Friday, May 27, 2022

Common Use v. Common Sense

Common Use v. Common Sense: 

the turning point in the Gun Debate in America today.

Robert L Tobin

We have a long history with guns and killing in America.  Accepting where it came from has to be part of being determined to make it stop.  And we must do everything we can to make it stop.

In the past two weeks we witnessed anti-black racist mass murder at a grocery store in Buffalo, NY, a political shooting in an Asian church in California, and the slaughter of 19 innocent children and two of their teachers in an elementary school in Texas.  There are more mass murders in this country than anyone but a computer data base can keep track of. And the worst weapons of choice are those designed for the task: assault rifles.  Prior to that, the rise of antiSemitism unleashed multiple attacks on synagogues, and prejudice and racism drove other attacks against homosexuals, latinos and more.  The favored tool of hate is not the pen. It is the AR-15.

Our nation was born with a struggle between an oppressive monarchy that hired mercenaries to police our colonies with military force.  The indignity and inhumanity of that inspired colonial leaders to rise up in arms to force our independence through the pain of war.  The evil of systemic enslavement of black people, upon which the economic development of much of the new country depended, was ultimately overthrown through bloody civil war and 2% of the population lay dead through force of arms.  The conquest of the West came through the armed colonization of native territories, and the concurrent armed population defending itself in scattered towns and homesteads before law and order could be established in due time.  And in the twentieth century three generations of Americans were drafted to war, and thought to fight to protect our nation's freedom, interests and allies abroad.  Weapons have been synonymous with freedom and liberty in this land for 400 years.

When hate is unable to change society in any peaceful way it will not give up and accept the status quo.  The inevitable end to its path is killing.  

There will continue to be those who will seek the most destructive force that can acquire in order to achieve that goal.  Why pick up a pea-shooter when you can have a military style assault rifle?

I believe in the right to bear arms.  I believe that the Supreme Court has been correct in its interpretation of that right in recent years.  But we are about to face a tipping point, and it is based on two competing concepts: Common Sense Gun Laws and Common Use standards for legal possession.  Let's look at them:

Common Use:

In Washington DC v Heller (See Cornell's, the right to posses weapons for self defense was asserted, and the pistol specifically was upheld, in part by a principal called "common use."  Basically, if a type of weapon is currently in common use for legal purposes, then the court ruled that the weapon can not be banned by the government.  You can not own an artillery cannon.  You can own a rifle or a pistol.

In the coming weeks, the court is nearly certain to strike down New Jersey's may issue statute which effectively makes it impossible for ordinary citizens to carry a gun (open or concealed) anywhere but on their own private property.  Weapons in public will become legal overnight.  This will happen.  But I do not worry about this because in the 25 states that already allow it there is no increased pattern of violence.  

The real threat is not about people having guns in public, but by the accessibility of assault rifles.  It is about what gun the malevolent shooter can get their hands on.  When assault rifles were banned, mass shooter attacks decreased.  When the ban expired, mass shooter attacks increased.  To ban such a weapon, the argument needs to be made that they do not reflect a reasonable standard of common use.

What the court will need to determine at some point is whether or not an AR-15 is a weapon in common use for a lawful purpose.  With over 16 million such "modern sporting rifles" in legal possession by Americans by 2018 (see The Washington Post here), it seems like an easy argument that the common use standard will be met and the weapons will continue to be legally sold nationwide.

By this point I am trying not to seeth.  How can that be?  Yet the discussion about how to end gun violence has to begin with a dispassionate understanding of what the status of guns in America is.  We may not like the facts, but they are facts.  Assault rifles may be here to stay.

Common Sense:

So what can be done about gun violence?  I do believe that there are many effective laws that can be passed to limit access to guns and to strengthen our common defense against their illegal use, without losing the essential value that a person has a right to have and use a gun to defend themselves in both private and public settings.

Learn about and support the Common Sense Gun Law movement.  Here is Congressman Joe Morrelle's page on the topic.  It is excellent.  Encourage your lawmakers to support every one of these measures from background checks, to magazine and ammunition limits and bans against military weapons for civilian use.  

