Eleven people were killed and several others injured after a gunman opened fire at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood. It was reported that the man entered the synagogue on Saturday morning with an AR-15 rifle and three handguns, shouting “All Jews must die.” Three services were being held simultaneously at the time.
The gunman ultimately surrendered, but not until an exchange of gun fire with police, in which two officers and two SWAT team members were injured. The gunman was shot several times and transported to the hospital in fair condition. He has been charged with 29 federal counts. The FBI is investigating the shooting as a federal hate crime.
According to reports, the shooter had posted numerous messages of racial hatred on social media. He was reportedly a frequent poster on the social network site, Gab, using it to post a series of anti-Semitic messages. One post read, “There is not #MAGA (Make America Great Again) as long as there is a [anti-Jewish slur] infestation.” Allegedly, right before the attack, he posted that HIAS, a Jewish organization that helps refugees, “likes to bring invaders in that kill our people,” and "I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I'm going in.
Once again, guns are putting citizens in harm’s way. How did President Trump react? While he called the shooting “a wicked act of mass murder,” Trump also said that the outcome might have been different if the synagogue “had some kind of a protection.” He continued to avoid any responsibility by taking to Twitter and pointing the finger at the media. “Actually, it is their Fake & Dishonest reporting which is causing problems far greater than they understand,” he tweeted. After pipe bombs were sent to several Trump critics and CNN’s newsroom, the president was quoted as saying that the “media also has a responsibly to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility and constant negative and oftentimes false attacks and stories.”
On November 8, 2013, a prominent American businessman tweeted: “Leadership: Whatever happens, you're responsible. If it doesn't happen, you're responsible.” Yet, today, that same man, now the President of the United States, doesn’t take responsibility – for anything! Instead, he often uses divisive and aggressive rhetoric favored by white supremacists. He says the solution to gun violence is to arm teachers and religious leaders.
While Trump and his White House claim he doesn’t support violence, he has failed to adequately condemn hate, such as when he blamed “both sides” for the violence at the Charlottesville rally. He has repeatedly called for and encouraged the use of violence as a political tool. His campaign rallies have been associated with a significant increase in violence in the towns and cities where they were held, and he even thanked his supporters for being “vicious” and “violent” in the lead-up to the 2016 election. He has failed to adequately condemn hate, such as when he blamed “both sides” for the violence at a Charlottesville white supremacist rally. Such actions were recently reported when President Trump told Christian voters that they are “one election away from losing everything.” He reportedly warned the group of “violence” if the Republicans lose the majority in Congress.
How much more can America endure? Guns don’t solve problems; violence of any kind does not solve problems – plain and simple. Even if they did, is that the kind of world we want to live in – one in which anyone is able to unleash lethal power at a moment’s notice?
Stricter gun laws may not have prevented all of the recent tragedies, but it is highly probable that stricter gun measures could have prevented some and/or minimized the number of casualties. We have been saying #NeverAgain far too long. It is time to do something. We need to address issues like gun control; we need to take action to prevent these tragedies from happening again. Even more so, we, as citizens must rise above hateful politics and rhetoric; we must join forces to abolish the blindness, bigotry, and injustice that exists. I hope you will keep this in mind when you go to the polls on November 6.