The deadly attack at two Jewish institutions in Kansas City on the eve of Passover provides a grim reminder that anti-Semitism still exists in this country.
It is also a stark reminder that the efforts to pass new gun control legislation, which gained — and then lost — momentum following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn., in 2012, must be revived once again.
We are, thankfully, long past the days when Jews in medieval Europe and beyond were targeted by the specious blood libel that accused Jews of baking matzah with the blood of children.
Still as the annual Anti-Defamation League audit of hate crimes found earlier this month, violent assaults against Jews increased in 2013, with 31 such incidents reported nationally, up from 17 in 2012. This figure contrasted with an overall decline of anti-Semitic incidents across the country, though Pennsylvania disturbingly bucked the national trend with an increase in overall incidents, including vandalism and harassment.
Commenting at the time of the report on the one local assault and other violent incidents across the country, Nancy Baron-Baer, ADL’s interim regional director, said they serve as “a sobering reminder that, despite the overall decline in anti-Semitic incidents, there is still a subset of Americans who are deeply infected with anti-Semitism and who feel emboldened enough to act out their bigotry.”
Clearly, Frazier Glenn Miller, the Missouri man in custody as a suspect in the shootings on Sunday, is one of those individuals. The White supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan leader served time on weapons charges and for plotting the assassination of Morris Dees, the founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a hate group monitor. Miller’s hate, though clearly intended for Jews, this time killed three Christians.
While it’s impossible to prevent what was presumably a “lone wolf” incident, what we have to question is this: How did a man already indicted once on weapons charges regain possession of deadly weapons? Not only have national efforts to tighten gun control laws stalled, the opposite is happening on the state level. Ironically Kansas legislators recently approved a bill that would nullify city and county gun restrictions and ensure the legality to openly carry firearms.
Yes, we Jews are safer — and more accepted — in this society than ever before. We can step up security all we want, but none of us is truly safe when gun laws and loopholes enable an evil man like Miller to raise a gun to innocents. Our prayers are with the victims’ families and the Jewish community of Kansas City, whose celebration of Passover is dampened by this tragedy.