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Gun Control Vs. Gun Rights
Tue, 10/25/2011
Jewish Week Online Columnist
Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz
Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz

While I was recently giving a class at a Modern Orthodox synagogue in New York City on the topic of halachic approaches to weapons I asked this group of 25 people (most between 50-65 years old) how many of them owned guns. I expected 1 or 2 hands to emerge but was astonished to find that about 50-60% admitted to having a gun at home. Shortly after, I learned that there is an Orthodox organization now training Orthodox Jews to use guns and to bring them to synagogue as a form of “protection.” If the religious Jewish community in America has joined the consumers of guns then we must also enter into the national gun discourse.

Our Jewish perspective on the controversial issue of gun control and gun rights cannot be based only on the interpretation of the Second Amendment. Rather we must explore the sources to understand our responsibilities as Jewish Americans.

There is clearly a case to make for gun rights in Jewish law. To start, one is not culpable for killing a pursuer (rodef) who has intent to kill (Exodus 22:1). Some halakhic authorities go further and say that the homeowner is obligated to kill the pursuer (Rambam Hilkhot Rotzaiach V’Shmirat Ha’Nefesh, 10:11). The right to self defense is a Jewish priority.

However, this Rambam is not the only Jewish consideration on this issue. Halakhah also requires that we consider practical consequences to ensure that we protect the dignity of human life. We must consider the facts of our current society. Access to weapons makes it easier to fulfill crimes of passion, suicides, and tragic accidents in the home. In 2005, for example, over 30,000 people died as a result of a firearm in the United States; suicides accounted for 55 percent of this total, while accidental gun deaths accounted for 3 percent. Many deaths could be prevented if access to a gun wasn’t made so easy. 

Advocates for gun control are not suggesting that we abolish the rights of gun ownership. They are merely suggesting that more precautions be put in place such as safety mechanisms, no-gun zones, a ban on big-volume magazines that allow for so many bullets to be released at once, and the enforcement of stronger background checks.

I believe this is the responsible position that Jewish law supports. With certain protections, we can work to prevent events like the January 2011 shooting of Congresswoman Giffords, the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, and countless homicides, suicides, and accidents that occur in America each year.

We know that Jewish law requires that we make our home and our property safe (even for intruders): “If you build a new house, you shall make a fence for your roof, so that you will not place blood in your house if one falls from it” (Deuteronomy 22:8). Rambam extends this to other unsafe things that one owns, such as a swimming pool or a tall stairway (Hilkhot Rotzeiach 11:1-5). A gun certainly falls into this category.

While we must address the societal demand for weapons, Jewish law reminds us that the supply of weapons is also something we must deal with. You shall not curse the deaf, and you shall not place a stumbling block (i.e., something dangerous) before the blind; you shall fear your G-d – I am the Lord,” (Leviticus 19:14). The great Jewish code of law, the Shulchan Aruch, explains that we must actively seek out and destroy dangerous things in society: “And for every stumbling block that is a danger to someone’s life, there is a positive commandment to remove it and to destroy it from among us and to take good caution; as it says: ‘You shall guard your lives’ (Deuteronomy 4:9). And if you don’t remove the stumbling block that brings danger you have neglected a positive mitzvah,” (Choshen Mishpat 427:8). In the hands of people who are mentally unfit or untrained, guns are “stumbling blocks;” they become tools for violence against others and self-inflicted violence. Using these laws and explanations, I believe Jewish law requires us to ensure the safe supply of weapons.

Rabbi J. David Bleich, Rosh Kollel at Yeshiva University, took a firm stance: “Jewish law recognizes that indiscriminate sale of weapons cannot fail to endanger the public. The daily newspaper confirms this deep-seated distrust far more often than is necessary. As the bearers of an ageless moral code, Jews ought to be in the vanguard of those seeking to impress upon our legislators that handguns are indeed ‘stumbling blocks’ which must not fall into the hands of the ‘blind.’ Criminals do commit crimes, and it is precisely because ‘morally blind’ criminals are disposed to crime that Judaism teaches that it is forbidden to provide them with the tools of their trade.”