Common sense means simply that you don't need to be able to out-gun the police to be able to provide for your own personal self defense.  Common sense does not disarm the citizenry, nor does it empower the random person with the highest power attack weapons known to society.  Common sense means that people with red flags must be known to every data base, and prohibited from buying any weapons in any jurisdiction.  So that means real universal background checks for everyone's protection.  Common sense means that you must secure your firearm from use by minors or those prohibited from owning one themselves.  Honestly, only the most unreasonable extremist would hold that anybody of any history can own any gun in any place at any time.

Act Now

People are dying.  Children are slaughtered.  The time is now to act.  But act reasonably with a realistic and pragmatic hope for real change.  The "pro" and "anti" gun lobbies will, by definition, not get their way.  Given where we are as a culture and a nation, we must use our Common Sense to define and defend the right to Common Use.

An ordained Rabbi, Robert Tobin holds degrees in International Relations and Criminal Justice.

Monday, May 16, 2022

The Hate Continues: "Replacement" and the Anti-History Killers

I have written often over the past 5 years of the growth of the online community of White Supremacists who hate all Jews, all Muslims and anyone who is not "white" who dares to live in this country.  .

Today we focus on the racist murder of 10 black Americans in Buffalo for no reason but white supremacist hatred of black people. It is human evil and deserves absolute rejection by every person  of any background.


Race itself is largely a social construct, without serious biological credence.  But there are cultures of racial identity and historical legacies of race that matter. Racial superiority is a myth held by groups of people who seek power and privilege without merit or personal achievement. They assert that they are  born to rule. The idea that "white" people have a predestined right to remain racially pure and in charge of this country is arrogant, ignorant and dangerous.  It must be left in the dustbin of history.

The hatred of Blacks, immigrants and non-Christians described by these racists in terms of the "14 words" is summarized by "replacement theory."  The idea is that the sweep of history towards a multiracial and multicultural world, which is the natural outcome of freedom, civil liberty and democracy, is instead a nefarious plot by scheming elites (often "Jews" in their fantasy) to destroy white identity and culture.  Historically they hate and degrade black people in this country with intensity.

The Replacement Theory "lone wolf" attacker slowly develops their extremist ideology over time. They believe that igniting a race war that will overturn the political rule of democracy in favor of a return to an earlier day in US History when blacks and other minorities were refused basic civil liberties and the vote.  They are willing and able to kill and die in service of this hatred and prejudice.  And there are more of them developing every day.

When they act against their targets, they are guilty of hate crimes.  While hatred is a protected free speech right, acting on that hatred through violence, harassment or intimidation is illegal in most states, including New Jersey.

When they believe they can change the government through those acts, they are domestic terrorists.  The use of violence, threat of violence, or intimidation to cause fear against civilians with the purpose of illegal governmental change, is terrorism.  

With the growth of online silos and echo chambers of hate, the manifestos of racist murderers now form a self-reflective genre of lies to affirm the worst fantasies of the weak minded.  This week we saw it in an 18 year old from rural Conklin, New York (near Binghamton) who spent several years in high school fantasizing about mass murder and violence, only to follow through with the massacre of 10 innocent civilians in a racist rampage at a supermarket in Buffalo NY.  Next week may be another.

All good people of conscience must speak out and leave no silence to empower those who would  kill for their prejudicial ambition.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Judaism Believes in Abortion Rights

 Judaism is strongly in support of the woman's right to choose the course of, or termination of, her pregnancy for a variety of compelling reasons.  It is absolutely clear.

Here is a statement from the Rabbinical Assembly of America.

Here is a resource page for more in-depth study and nuance.

Here is a link to the National Council of Jewish Women's rally in Washington, D.C.

The SCOTUS decision will stand.  To overturn it will take a Constitutional Ammendment.  That is unlikely.

Our moral and ethical duty needs to support and protect those women anywhere who need counseling and medical care in this circumstance to be able to acquire it in those states that will still protect these basic rights.