September 19, 2018

Letters to the Editor: Reactions to Parkland, Missile Defense

Reactions to Parkland

Maimonides (1135-1204) never heard of a school shooting, but he understood the National Rifle Association (NRA) perfectly (“When Will It End?” Feb. 23).

Torah obligation in regard to sales of weapons: Maimonides (Mishneh Torah, Laws of a Murderer 12:12, paraphrasing Babylonian Talmud Avodah Zarah 15b) declares: “It is forbidden to sell weapons of war to [those with an inclination to violence]. Nor is it permitted to sharpen their spears, or to sell them knives, manacles, iron chains, bears, lions, or any object which can endanger the public; but it is permitted to sell them shields, which are only for defense.”

Maimonides explains that in selling arms to such a person, “One strengthens the hands of an evil-doer and causes him to transgress” and “Anyone who causes one who is [morally] blind … to stumble — or one who strengthens the hand of a person who is [morally] blind and does not see the path of truth because of the desire of his heart — violates a negative precept as Torah (Leviticus 19:14) states, ‘You shall not put a stumbling block before the blind.’ ”

Mitch Paradise, Los Angeles

First of all, the Second Amendment pertaining to the militia was really replaced by our police forces and the United States military.

Secondly, it takes two-thirds of the states to change a constitutional amendment and that will never happen over this issue. We have gone 242 years without a dictator in the United States.

All semi-automatic assault rifles should be limited to a six-round clip for public use.

Anyone who has been expelled from school, fired from a job, dishonorably discharged from the military or other similar situations, should automatically be put on a no-gun purchase list for two years. After that period, when applying, that person should be on a 30-day review and, if determined not a threat to society, be allowed to buy a weapon.

Schools should have at least one qualified licensed teacher with a semi-automatic handgun and a bullet-proof vest for every 10 classrooms unless all of the above laws are put into effect.

Joseph B.D. Saraceno, Gardena

Kudos to your editorial staff for the excellent commentaries from across a wide spectrum of highly regarded intelligent members of our community. They wrote about the ongoing situation whereby children and teachers are being shot in their schools. Each commentary deserves consideration toward resolving this ongoing “violent culture,” as Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin calls it.

As I read the various comments, it seems that the main argument against the changes needed to end gun violence is the interpretation of the Second Amendment. It reads:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The U.S. Congress, over time, has changed its definition of the term “militia” as related to the United States. It’s time for a definition more in line with what our nation needs today — clearly stated so as to leave no doubt.

The Second Amendment specifically limits the right to keep and bear arms to a well-regulated militia. The members of the NRA do not constitute a “well-regulated militia.”

This could well be a good start to rid our country of “the plague of gun violence,” as the Journal labels it in its cover story.

George Epstein, Los Angeles

I find little reason to think that the CIA, FBI, state and local police, psychologists and psychiatrists, family, friends, neighbors or schoolmates will ever be able to identify all among us who may, someday, perpetrate a mass shooting, and it’s clear that we’ll never have the resources to track and monitor those who are merely deemed suspicious.

The automatic rifles debate and failed regulations won’t change until our politicians climb out of the pocket of the NRA, and there’s scant likelihood of this happening anytime soon.

The 300 million-plus guns in which we’re awash won’t be confiscated and will continue to be easy to obtain, and the gun manufacturers aren’t planning to go out of business. Hunters, marksmen, hobbyists and those who own guns for self-protection shouldn’t have to fear that the government wants them.

The only solution I see for those who want to protect their loved ones is to escape.

Hal Rothberg via email

On April 20, there will be a National Action Day featuring numerous forums to protest what seems like an endless series of mass shootings.

I feel it is imperative that yeshivas reach out to their secular and religious brethren across faiths and participate in the day’s planned activities.

April 20 was selected because it is the 19th anniversary of the Columbine massacre, and thus the start of the murderous mayhem that has been continually visited upon our citizens. For Jews, April 20, 1889, has a sickening significance: It was the day Adolf Hitler was born, the genocidal maniac who was the architect of the Shoah.