The midrash condemns a land filled with weaponry (Bereshit Rabbah 21:13). The Rabbis, commenting on the words, “God placed at the East of the Garden of Eden the Cherubim and the flaming sword,” teach, “At the East of the Garden of Eden at the very spot where stood the Cherubim with the flaming sword – there hell (Gehinnom) was created.”

The Mishnah describes weapons as “shameful” things to be seen with (Shabbat 63a). One should be embarrassed to own a weapon, even in the case that they must.            

The issue of guns is not only a domestic political issue. It is also an issue of foreign policy. Who are America and Israel morally responsible to prevent from having dangerous weapons? The Gemarah says that it is forbidden to sell weapons to any idolater and some rabbis went so far as to say that it is forbidden to sell them even weapons of defense (Avodah Zara 15b). We must review American and Israeli arms-policies to ensure that we are living up to our responsibilities. Then we can truly heed the cry of the prophets, to ensure that “nation shall not lift sword against another nation and we should no longer know war,” (Michah 4:4).

In District of Columbia v. Heller, the recent monumental Supreme Court decision which struck down a DC ban on hand guns, the logic of original intent was implemented. While the vote ended in a 5-to-4 victory for gun rights, it was oddly 9-to-0 in a victory of original intent interpretation over consequentialist interpretation. Our job as Jews is more complicated. While we are concerned with the intention of law, we are also concerned with the consequences of law. We must assess whether having fewer guns in the world leads to more death, and then we must follow our holy Torah to “choose life.”

I understand this is a complex issue that evokes strong feelings. I don’t imagine I will convince Jews like those I spoke to at the New York City synagogue to sell their weapons, however I hope that Jews will, keeping with their religious responsibility, enter the political discourse and work to make society safer while keeping the essence of the Second Amendment intact.

Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz is the Founder & President of Uri L’Tzedek <> , the Director of Jewish Life and the Senior Jewish Educator at the UCLA Hillel, and a 6th year doctoral student at Columbia University in Moral Psychology & Epistemology. Rav Shmuly’s book “Jewish Ethics & Social Justice <> : A Guide for the 21st Century” will be coming out in early 2012. 


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A high capacity magazine does not allow for many bullets to be released at once. I am not the grammar police but there is an important distinction to be made. A semi-automatic AR-15 releases one bullet per trigger pull, just like a musket. You are now arguing time to reload, which can be as quick as 1 -2 seconds.

Additionally, have you looked at any statistics for crime in cities or countries where guns are banned or tightly controlled? Your article refers to Heller and gun control on Washington, D.C. But Washington, D.C. has one of the highest gun crime rates in the United States. Chicago bans guns. Chicago has one of the highest gun crime rates in the United States. The U.K. bans handguns but handgun crime is up 40 per cent since the ban.

Have you ever heard the phrase that if guns are outlawed then only outlaws have guns? Gun free zones, whether those zones are cities, states, countries, schools, or malls, only mean that the law-abiding and innocent people in those zones have no guns - making them perfect targets for crazed law-breakers. When someone sets out to kill, they don't decide they cannot because the gun it takes to commit murder would be illegal.

The Rabbi shows no knowledge of history or crime in the US or the world. His attitude makes me think of someone who has lived at the nipple of mother or government his entire life and has not had to live life on his own. Has the Rabbi ever spent time in Israel? Does he recommend these same bans for Jews there?

Give me your children...

There were plenty of Jewish collaborators in Nazi Germany.

A Rabbi is supposed to be a leader but some leaders should have no followers.



The JDO website says a long answer to this.Imagine if Jews in Europe before the Holocaust would have had guns a lot more Jews would be alive today.

Go to you will see real Jews training with guns to defend jews by any means necessaty agauinst attakcs of assorted jew-Haters be it neo-nazis or Islamic Nazis of Al qadeda wo are threatening to slaughter jews coast to coast Mumbai style !


Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz is the Founder & President of Uri L’Tzedek , the Director of Jewish Life and the Senior Jewish Educator at the UCLA Hillel, and a 6th year doctoral student at Columbia University in Moral Psychology & Epistemology. Rav Shmuly’s book “Jewish Ethics & Social Justice : A Guide for the 21st Century” will be coming out in early 2012.

