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By Hineni

An open letter to the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Union for Reform Judaism:

I grew up attending a Conservative schul, but as a member of the military on active duty, I have found a wonderful home at both Reform and Conservative synagogues through many different duty stations. I also became a gun owner partly as a response to an act of vandalism against my synagogue that featured pro-Nazi propaganda. As a practical matter, it reminded me that as wonderful a country as we have in America, we remain a religious minority. Gun ownership and further study of the basic human right to carry the weapon of your choice have had a positive impact on my life . . .

Thus, I was disappointed to see both the Conservative and Reform movement recently come out strongly in favor of gun control. It seems paradoxical at first blush, but laws restricting gun ownership go against two critical Jewish principles: Pikuach Nefesh, the idea that to save a human life is a critical responsibility, and Tikkun Olam, our obligation to build a better world.

Although it might not be one’s first assumption, restricting gun ownership will not save lives. We must consider both sides of the coin, the improper use of firearms to commit crimes as well as the lawful (both in secular and Jewish terms) uses that defend life. According to the US Department of Justice Special Report on Firearms Violence from 1993 to 2011, there were 11,101 firearm homicides in 2011. (This was a drop of 39% from a high of 18,253 in 1993). It is not an insignificant number.

Yet, these homicides are dwarfed by even the most conservative estimates for annual defensive gun uses (DGUs) in the United States. Clinton’s Justice Department conducted a phone survey in 1994 that put the number at 1.5 million per year. But, to support the Jewish ideal of the sanctity of human life, we should really want to know how many of these DGUs actually saved a life instead of merely defended property.

Criminologists Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz published a paper that helps answer this question: “Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense with a Gun.” They asked those respondents who had a DGU how likely it was that they themselves or another innocent person would have been killed if they had not used a gun for protection. The most conservative answer from this survey was 161,650 incidents per year.

This is an order of magnitude more lives saved by the gun per year than murdered by the gun.

Still, these numbers should not be a Jew’s main concern with gun control. The real issue is that it obsesses over controlling simple mechanical objects with no will of their own – the “how” of the crime. When we focus on the mechanical, we ignore the “why” of the crime. This inevitably leads to much more difficult questions than “how many bullets do you really need?” or even the inevitable post mass-shooting, “how do we keep mentally defective people from obtaining guns?”

Instead, we should ask what is the state of our mental healthcare system? What will it take to improve it? How do we balance the rights of an individual to be free with the needs of a patient who refuses to seek help? What do we need to do culturally to reduce the stigma of seeking medical help for mental health issues?

The bulk of firearms homicides are not mass shootings. The Department of Justice’s Special Report on Firearms Violence shows that African-American males age 18-24 suffer three times the homicide rate of the rest of the population. It is incumbent upon us to ask why this is so. I certainly don’t have a complete answer, but I suspect that in seeking one, we will find ourselves working to break the cycle of poverty, combating institutional racism, and finding ways to reduce or eliminate the economic incentives of the drug trade.

In short, when we ask the harder questions, we re-focus ourselves on Tikkun Olam. And in a world of limited attention spans and more tightly limited budgets, every second and every dollar we waste on gun control is that much less available to repair the world.

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  1. Blaming part of the problem for black male homicides on poverty and so-claimed “institutional racism” is not going deeper to addressing the core issues. It’s repeating the Marxist mantra and avoiding the non-PC real issues. The primary problems are uneducated, unskilled, low IQ/low EQ single teenage girls and women spreading themselves wide-open and mass bursting forth babies outside of marriage on their own or with an unstable/unreliable teenage boy or man. The problem is also the lousy modern moral and value system of their community and single parent and many other adults who are around them.

    Children and teens usually need two parents to provide guidance, emotional stability and direction, and to provide for the financial support a family with minors needs. That goes against the feministt and progressivee mantra. Good.

    • What if we look at “institutional racism” as the liberals believing minorities should be cared for through social programs thereby keeping them a permanent underclass? The Democratic party was afterall the party of slavery, Jim Crow, etc. and as far as I’m concerned remains so today.

    • Aharon, sometimes I get the feeling that failed relationships with women have turned you bitter… that might just be my imagination.

      • William,

        It is obvious that you choose not to debate me with facts, reasoning, and history. Go visit the Internet’s Man-o-Sphere at these sites:
        Man Woman Myth dot com
        Angry Harry dot com
        A Voice for Men dot com

    • Words cannot describe how correct Aharon is.

      The root of the problem is the family.

      The one who hit the nail on the head the hardest was Adam Corolla when he ranted about the Huffington Post. Absolutely brilliant.

  2. I would hazard the guess that those Jews active in civilian disarmament efforts believe that Tikkun Olam is achieved/fulfilled by disarming people.

    • I’ve thought about it a lot, and I think it’s partly because they somehow view gun owners as similar to Nazis. No one can say it’s rational, but it just is what it is. Disarming America, to them, ensures a “safe” future.

      But they leave a vital part out of their brilliant equation: THE GOVERNMENT. They’ve become as obedient to their enslavers as anyone in the death camps. They blew it when they figured gun owners to be a greater danger to them than their own government. That’s an astonishingly stupid decision.

      • A large % of American “intelligentsia” in the education industry, media/entertainment industry are raving “progressives”. They are the government.

    • No, no, and no. I have said it before and I will say it again: Bloomberg, Feinsten, Schumer, etc., are the modern Jüdischer Ordnungsdienst. The Jüdischer Ordnungsdienst where the jewish police who were given authority in the ghettos. They were often more cruel than the Nazis and made a show about ratting out jews with contraband. Never underestimate the lengths some people will go to have a taste of authority. Bloomberg and his ilk happily shred the Bill of Rights to bolster their own power. Trust me, Bloomberg would be the first to hand over children hiding in an attic if it allowed him to spend one more day sitting on his throne.

    • The realization that “tikkun olam” was really a code word for “whatever left-wing values we feel like spreading” was the single biggest reason in college that I became libertarian and disassociated myself with the left-wing groups I had been part of. Gun control is not a Jewish value; being a responsible gun owner is.

  3. “Those who fail to learn from their history are doomed to repeat it.”

    This is a problem in most of America, not just the Jewish community. I blame our failed education system.

  4. Being a reform Jew, I see this as more of a political than religious position. Jew is America just dont have the same lifestyle that Jews in other countries experience…but American Jews will line up for the Democrats all day long…sad.

  5. If I were a Jew you couldn’t get the gun out of my hand with a crow-bar. ‘Never again’ indeed. How any Jew could trust the (mythical) inherent goodness of man is mind-boggling.

  6. I’m an Ultra-orthodox Jew. We have a very strong CCW presence in our neighborhood. My shul is practically bristling with new and not so new firearms owners. The view is shifting from “Jews don’t use guns” to “Every Jew a .22”.

    • Where do you live, guy? I’m in Silver Spring and frum/observant, and I agree that we are making EXCELLENT progress getting Jews around here to at least step away from the gun control kool-aid.

      • A small great-lakes yeshivish community. The frum here have arsenals in their basements. Never again to Rodney King riots never again to the Crown Heights pogrom.

        We have a different view of firearms. We are targets for terrorists. I don’t carry for fear of being mugged. I carry to protect my shul from an arab dingbat. Any wack-o trying to pull shtick in a shul in my ‘hood will find some stiff resistance.

    • Are either of you familiar with or supporters of “Jews for the Preservation of Firearms”? JPFO dot org


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