The Jewish Observer
News from Middle Tennessee's Jewish Community | Thursday, May 30, 2024
The Jewish Observer

Graber Letter to the Editor, May 2024

The need to save life is a fundamental human concern. In almost every country, 

including enemy nations, protecting the lives of its citizens is a major goal. It 

dates back at least to the Hebrew Bible: “I have set before you life and death, 

blessing and curse. Choose life if you and your offspring would live…” 

(Deuteronomy 30:19) 


According to the Centers for Disease Control, death by gun violence is now the leading cause of death for children and adolescents in the USA. 

Explaining a potential mass shooting at a school, one elementary school teacher identified the best places for her students to hide, then instructed: “…But if a shooter gets into our classroom I will be waiting to hit him with a chair. I will do all I can to protect you. If I am shot, you must do what you can to survive.” 

Is this how the richest country in the world protects its children? The answer is YES. The striking recent increase in the rate of firearm-related childhood mortality shows that this country has failed miserably to protect our youth from a preventable cause of death. In protection of its children, the United States of America is a failed state. 

Many gun owners cite personal freedom in ownership of guns. But unlimited personal freedom is anarchy. Safety laws can be enacted and enforced in a democracy if a government has the courage and wisdom to produce them. Two years ago, I was considered a dangerous driver because of my decreased vision. If I continued to drive, I could harm or kill someone, perhaps a child. An independent driving evaluator considered me as an accident waiting to happen. 

After surrendering my driver’s license, I felt a huge loss of my personal freedom. But my family and I agreed that this Tennessee law was justified because it protected innocent citizens from potential danger. 

If I had owned an assault rifle and had to give it up because of such a law, I might 

have felt a loss of freedom. But the government would have fulfilled its duty to protect and save the lives of innocent people. 

I believe that fatal gun violence can be reduced by government in a similar manner. We need common sense gun safety laws, and civilian ownership of assault weapons should be illegal. Gun-owners may resent their lack of unlimited personal freedom, but they will get over it as I did. 

After each mass shooting, public response to gun violence flares for a while, but is the public response actionable or just lamenting? The republic’s biggest power is voting. Which, if any, lawmakers have been voted out because of their stance on gun violence? 

The excuses for gun violence are controversial. Some insist that mass shooting 

—in schools, in shopping malls, in houses of worship, wherever—is due to 

emotional disturbance, not guns. Others argue that ease of gun ownership, 

especially of military weapons, is responsible. This debate is unwinnable and 

nonsense. Both guns AND people are involved. An emotionally disturbed 

individual can’t shoot anyone without a gun, and a gun can’t kill without someone 

pulling the trigger. Holistically, we must attend to both. 

Some school safety measures have been harmful to students. Arming teachers 

puts the whole school at greater risk and complicates the response of law enforcement in already complex, fast-moving situations. 

Despite extensive knowledge and success in control of gun violence in other states and countries, an atmosphere of futility and surrender has become pervasive in Tennessee and much of this country. 

The senseless killing of children cannot be blamed only on politicians. It is the failure of all of us. Politicians reflect the interests of their constituents, and the politicians do what their voters demand. We must enlist our politicians in an open, honest, and unambiguous manner, by direct personal contact, that our votes, and our contributions to their campaigns, will depend on their actual support and votes for reducing gun violence. A large proportion of the voting public support thoughtful and practical measures to reduce gun violence. All citizens, both gun-owners and non-owners, share the responsibility for the safety and health of our citizens and children. 

If legislation fails, gun violence will continue to worsen. But we can stop this senseless slaughter of our children. We must insist that our government not tolerate it. Choose life. 



Dr. Alan Graber is a retired endocrinologist who practiced in Nashville for 

forty years. From 1997 to 2008 he served as clinical director of the diabetes and 

endocrine clinics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. 


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