can we create the consistent, powerful force needed to put students first and enact the changes needed to save lives. The need is urgent; just three days ago, two students were injured, one fatally, in a high school shooting in Maryland.

Here at home, the momentum for change continues. Last night, three groups of young Jewish adults – through the Federation’s PAVE Seattle, Jconnect, and Moishe House – held an evening of learning and action, entitled “Do Not Stand Idly By: Prevent Gun Violence and Save Lives.” The centerpiece of the evening was the Jewish perspective on gun violence prevention. Judaism places utmost importance on the preciousness of human life and commands us to protect, preserve, and sustain life. The Talmud teaches that “he who takes one life it is as though he has destroyed the universe and he who saves one life it is as though he has saved the universe.”

This event was another example of the impact each of us can make – if we add our voices to advocate for the passage of sensible gun violence prevention measures. To support Jewish community members planning to participate in tomorrow’s March for Our Lives at Cal Anderson Park, organizers of last night’s event provided sign-making materials for Jews who plan to attend the march as part of their Shabbat worship or personal beliefs and would like to stand together. (The Federation does not sponsor secular events that take place on Shabbat).

There is a sense that young people taking the lead for gun violence prevention has added a powerful burst of new energy to a movement that began before they were born. We can take heart from their example and remember, always, that just as all Jews are responsible for one another, kol Yisrael averim, we are all responsible for keeping our schools and community safe. We cannot stand idly by.