AJC Backs President Obama Initiative on Stemming Violence After Horrific Newtown Massacre

NEW YORK, Dec. 19, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AJC applauded President Obama's announcement that Vice President Biden will lead the effort to develop policies in the wake of last Friday's massacre of 20 first-graders and six of their adult caretakers in Newtown, Connecticut.

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"Urgent steps must be taken to reduce the capacity of individuals to commit such atrocities," wrote AJC President Robert Elman and Executive Director David Harris in a letter to President Obama.

"In the wake of the Newtown horror, and of the previous mass-killings that shocked but failed to move our nation to action, let us begin—urgently—to address the gun madness that threatens our nation, even as we undertake a broader and equally urgent examination of mental health and cultural concerns that demand attention."

The full text of the AJC letter to President Obama follows:

Dear Mr. President:

In the Jewish tradition, as you know, the seven days after the passing of a loved one are a period of shiva, a time of intense mourning.  As we have viewed scenes of the horror and the grief in Newtown in recent days, we have felt very much that we are all part of a national shiva, struggling to understand and respond to a massacre of 20 first-graders and six of their adult caretakers.

We know that our response to this tragedy cannot be—must not be—only emotional.  As you said so movingly in Newtown on Sunday, "We can't tolerate this anymore…  No single law—no set of laws—can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. But that can't be an excuse for inaction.  Surely, we can do better than this."  We wholeheartedly agree, join in your call to action—and applaud today's announcement that Vice President Biden will lead the effort to develop policies in the wake of last Friday's events.

Urgent steps must be taken to reduce the capacity of individuals to commit such atrocities. It is long past time to end the private-sales gun loophole, to tighten background checks, to halt the sale of high-capacity magazines, and—most of all—to reinstate the assault-weapons ban that should never have been allowed to lapse.  We call for these measures, recognizing that they represent only part of a larger solution.

Indeed, as we focus on new or re-instituted gun laws, it is important to recognize that such steps are necessary but not sufficient.  A thorough review must be conducted of our nation's woefully inadequate mental health system.  And we so very clearly need a national conversation on the violence that increasingly infuses our media and the video games that our young people play—a conversation that leads to consensus action.  The issues we will face—cultural, commercial, legal, fiscal—are formidable, as we seek a future in which our nation is spared the horror of repeated acts of mayhem by deranged individuals. But they will become only more daunting still if we continue to defer them.

As we are taught in Ethics of the Fathers, "It is not your responsibility to finish the work [of perfecting the world], but you are not free to desist from it either."  In the wake of the Newtown horror, and of the previous mass-killings that shocked but failed to move our nation to action, let us begin—urgently—to address the gun madness that threatens our nation, even as we undertake a broader and equally urgent examination of mental health and cultural concerns that demand attention.

Respectfully, 
Robert Elman, President
David Harris, Executive Director
American Jewish Committee

SOURCE American Jewish Committee



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