Gun violence is a national epidemic with no clear solution, but more controls need to be put in place, Rep. Kathleen Rice said at a Sunday event in Rockville Centre.
Rice addressed a crowd of congregants at the Central Synagogue of Nassau County, discussing her thoughts on gun violence in America and the efforts she’s taking to combat it.
“We cannot stand idly by and let the killing continue without trying to prevent it,” said Rice, a Democrat and first-term congresswoman from Garden City (and former Nassau County DA). “We are not free to stop trying. We are not free to give up.”
Rice spoke of her support for universal background checks, an initiative that she’s worked on as vice chairwoman of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. In March 2015, she co-sponsored a bill requiring background checks for all gun sales, aiming to close loopholes on purchasing guns at shows and on illegal websites.
Rice said the bill, which was referred to a House subcommittee, would not violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms, but enforce current law and prevent guns from getting into the hands of dangerous individuals.
“If requiring background checks for all gun sales in America could save even one life, if it could prevent even one gun from being sold to a person who isn’t legally allowed to have it and may use it to commit violence, then it is the right thing to do,” Rice said.
The number of civilian firearms in the United States rose 28 percent, from 242 million to 310 million, from 1996 to 2009, according to a 2012 Congressional Research Service report. With roughly 322 million American citizens, as of the latest census estimate, this amounts to nearly one gun per person.
Rice argued that political lines aside, there was no questioning that the country has a serious gun crisis, and that citizens of all political affiliations needed to band together to find a “common sense legislative solution.” She also spoke of her other efforts in Congress, such as working to ban assault weapons and forming a bipartisan committee to research the causes and effects of gun violence.
Rice’s speech led to a rousing discussion in which moderator Rabbi Elliot Skiddell, of Beth Emeth Congregation in Rockville Centre, referred to verses in Jewish texts related to violence. He quoted Leviticus 19:16 in Hebrew scriptures, which reads in part: “Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.”
Congregants also chimed in on how best to tackle gun violence in the community. One remarked that the U.S. Constitution was written in 1787, and questioned the applicability of the Second Amendment to society today.
Henry Boitel, of Rockville Centre, noted that there were significant parts of the country where Rice’s speech would fall on deaf ears.
“Trying to do this at the congressional level within the foreseeable future is pie in the sky,” Boitel said. “What could we do? Put pressure on New York legislators.”