We are commanded to not kill; we are obligated to perform acts of tikkun olam; and we choose as our task to be the promulgators of morals and values to the rest of the world.

What we cannot do, however, is depend on the conservative right, its white supremacist allies and the Republican lawmakers who have blocked and expunged every gun-regulation initiative unless it has the imprimatur of the NRA.

“Never again” is, unfortunately, a mantra that will be part of our political lexicon unless our vigilance is accompanied by direct and overt actions.

Marc Rogers, North Hollywood

Here’s a suggestion regarding guns from someone whose experiences make him worth listening to.

Former astronaut Capt. Mark Kelly, husband of shooting victim and former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, is a gun owner and supporter of the Second Amendment.

He also supports the use of extreme-risk protection orders. This would have allowed law enforcement — had the FBI done its job — to remove the firearm owned by Nikolas Cruz while a determination was made regarding the likelihood that he would commit gun violence, as he expressly said he wished to do.

Julia Lutch via email

There is a very simple solution to the gun controversy as long as politics is removed from the discussion.

Stop blaming everyone except yourselves for shootings on school campuses. Take matters into your own hands and hire armed security guards responsible for school safety. Don’t expect the government or the police or laws to protect you. Do as the Israelis do. And as Ben Shapiro reminds us, “Every single government authority failed in Parkland. And they expect Americans to forfeit our self-defense rights to them?”

There can never be a guarantee that every attack can be thwarted, even if we would abolish the Second Amendment, placed by our Founding Fathers not to defend the public from burglars but to place controls on the new government. The bad guys will still get guns no matter the laws, and the good guys will be defenseless. Among the first things that a totalitarian state does is to confiscate weapons.

All the gun laws on the books would not have prevented any of the atrocities in recent years from happening. And, as is often said, the answer to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. I’ll bet that the last words on the lips of someone about to be executed by a terrorist is, “I pray that the guy next to me has a gun!”

C.P. Lefkowitz, Rancho Palos Verdes

Danielle Berrin’s column on guns and Isaiah Berlin is a wise and passionate plea for balance and moderation (“In America, Life Should Come Before Total Liberty,” Feb. 23).

Gun fanatics are ideologues. An ideologue is a person with an agenda, and that agenda trumps everything. It trumps facts, common sense, logic, intellectual honesty and reality. None of those things matters to an ideologue.

By definition, ideologues are extremists and they are found on both the left and the right. Moderates, on the other hand, are pragmatists. Their whole approach is about compromise and finding solutions.

In “The Righteous Mind,” Jonathan Haidt writes, “When a group of people make something sacred, the members of the cult lose the ability to think clearly about it.” This is why Judaism teaches us that idolatry is wrong and dangerous. Only ideologues and extremists engage in idolatry. It’s the NRA’s idolatry of assault weapons that led to the slaughters in Las Vegas and Parkland.

The true path to healing the world is to follow the calm and measured voices of moderates, not the loud and angry voices of ideologues and extremists.

Michael Asher via email

Dear Ms. Berrin: As Benjamin Franklin noted, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety,” accusations of contextomy by Benjamin Wittes and Gregory Ferenstein, notwithstanding.

Warren Scheinin, Redondo Beach


Buoyed by Missile Defense

As Larry Greenfield wrote (Blessings of Missile Defense,” Feb. 16), missile defense has detractors, like letter writer Steve Daniels, who admitted that the Iron Dome system works in Israel and that scientific advancements in the U.S. are proceeding, as well.

Recently, Israel conducted a successful flight test of its new Arrow 3 missile defense interceptor. The Israeli Defense Ministry stated the test was a full military scenario.

I choose Greenfield’s positive vision and the proven successes of missile defense over the cynicism that motivates critics to label this life-saving technology a “boondoggle” for defense contractors. Israeli children would beg to differ.

Karen Reissman via email