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Everytown, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action Statement on Five Year Mark of the Mass Shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh

October 26, 2023

NEW YORK — Everytown for Gun Safety and its grassroots networks, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, released the following statements today ahead of Friday’s five-year mark of the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, in which 11 congregants were shot and killed and six others were wounded. The mass shooting is remembered as the deadliest antisemitic attack in United States history. Today’s remembrance is further compounded by continued tragedy after the mass shootings in Lewiston, Maine last night where 18 people were shot and killed and over a dozen were injured.

“Five years ago, antisemitism armed with a gun shattered the peace at the synagogue and sought to break a community that remains strongly united against all forms of hate,” said Rachel Usdan resident of Squirrel Hill and a volunteer with the Pennsylvania chapter of Moms Demand Action. “We cannot forget that the easy access to guns mixed with bigotry is what led the Jewish community to become a target for a senseless act of violence. The eleven victims we remember today leave behind a powerful legacy of peace and unity that must inspire our movement’s commitment to combating antisemitism, disarming hate, and ending gun violence.”  

“When gun violence is combined with hate, it leaves scars not only on the people directly impacted, but on communities all over the country,” said Angela Ferrell-Zabala, executive director of Moms Demand Action. “Today, I’m thinking of the families who are still grappling with the horrific violence that took place in Pittsburgh five years ago – and I’m also thinking of Jewish communities across America who continue to live in fear of being targeted for their faith, especially amid the recent rise in antisemitism. It is unacceptable that anyone should live in fear of being targeted for their religion. It’s the responsibility of lawmakers to create policies that actually disarm hate, instead of contributing to a culture where tragedies like the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting can occur.” 

“The City of Pittsburgh was changed forever five years ago when eleven lives where lost and six others damaged by gun violence. As we remember those taken on that fateful day, let us continue to fight to combat gun violence in any way we can.” said Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey. “We must hold gun companies responsible for the destruction in our communities, and that will only happen if we’re able to repeal the 2005 law that prevents cities from holding gun companies responsible.” 

“After the Tree of Life massacre, colleagues from across the nation reached out to check on me. They were stunned and in shock. They expected me to be, too,” says Meredith Jacobs, CEO of Jewish Women International, whose organization convenes the Jewish Gun Violence Prevention Roundtable. “But while grieving, I was not surprised. Antisemitic statements by people in positions of power and influence too often go unacknowledged and uncondemned, and bigotry towards and conspiracy theories about Jews are rampant. Provide a firearm to a person whose heart is full of hate, and this was the inevitable outcome. In a time when antisemitism is increasing, we are living in fear of additional acts of hate-motivated gun violence. As a country, we must join together to stand against hate and bigotry, and we must end easy access to firearms for those intent on violence.”

Since the Tree of Life shooting, antisemitism has only continued to rise in the United States. A report by Tel Aviv University’s Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry and the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League found a rise in antisemitism in 2022 in the United States compared to previous years. Noting a new high for antisemitic incidents, they found that the coronavirus pandemic fueled a worldwide rise in antisemitism. 

Over 25,000 hate crimes in the US involve a firearm in an average year — an estimated 69 a day. Under federal law, many violent hate crime misdemeanors do not prohibit a person from buying a gun, but some states have enacted laws to make sure that people with hate crime convictions can’t get guns. More information on the intersection between hate crimes and firearms is available here.

In an average year in Pennsylvania, 1,713 people die by guns. With a rate of 13.1 deaths per 100,000 people, Pennsylvania has the 33rd-highest rate of gun deaths in the US. Gun violence costs Pennsylvania $21.7 billion each year, of which $470.7 million is paid by taxpayers. More information about gun violence in Pennsylvania is available here.

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