Ummm, Rabbi Yanklowitz, with all due respect, you've got to get out of the brainwashed New York City and Los Angeles environments and start looking at the real world.

It exists between New York and California, you know.

Terry, 230RN

rabbi did you ever try talking to hitler and his third reich about gun control?
i am sure he would have agreed with your socialist views. disarm arm the people and let the evil and wicked take over, for what is the big deal with killing the people? they are only humans. grow up and use your head, protect the people with words of wisdom instead of stupidty and ignorance, its time for you to look for a new vocation, stop preaching the harming and death of the people by the criminals who don't give a damn who they kill, we will protect ourselves from them and .,damn fools like your self. stop hiding behind our religion, better for you to be silent

What about the injunction not to "stand by your brother's blood" (i.e., the duty to "get involved" when another's life is threatened) as cited in Parashat Kedoshim? How do we pretend to observe the admonishment to defend ourselves and our loved ones and not have the tools to do so? It is an affirmative duty. It is not just a thing (self defense) from which one might be absolved of guilt. Would we decline to possess candles for shabbat because of fire hazards?

I think the article misrepresents the Jewish perspective by use of misleading facts. Where is the balancing of self defense against the reality of public safety with the the myths portrayed in TV, movies, and misrepresented statistics? Statistics clearly show a decline in violent crime as gun ownership has risen over the last decade. Guns are used more to prevent taking lives, pekuach nefesh, than to take lives. More people are killed by misuse of motor vehicles, OR tripping hazards, OR choking, OR falls, OR drowning than are killed by firearms accidents. Violence happens more in places where decent people cannot defend themselves.

One's obligation to defend oneself and one's brother far outweighs any benefit to public safety suggested by the aversions of people that have been sheltered from this aspect of American culture.

So let's get over the irrational aversion to guns. Then the halachic resolution will fall into the place, where it belongs, the "never mind" department.

I stopped reading this slick drivel after this lie: "Advocates for gun control are not suggesting that we abolish the rights of gun ownership." This is a LIE and a violation of the commandment not to bear false witness. Gun control advocates push for BANS. A ban is an end to the right to own a particular firearm (usually based on stupid appearances of that "evil" firearm).

I made the mistake of continuing to read this article written by this KID who clearly knows nothing about firearms, and read this nonsense: "a ban on big-volume magazines that allow for so many bullets to be released at once" RABBI, WORDS MEAN THINGS. Do you understand English? I have many "big volume magazines" and the bullets are NOT "released at once." Words mean things Rabbi. Learn about firearms before you show the world what a TOOL you are for the establishment.

Here's a scripture related to gun control that the Rabbi will avoid:

Fortunately, not all Jews think like this and not all rabbis think like Rabbi Yanklowitz. One of the staunchest defenders of the Second Amendment is Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership ( Among other insightful approaches to gun rights, JPFO researched "gun control" as a prelude to genocide, a pattern repeated multiple times in the 20th century -- including the Holocaust. JPFO's ground-breaking documentary "No Guns for Jews" examines the historic use of "gun control" as a tool used to oppress the Jewish People.

As JPFO's rabbinic director, I compiled 18 life-affirming Jewish sources on this topic in "The Ten Commandments of Self Defense." There are many, many more sources to choose from, all of which encourage us as Jews to "choose life", including the tools to defend it.

If you love life, if you choose life, you recognize the value of a firearm as a defensive tool.

Rabbi, 99% of guns involved in violent crime are unregistered or otherwise illegal, so we already have law attempting to control them. The additional gun control advocated by gun control enthusiasts are laws that will affect the guns that are keeping us safe, not the guns that endanger us. Are you aware that some of our nation's most violent gangs also pour money into the gun control lobby? Why do you think that is?

While NOT Jewish myself, I do have several friends who are to whom I put your suppositions. The unanimous response was that mis-information and perhaps a cultural bias against violence against fellow humans at any cost. (I fail to see HOW a member of the Jewish clergy could POSSIBLY forget.)

In addition to referencing the Holocaust and the more recent slaughters of Jews simply BECAUSE they were Jewish, my friends asked which you might suppose to prefer, the sanctity of being dead while secure in one's own beliefs or the position of being alive to debate the matter further?

