Here is a picture of the president of the United States of America shedding a tear when speaking about the murder of 26 tiny school children by a madman.
He is shedding a tear because he is sorry.
He is sorry because he can’t do a thing about it. Nor can he do a thing about the next mad shooting of innocents, nor about the one after that.
Every human endeavor has a cost, and the president knows he cannot afford the cost of what it would take to guarantee, to a reasonable degree, that there won’t be any more mad killings of innocents.
The Torah commands us to “Eradicate the evil from your midst” (Deut. 13:6). The verse (U’vi’arta ha’ra mi’kirbecha) can also be translated as “Burn the evil from your midst.” It certainly does not imply that this would be cheap or easy.
A good friend of mine, who happens to be a Belzer chossid, once told me that the government could absolutely stop lethal car accidents, if it was willing to pay the price. If they brought the speed limit down to 30 MPH, he said, no one would ever be killed on the road.
The problem is that society would have to slow down quite a bit, and long distance trips would take days instead of hours.
But no one would be killed.
And so, by setting the speed limits on our highways at a whole lot more than 30 MPH, we are actually figuring out the reasonable number of dead people we will tolerate in order to go places faster.
It is absolutely that way with guns in America.
There is a level of government imposition on civil freedoms which would guarantee to a reasonable degree that no one would ever again be killed by a domestic madman. It would involve shutting down Colt and Smith & Wesson and all the other weapons makers other than those producing strictly for the government, and every last trade show, and every Internet vending site. It would involve absolutely blocking the shipping of guns and assault rifles and the rest of the chazerai from foreign countries. It would involve reversing the bizarre Supreme Court decision on the Second Amendment. It would involve rounding up criminals and taking away their guns, city by city, neighborhood by neighborhood, block by block.
It would cost a huge amount of money.
There are other options, a bit less draconian. Government could install an elaborate, federal-level system of vetting and licensing gun owners, limit the number of guns purchased, limit the selling of guns with vendor licenses much the way government controls the sale of alcohol. And also go on a massive hunt, state by state, for unlicensed, illegal guns.
By not doing any of the above with the zeal and dedication with which we chase after other enemies of decent human lives—which we will not, judging by past experience—we are also making the statement that there is a certain level of innocent blood which we are prepared to accept.
My political views hover somewhere in the Libertarian area when it comes to “victimless crime.” I realize there’s no such thing as victimless crime, but I’m prepared to accept illicit dealings between members of society, as long as those dealings don’t deny others their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
I don’t believe murder of innocents falls under victimless crime. I don’t believe you do either. Which means that by voting in, across our country, lawmakers who fear the NRA to the point of paralysis on this raging problem—including our president, who has been as cowardly on this issue as he is on many others—we are stating that there’s a level of innocent blood loss which we are willing to absorb.
The Torah commands us to “Burn the evil from your midst.” Not “Reduce evil to a reasonable degree,” or “Decide which amount of evil is cost effective to burn and accept living with the rest.”
The Torah certainly does not teach us to compromise with evil.