New jersey rabbi leads push for gun safety

New jersey rabbi leads push for gun safety

Until his father, Lester Mosbacher, was murdered during a holdup in 1999, Rabbi Joel Mosbacher cared about the issue of gun control “only in a theoretical way.”

Now, some 15 years later, he splits his time evenly between his Reform pulpit at Congregation Beth Haverim Shir Shalom in Mahwah and as a community organizer working to ensure that the guns used by law enforcement and military agencies do not fall into the hands of criminals.

Mosbacher and his colleagues at the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation citizens’ organizing network ask police and municipalities to deal only with manufacturers and dealers who sell guns responsibly, cooperate with law enforcement, and promote “smart guns” that can be fired only by their owners. 

The campaign is intended to bypass the highly reluctant members of Congress and state legislatures and use what he calls “a market-based approach that involves marshalling the massive purchasing power of the police and military, who collectively buy 40 percent of the guns in this country.” 

“We are saying to local, county, and state officials, ‘You also have power,’” said Mosbacher.

He will deliver his message on Friday, Dec. 5, at Temple Emanu-El in Edison.

“If some of the biggest purchasers of weapons ask collectively for better customer service, the gun manufacturers will have to listen,” Mosbacher told NJJN in a Nov. 4 phone interview.

Several other NJ rabbis are also taking an active part in the campaign, including Elliott Tepperman of Bnai Keshet in Montclair, Faith Joy Dantowitz of Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston, Steven Kushner of Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield, Joel Abraham of Temple Sholom in Scotch Plains, and Jordan Millstein of Temple Sinai of Bergen County.

For more than a year, Mosbacher and his allies have been recruiting mayors, police chiefs, sheriffs, county executives, and governors to use their purchasing power to buy safe guns.

To date, 56 jurisdictions across the country, ranging from Mosbacher’s hometown of Mahwah to such cities as Pittsburgh and Sacramento and states like Illinois and Connecticut have agreed to consider purchasing safe guns. 

The list in New Jersey includes Essex County and a dozen municipalities, including Montclair, West Orange, Allendale, Bloomfield, Fanwood, Jersey City, Livingston, Oakland, River Vale, South Orange, and Woodcliff Lake.

But, Mosbacher said, “a more impactful part” relates to gun distribution. 

“There are 10,000 gun stores in the United States, but police tell us that the guns that turn up at crime scenes can be traced to 1 percent of those stores,” said Mosbacher. “What we are asking the gun companies is, since they decide whom they are going to sell their products to, why do they want to be associated with those stores, the worst gun stores in America?” 

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