Further mention was made of the apparent belief that the PRESENCE of a firearm was the catalyst for violence rather than the volition of the individual. Nothing could be FARTHER from correct. A firearm is a tool, like a kitchen knife, a fireplace poker or a baseball bat, It can be used for good, or evil all dependent on the individual.

I have spent considerable time immersed in the country and culture of Japan, one of the examples given, where there are virtually NO firearms for the average citizen. Suicide on the otherhand is strangely common. In my commuting it was seldom that a week passed with out a delay caused by the euphamistically termed "human accident", a "train jumper" or one who ends ones own life by the method of jumping in front of a speeding train, much to the consternation of the driver who is unable to stop the train and prevent the death of the jumper. I'll submit that the suicide rate is barely if at all effected by the presence or absence of a certain tool of taking one's opn life...whether that tool is a firearm, a train, a high bridge or a rope. Again its the volition of the individual not the object.


A Everett

Rabbi, I know you mean well, but you are, unfortunately, misguided. Yes, our tradition values life and we are prohibited from recklessly putting our lives or the lives of others in danger. However, firearms ownership simply does not pose a significant risk to law abiding people, their neighbors, or their communities. To the contrary, firearms can be and often are used by law abiding people to protect themselves and others from harm.

If you want to make a difference there are no easy solutions. Reducing the homicide and crime rates requires a combination of good policing, an effective criminal justice system, and perhaps most significantly social, cultural and economic changes in the inner cities and among minority communities where a disproportinate percentage of crime, in particular crimes involving guns, occur. There are no quick fix solutions and, as the majority of Americans and a growing number of Jews recognize, "gun control" simply doesn' work.

I've not lived long,but long enough to see Israel attacked,twice.
I don't know Rabbi S. Yanklowitz, he seems to have a good heart,
but I hope he matures some before starting a family;here's why.
Israel with her back to the sea,is bordered by maniacal fanatics who have declared nothing short of annihilation will satisfy them.Twice Israel has held these forces off, did she do this with hospitality and good will, or by the pragmatic iron will and blood of her people? Now...disarm those people.
As go Nations so go the citizens, all of us are surrounded by people most of whom struggle through their lives harming none and hoping not to be harmed.
One in a hundred though will steal from you,one in 10,000 will stave in your skull to see if you have some thing to steal, others will will leave you only the smoking ruins of your once happy home,and some funerals to attend to, just for giggles.Perhaps the Rabbi can fend off any and all comers,however I've seen to many miles to handle more than three at once anymore.My bride of 33 yrs deserves not to feel protected, but to be protected,so does my son.Rabbi Yanklowitz so will yours. Should you desire instruction in the care feeding and safe use of these fine tools, it won't cost you a dime.

Recent news Gallop Polling news and similar forums in Politico and CNN shows that 74% are now against gun control. Let's consider the following:

Today, about 40 states have provisions for "shall issue" concealed carry permits, and 4 states simply allow law abiding citizens to carry without a permit. Five states -- which include Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Hawaii, and California -- offer the more arbitrary and unworkable "may issue" provision where only the politically connected are allowed to defend themselves.

In the "shall issue" and "unrestricted" states, according to the U.S. Department of Justice studies through their own National Institute of Justice /Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the FBI Uniform Crime Report, every year for the last two decades, there are fewer violent crimes and fewer gun accidents where law abiding citizens are allowed to keep and bear arms. Essentially, according to NIJ/BJS and the FBI, more guns = less crime. Naturally, the rates of decreasing violent crime and gun accidents vary according to the length of time a "shall issue" or "unrestricted" state had concealed carry in place and the percentage of citizens who choose to exercise the option. Another factor is the number of dangerous and so-called “gun free zones” like colleges and universities where violent criminals can still operate with impunity. Regardless, the declining violent crime and declining gun accidents more than just correlate to the "shall issue" and "unrestricted" policies of those states. There is a definite causal effect to more guns and less crime.

