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Jews Stick to Their Guns

Brocha Miller

While American Jews have historically been at the forefront of gun control legislation and the banning of firearms, the guy sitting next to you in shul might own a gun and even go to target practice every week. They might not advertise it, but many Orthodox Jews are proud of their weapons and believe those guns help keep their families safe.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

gun“Jews don’t like to talk about their guns, because it isn’t politically correct,” Richard Feldman, the National Rifle Association’s first Jewish lobbyist, recently commented. “People know it’s an issue better avoided.”

American Jews have historically supported gun control, and some of the country’s most powerful Jews have been at the forefront of recent gun control legislation and banning private firearms. New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Senator Charles Schumer are among the country’s biggest antigun activists, and Jewish lawmakers in the Senate and the House were among the first to introduce new gun control legislation following the December 14 Sandy Hook elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, that took the lives of 20 students and six educators. So you might be surprised to discover that your frum neighbor owns a gun and even goes to weekly target practice.

For many, the idea of private citizens carrying guns conjures up the image of the Old West, a cowboy with dusty spurs on his boots and a six-shooter riding low on his hip, preparing for a showdown with the outlaws. Or perhaps a ragged band of Colonial militiamen, clutching their muskets against the onslaught of British redcoats.

But according to the NRA, an estimated 40 percent of US households have guns, with about 45 million privately owned firearms. And no, not all of those are in the Wild West. Some of those gun owners have a Glock tucked into the holster under their tallis, while others keep their rifles locked in the safe behind their seforim shelves.

Everyone wants to achieve a society that is safe and nonviolent, but the gun control debate has highlighted the disparity in opinions of how to achieve that goal. Favi, an insurance agent from Monsey, is a vocal supporter of gun ownership. He believes that when law-abiding people own guns it enhances not only their own personal security but the security of society at large. He finds support for his view in halachah. “The halachah is clear that if someone is coming to kill you, you are obligated to defend yourself, and use lethal force if necessary. It stands to reason that you are required to have the tools with which to do that in order to fulfill the obligation.”

Favi was picking up his daughter from the mall late one afternoon at dusk and was parked at the far end of a virtually empty parking lot. When he saw some suspicious characters lurking near his car, he was glad that he had his weapon with him. “I’m a middle-aged guy who’s five feet, five inches and couldn’t punch his way out of a paper bag,” Favi relates. “Plus my daughter was with me, so I couldn’t even run. What chance would I have against two hulking thugs? Knowing I had the ability to defend myself and my child when I walked past made me feel safer. I can’t tell you how relieved I was when finally, under threat of their hostile stares, we got into the car and left without incident. But it drove home the point to me how much I would rather have a gun and not need it than need it and not have it.”


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