March 18, 2019

Officials, Jewish Community Discuss Gun Violence Prevention

Congressman Ted Lieu and Rabbi Sarah Bassin discuss gun violence legislation at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills. Photo by Ryan Torok

It has taken more than two decades, but on Feb. 27, the House of Representatives made a significant step toward greater gun control legislation when it voted 240-190 in favor of the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019. 

The bill (H.R. 8) requires mandatory background checks on any guns sold in the country. Up until now, only licensed dealers have been required to perform background checks if someone wishes to buy a gun.

The bill will now head to the Senate, and if passed, would have to be signed by President Donald Trump to become law.

On Feb. 17, 10 days before that vote, and a year after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) said, “[We know], based on study after study, states in America and countries around the world that have stronger gun safety laws have lower incidents of gun violence.”

Lieu, who co-sponsored the bill, made his comments during a conversation with Rabbi Sarah Bassin in front of close to 300 people at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills.  

He also discussed a separate House bill (which passed on Feb. 28) that will close the “Charleston loophole,” named for the June 17, 2015, mass shooting when a gunman killed nine African-Americans during a prayer service at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina. The loophole allows a gun dealer to sell a gun to a person without doing a background check if that check would take more than three days. 

Lieu said he couldn’t see certain reforms, including an assault-weapons ban, happening anytime soon, because the Republican-controlled Senate wouldn’t pass it.

“[We know], based on study after study, states in America and countries around the world that have stronger gun safety laws have lower incidents of gun violence.”

— Rep. Ted Lieu

While the conversation with Lieu focused mainly on legislative steps aimed at reducing gun violence, 11 days later, Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, held an event that focused on how to halt shootings in schools.

L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer moderated a panel discussion during Hadassah’s gun violence discussion at Valley Beth Shalom. Photo by Ryan Torok

“If Not Now, When? A Conversation About Preventing Gun Violence in American Schools” was held at Valley Beth Shalom on Feb. 28. Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer moderated the panel event. The speakers were Josh Stepakoff, who survived the 1999 shooting at the North Valley Jewish Community Center; Sgt. Joseph Camello of the Los Angeles School Police Department; and Marleen Wong, director of field education at the USC School of Social Work. 

Stepakoff was only 6 years old and playing Capture the Flag at the JCC when an armed white supremacist fired a semi-automatic weapon at the Granada Hills center. Stepakoff, 26, said the glorification of school shooters was a part of the problem. 

“I, to this day, refer to the man who shot me as ‘the man who shot me’ [or] ‘the shooter,’ ” Stepakoff said. “Anything but his name.”

In discussing ways to prevent further school shootings, Feuer noted that polls showed that a majority of parents supported the Los Angeles Police Department’s current practice of conducting random searches of students when they enter and exit school buildings. 

However, Wong said she opposed the searches. “I think it’s a destructive act to the culture of the school,” she said. “I think what they found are more colored markers than guns.”

Sandra Sadikoff, immediate past president of Hadassah Southern California, said she believed the solution to the gun violence problem was stronger leadership by elected officials.

“We deplore what’s going on with the shootings that are plaguing our schools and our workplaces today and that is the reason we came together tonight for this program,” she told the Journal before the event. “We’ve been a strong supporter of strict legislation and gun control initiatives and we believe the current laws do not go far enough nor are enforced rigorously enough to prevent gun violence.”