Just as the DOJ, NIJ/BJS, and the FBI are the hallmarks in research and statistics credibility, there are still politically motivated and tenacious entities like the Brady Campaign to Prevent Handgun Violence (formally Handgun Control, Inc.), the oddly named Violence Policy Center, and Michael Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Handguns that shamelessly cite discredited studies, or simply pull numbers out of thin air while crafting bogus arguments to piously stand in the way of continuing reforms. One of those reforms would allow citizens who can legally conceal carry and be safe in their home state to do so in other states as well. That is a fundamental right regardless of what state a law abiding American citizen travels through.

Gun control in America was a chronic failure and it is rightfully about to die. It’s time to bury it where it falls and move forward.

I am amazed that nobody has yet mentioned the "Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership" site,

As a non-Jew, but having been raised in a Jewish neighborhood in NYC with friends who were almost exclusively Jewish, I have been puzzled for decades why, of all people, so many Jews seem to be for firearms control, and seem to look to other authorities, such as the government, to "protect" them.

Food for thought regarding governmental "protection":

Scroll down to the genocide chart and add 'em up.

Terry, 230RN

As the first Jewish lobbyist for the NRA back in the early '80's and later as head of the firearm industry trade association I always found it troubling that many organized Jewish groups supported any and all retrictions on civilian ownership of firearms. Of all people Jews should be suspicious of government restrictions on the private ownership of firearms for law abiding citizens. The broad American society of gun owners wonders why Jewish groups support the debunked mantra of "gun control" and other restrictions on our fellow citizens when Jews have borne the brunt of so much government inspired violence over hundreds of years. As an urban versus rural issue perhaps it makes some sense, but I always wonder why many Jewish Americans support the need for Israel and her citizens to be better armed than their neighbors but want to restrict our fellow citizens here in our country to be well-armed for any and all lawful purposes including self-defense against muggers and robbers on our streets, let alone against an unfriendly government at some future frightening date? Once a right is lost, it is generally gone forever. See

To continue:

"... Using these laws and explanations, I believe Jewish law requires us to ensure the safe supply of weapons."
4) I don't see the connections. I think you're using a poor reference here. No one is putting any impediment before anyone.

Regarding fences and swimming pools....
5) Really? More children die in swimming accidents than from gun accidents. More people are hurt from falling down stairs than from gun accidents.

" that indiscriminate sale of weapons cannot fail to endanger the public."
6) Nuhhh... Finally we agree on something. The operative word being... indiscriminate... But whom are you talking about here? The gun shows? Can't be, I've been to many around the country and the sale has to go through the FBI. Gun shops? Sorry same rules apply. So who is selling indiscriminately? The bad guys who have stolen guns? Do you think the Torah or our moral code means anything to them?

Rabbi, a question. How many bullets are enough when the jack boots come looking for you? How quickly would you like your weapon to expend its rounds when Jihadi enter your Shul? I carry inside my temple, and so do a number of other congregants.

May I suggest you check:

I can't really discuss the religious aspects of firearms ownership, not being Jewish myself. What I can say is I'm glad that so many Jews care enough about their lives and the lives of their loved ones that they are willing to take positive steps to protect that life.

You bring up the scourge of suicide and seeming lay the blame for it on easy availability of guns. Perhaps you are unaware that suicide is greatest among men, 40 years old or older. These are not people who suddenly go out, buy a gun and use it to kill themselves, but men who have long owned a gun and have made a conscious decision to end their lives. Restricting access to firearms will have no effect on the majority of suicides. A far better plan to prevent suicides is to study what causes these men to consider and intervene. Blaming the availability of guns for suicide is like blaming water for drownings.

I encourage you to learn more about the laws that govern firearms because it is evident by your statements that you are not aware of how strictly controlled the sale of firearms really is. No one is advocating that firearms be sold “indiscriminately.” You may imagine that you can wander into any gun store and purchase any gun you like without any questions, but I assure you that federal law requires much more than that. California law is rather more strict, and I have yet to notice that it reduces crime in any way.

I hope that, at least in an effort to learn more about your Synagogue membership, you spend some time learning to handle firearms. Even if you don’t buy one, it’ll be a good learning experience for you.

Rabbi, I wish I could agree with you, but your lack of experience in this matter is showing.

