Q. What would Judaism have to say about the shooting rampage at the school in Newtown, Connecticut (14 December, 2012), that killed so many little children?
2. Wanton killing is the worst crime and sin that there is (Ex. 20:13); even unpremeditated killing is a grave wrong against God and man (Num. 35:11).
3. A person must not place him- or herself in a position of danger (Deut. 22:8) – but that does not mean that children must not go to school because sometimes there is violence on the school campus.
4. If one has a ferocious animal it must be restrained (Deut. 24:8, B.K. 79a) so that it cannot break out and cause harm – and in this case the killer and his gun are both in the category of wild animals, so that the perpetrator’s propensities cannot be ignored nor can weapons be made so easily available.
5. The law of “do not stand by when your fellow’s blood is shed” (Lev. 19:16) requires that society must not condone circumstances whereby evil people can plot and/or carry out a killing.
6. Though self-defence (including a pre-emptive move to prevent an attack) is part of the mitzvah of “you shall diligently guard your life” (Deut. 4:15), this is limited to genuine cases where there is a real, imminent threat.
7. When, as happened this week, a terrible tragedy occurs, society must make a real effort to sustain those who are in pain.