Sandy Springs Rabbi Opposes Sweeping Gun Bill

Rabbi Elana Erdstein Perry of the Temple Sinai says the legislation is an example of an "inappropriate exaggeration" of rights that can cause fear.

Credit: morgueFile
Credit: morgueFile
One religious institution has already declared your firearms are not welcome at its house of worship.

Sandy Springs' Temple Sinai last week passed a resolution declaring its space to be a "weapons-free zone" in response to Gov. Nathan Deal's stamp of approval of the Georgia Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014.

The bill, which goes into effect on July 1, allows licensed gun owners to bring their firearms into bars and some government buildings that don't have security measures.

It also allows school districts to designate which staff members will be allowed to carry guns and gives religious institutions the leeway to determine if they want to allow firearms in their places of worship.

Temple Sinai Rabbi Elana Perry is also voicing her concerns over the consequences of the what critics have dubbed the guns everywhere bill. 

The following is Perry's opinion on the legislation:

I may live in a so-called Bible Belt state, but lately the state government of Georgia has been neglecting some critical Biblical values.

The Prophet Isaiah implores that all shall “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks,” but Georgia Governor Nathan Deal just signed into law new sweeping legislation that allows weapons to be more pervasive than ever. 
One of the most extreme and permissive state gun laws in the nation, the Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014, commonly referred to as the guns everywhere bill, will allow licensed owners to carry firearms into public places, including bars and some government buildings. School districts can also appoint staff members to carry firearms on school grounds. These provisions are all alarming, but as a rabbi, I am particularly concerned with the fact that the bill also allows weapons in houses of 
Technically, houses of worship can opt-in if they want to allow weapons, but this kind of nuance can be easily lost on the general public. As a result, congregations that do not want weapons on the premises will have to be vigilant to communicate that message, posting signs and informing local law enforcement that it is an institution where guns are not welcome.

In anticipation of this bill, our congregation’s Board of Trustees recently passed a resolution to adopt such a policy, declaring our synagogue to be a weapon-free zone, with the exception of active military and trained security staff on site.

We take security very seriously, which is precisely why we have guards and security protocols in place, and why we do not want more weapons on the premises. The entire board lamented the necessity to consider such a policy. 
When people come to a house of worship, they come to focus on the mind and the spirit; they come to nurture their souls. Worrying about firearms in the pews compromises those sacred goals. A synagogue, church, mosque or temple is supposed to be a safe haven; a place of refuge, comfort, inspiration and hope.

We do not want it to become, like so many other places in our society, a place of fear. 
Advocates for the second amendment say it's a right for someone to carry a weapon. This may be true, but it does not necessarily make us any safer, nor does it make us feel free. A right does not always equal freedom – and in this case, the inappropriate exaggeration of a particular right has the power to erect walls of fear which only confine us. 
As we prepare for the guns everywhere bill to take effect in the coming months, I pray that lawmakers and citizens alike will utilize patience, and that all will remember the precious nature of our most sacred spaces.

May the words of the Holy One in Leviticus 26:6 ring true: “I will give you peace in the land. You will lie down and no one will make you afraid.” 
Rabbi Elana Erdstein Perry is a rabbi at Temple Sinai in Sandy Springs.


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