Regarding the number of rounds you should be allowed:
1) How many shots does it take to stop the attacker(s)? Did you notice the plurality in that question? What if there is more than one attacker, two or three and they have guns? The average magazine holds 10 rounds, some 15 rounds. If I have one that is only 10 and they have the 15, who is at a disadvantage? In many cases it takes 10 or 12 well placed shots to take a man down who is on PCP. Don't believe me? Check with the local police.

No gun zones?
2) Do you know what the bad guys call 'No Gun Zones' - EZ Pickin zones. They have the guns ('cause they DON'T care about laws) and you (the victim) become "EZ Pickins".

" In 2005, for example, over 30,000 people died as a result of a firearm"
3) In that same year the known number of armed assaults that were thwarted by legally armed citizens was over 2 million... How many more deaths would there have been if those citizens were not armed? Don't believe me? Check the FBI crime stats yourself for that year.


Rabbi, I perceive that your intentions are worthy, but your rationalizations are lame.

For example, placing restrictive laws between lawful citizens and the exercise of their G-d-given rights to self-defense is perhaps more of a "stumbling block" than those you assign to that term. You cannot penalize tzadakim for the actions of criminals; such thinking is abominable.

G-d created us in His image, with free will and the rights to use it. He created His law (and the concept of civil laws) to penalize criminals, not righteous people.

Don't fall into the statist trap that lures good people such as yourself with its misleadingly sweet song. We should be punishing criminals and not interfering with the free will and rights that are our birthright as human beings.

The last time we followed advice like this, we ended up in ovens, assisted by well-meaning fools. Never again. Advocates for gun control absolutely and unquestionably are demanding that private gun ownership be abolished, they are merely attempting to do so incrementally. Well, we're having none of it. We shall be and remain armed.

Rabbi Shlomo Goren, discussing why a firearm should not be considered muktzah on shabbos, stated “Behold, a firearm is meant for firing since it is a mitzvah to shoot both on weekdays or Shabbat, in instances when needed for self-defense or for attacking the enemy. And it is not meant for non-security uses (like sport or hunting) so why should it be considered an object that is forbidden on Shabbat?”

Rav Asher Meir states "in a place where it is prudent to be carrying a pistol, then there is no reason to leave it at home! Likewise ... where a gun could be needed, then removing the magazine is a very bad idea. Also, if there is a danger that removing and restoring the magazine could kick a bullet into the chamber, thus necessitating checking the gun afterwards (a dangerous activity), then it is not a good idea to play with it."

The suggestion, reasonable as it may seem prima facie, that more guns equals less safety, is not necessarily supported by data. Most studies have demonstrated that the rate of criminal violence by people who hold a concealed handgun license is a fraction of the rate among non-holders of such a licence. Many reasons may be suggested for this, including the fact that such holders undergo a thorough background check, and are in constant risk of losing that license if their behavior does not meet certain standards. But the iker is that your argument would suggest, based on safety concerns and the data, that more people should obtain a concealed handgun license and carry a handgun.

Actually, as the late Sen Metzenbaum stated after a gun control hearing, we're
after their guns. Rabbi, the Brady people et-al have made it abundantly clear they are after all guns. I am pleasantly surprised that so many orthodox Jews
are gun owner. Eli Wiesel has oft spoken against private gun ownership for any-one. Further, most gun deaths are drug or alcohol related. The often quoted #s about teen gun deaths are overwhelmingly gang related.
To conclude: What experience in our history gives any Jew confidence in any
Govt to protect them.

The good Rabbi is long on knowledge about the Torah but far short on knowledge about firearms. He has far too many errors to even attempt to correct here but, as an example, no firearm magazines, no matter how many cartridges they hold, "...allow for so many bullets to be released at once," This is simply made up from thin air.

Whether a magazine holds 5 rounds, 10 rounds, or 30 rounds, each bullet is fired by one separate pull of the trigger. The Rabbi apparently doesn't know this yet he comments anyway. If he does know it, then why would he use such inflammatory, wrong words to put in the text? Either way it doesn't look good for him.

Thirty-round pistol magazines are notoriously unreliable and are likely to jam, meaning that any proficient shooter will carry more magazines with less rounds, which are capable of being swapped out and shot just as fast as the one with 30-rounds. The Rabbi doesn't know this yet he comments anyway.

