Here is the scenario: you discover a loved one who has struggled with mental illness recently purchased a gun. What do you do to prevent him from harming himself or others? As of now in Washington, there is no measure that can be taken to legally remove the gun from that person. But a bill working its way through the state legislature will create that measure.
When the voters of Washington passed the universal background check initiative last election day, we as a citizenry took an important step to reducing the amount of gun violence. But there is more work to do. Yesterday I was honored to represent Jewish and other faith communities in support of HB 1857, the Extreme Risk Protection Act, which would create a means to protect those who are at risk from potential gun violence.
Here is my testimony in front of the House Judiciary Committee yesterday:
Chair and members of the Committee, my name is Rabbi Seth Goldstein, I am a rabbi serving the Olympia Jewish community and I am here as a member of the clergy and representing the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, and umbrella Jewish organization.
I am here as a representative of Jewish and faith communities from across the state to appeal to you to support HB 1857 as a measure to take the ethical and just path of maintaining a safe and secure environment for families and the public.
Our American society has been founded on rights and due process. At the same time the rights of one must be balanced against the rights of others, and the rights of an individual must be balanced against the responsibilities to public welfare. All of the great faith traditions of our day teach the responsibility we must have for each other’s welfare. We demonstrate this in our daily interpersonal interactions, but sometimes we must also guarantee this through legislation and government oversight.
When there are those at risk of becoming the victim of violence, either because of mental illness, or substance abuse, or an altered emotional state, we have the moral obligation to do what we can as a society to mitigate that violence and stop those who may do harm to themselves or others.
There is a passage in Scripture, in Exodus, that says, if you have an ox that is prone to goring other oxen—in other words, it is dangerous—and you know about the danger, and you do nothing about it, then you are both legally and morally liable for the damage it causes.
This bill gives families and our honored law enforcement the tools needed to tame that ox. It helps families and communities prevent a crisis from turning into a tragedy, and helps build a stronger and safer and more just society. For that, I believe, it deserves your support.