The Jewish law, as he puts it, may also "support" mandatory DNA testing for every citizen "just in case" and a cashless society where the government knows your every financial transaction, but neither are good ideas, or comport themselves with the freedoms that are the rights of all Americans. What Jewish law supports and what is good for America are not always synonymous.

I'd suggest the free book at for a throughly documented publication that will give factual information.

There is no way for you to remain free and safe if you give someone else the right to determine if and when you may have a weapon for that purpose. They may also decide that you must allow an assailant to shoot at you before you may defend yourself. None of that makes any sense to a rational person, who either has been in that position of may be considering their vulnerabilities and needs.

If one must ask the state for this permission then the answer will inevitably or eventually be, no you may not. This is their answer to everything and if they do give their blessing, you will be charged a fee and then run an obstacle course for them, although you are an upstanding person. Mean while the criminal who attacks you won't have to do any of these things, he just gets a gun or makes it and then uses it, while you're still waiting for "permission,"

Gun control does not work and the state cannot be trusted with you rights and freedoms nor the protection of your family or yourself. The examples are in every history book and all around you in real time. Laws are only recognized and respected by the law abiding. Government knows this and yet they attempt to impose laws which have no effect on the criminal but impair and even cause the injury and deaths of law abiding citizens. Do we need government? Yes but we need freedom and self-determination more.

The rabbi has ignored an important question to consider on the subject of guns: How many lives in a given year are SAVED by guns? That is, how many people in a given year use a gun to protect themselves, their families and others against violent criminals? This is an impossible number to get exactly, because in the vast, vast majority of these cases it is not necessary to actually fire the gun; its mere presence prevents the crime. Consequently, most of these cases never get reported. Depending on whom you ask, this number varies from about half a million to as much as two and a half million times a year. In any case, it dwarfs the 16,000 or so murders in a given year.

Many of the comments made in this article are either factually incorrect or the author is being mislead. It would not be a stretch to say the author is unfamiliar with firearms and the issues that surround them.
I would point out a couple of things to consider. The author brings up the number of firearm suicides (more than half the stated 30,000 number referenced) and theorizes that without guns this number would reduce or eliminated. Most studies conclude that suicide is not precipitated by the availability of guns and Japan would offer a concrete example of this. Japan has no guns yet their suicide rate is far greater than ours.
The author suggests “safety mechanisms, no-gun zones, a ban on big-volume magazines . . ., and the enforcement of stronger background checks” but yet again, none of these means have been shown to decrease violent crime and some studies suggest they may even increase it to some extent. Criminals and those bent on doing harm are not dissuaded by a “gun free zone” sign.
I am not familiar with Jewish law but would take exception to the author’s description of a firearm being a “stumbling block” as if it’s mere presences caused harm. A firearm is a tool that can be used for both good and evil no doubt, but it is the user of the tool that dictates which use it is put to.
The author also seems to miss the point about what makes a weapon “defensive” in nature. Almost all weapons can be used for both offensive and defensive situations.
Finally, I come to the main problem I have with this article. As a non Jew, I can only imagine the historical persecution these people have suffered at the hands of governmental authorities. Many Americans believe it is a God given right that we be able to defend ourselves from such actions. While I don’t see that happening anytime soon in America, one would be foolish to think it’s not a possibility and by that time it would be too late to be in possession of the means to defend one’s self and family. Given Jewish history, you might want to add Charlton Heston’s words to your readings, "I'll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands!"

"Advocates for gun control are not suggesting that we abolish the rights of gun ownership. They are merely suggesting that more precautions be put in place such as safety mechanisms, no-gun zones, a ban on big-volume magazines that allow for so many bullets to be released at once, and the enforcement of stronger background checks."

If this were only true. Sadly, it is not. Consider the following:

"If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them -- Mr. and Mrs. America, turn them all in -- I would have done it." -- Sen. Dianne Feinstein

"We`re going to hammer guns on the anvil of a relentless legislative strategy. We`re going to beat guns into submission." -- Sen. Charles Schumer

"What good does it do to ban some guns? All guns should be banned." -- the late Sen. Howard Metzenbaum

"Until we can ban all of them [firearms], then we might as well ban none." -- the late Sen.Howard Metzenbaum

I would only ask you to consider for a moment the attitude toward firearms in civilian hands held by America's Jewish community with that held by their cousins in Israel.

"Our Jewish perspective on the controversial issue of gun control and gun rights cannot be based only on the interpretation of the Second Amendment."

How about an interpretation based on the Holocaust?

"Advocates for gun control are not suggesting that we abolish the rights of gun ownership."

That's exactly the end-game.

I cannot believe a Jew is for gun control.
Shame on you.

Maybe you should join JPFO.

Rabbi: While you recognize that many Jews do in fact own guns, it is quite clear that gun ownership is not something that you support. Ultimately, the gun control debate, both within and without the Jewish community, has both an emotional and a rational component. On the emotional side, many people, and in particular Jews simply don't like guns because they are utterly unfamiliar with them and they have a belief that guns "represent" violence. Some of the sources you cite, including the Mishna in Shabbos, reflect this point of view. This really isn't a matter for debate. As my rebbe once told me: If you don't like guns, fine, then don't own one, but there is absolutely no halachic reason to interfere with the rights of people who do want to own one.

Of course, this leaves us with the rational aspect of the debate, involving a cost/benefit analysis: is the ownership of guns a net benefit or a net harm to the individual gun owner and to society at large. It is here, I believe, that you are grossly misinformed. On the harm side, accidental gun deaths are exceedingly rare, despite the media's inordinate focus on the few tragic incidents that do occur, a fair portion of which are hunting accidents. More children are killed in accidents involving bicycles, fires, swimming pools, poisonings, and of course car accidents (by factor of 40 or 50) than as a result of accidental shootings.

So how do all the gun related deaths we hear about occur? The vast majority are the result of criminal activity -- often people with criminal records killing other people with criminal records -- and suicides. In other words, the risk involved with owning a gun is relative, not absolute. The risk depends on who owns the gun, and is affected by a myriad of social, economic, and cultural factors. Simply put, a gun owned by a responsible, mentally stable law abiding citizen -- the sort of people who attended your shiur -- represents no more of a risk to that person or anyone else than does the ownership of a toaster.

What about the benefits? The fact is that firearms are used defensively hundreds of thousands of times per year, and by one estimate (a study by Gary Kleck) over one million times per year (not necessarily by shooting someone, but in the vast majority of cases simply by presenting the firearm). There is absolutely no rational reason that a trained person -- including a person in a synagogue -- can't use a firearm effectively in a defensive situation.

Ask yourself this simple question: What would you suggest the members of your congregation should do, or more appropriately, what does Hilchot Rotzeiach REQUIRE them to do, if G-d forbid an armed intruders enters the shul and starts shooting people? Call the police? Fine, but what happens while you wait 5, or 10 or 15 minutes for police to arrive? Run and hide as the ADL suggests? Is that consistent with Jewish law? 75 years after the Holocaust, only a few years after the massacre of helpless Jews in Mumbai, after countless terrorist attacks in Israel where armed citizens are able to stop the terrorists, is it right, is it logical that Jews in this country should be utterly helpless and dependent on the police to act as our bodyguards?

Rabbi, I beg of you, on this issue, put aside what I fear is for lack of a better word a "liberal" or "progrssive" bias on your part and think rationally. Rather than convincing Jews to give up the firearms, as you seem to want to do, you should be working to promote safe, responsible firearms ownership in the Jewish community so that law abiding Jews and all Americans have the opportunity to exercise the G-d given right and mandate of self defense if and when the need arises.

I'd like to speak to the author's assertion that gun free zones make people safer. Take for instance, the Virginia Tech shooting. The incident happened in a gun free zone, and yet a man with a gun was able to enter the school and murder many innocent people.

Also, calling a magazine 'high volume' is incorrect. Gun mfrs. routinely produce magazines capable of holding 10+ rounds of ammunition. In certain states, California for instance, new civilian firearms are allowed to be sold only with magazines of 10 rounds or less, while police and the military are exempt from these rules. These are called reduced capacity magazines.

I would invite the Rabbi to read Joe Huffman's Jews in the attic test.

I subscribe to this test, and use it to judge whether or not something should be supported. Gun control fails this test, repeatedly.

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