Religion & Beliefs

Bang! Bang! Halacha Takes Down the Gun Lobby

I went to mincha on Shabbat afternoon, and during seudah shlishit (the mini dinner they serve between mincha and maariv) conversation somehow turned to gun control. Where I come from, there’s a pretty uniform sentiment that guns are bad news, … Read More

By / May 8, 2007
Jewcy loves trees! Please don't print!

I went to mincha on Shabbat afternoon, and during seudah shlishit (the mini dinner they serve between mincha and maariv) conversation somehow turned to gun control. Where I come from, there’s a pretty uniform sentiment that guns are bad news, and that normal city-dwelling people shouldn’t go out buying Saturday Night Specials or shotguns for any reason. Even in the uber-frum community in Chicago, I’ve never heard anyone express any pro-gun feelings. In Nashville, though, things are different. Of the thirteen guys sitting around the shabbat table, I’d say eight were gun-owners. Enthusiastic gun owners. Ecstatic gun owners. There was one particularly smug gun owner who thought I was an absolute moron for suggesting gun legislation should be much stricter. Conversation was strained and annoying as hell. As I walked home, I started brainstorming comebacks for my next conversation with this guy. I think, probably, I’ll just avoid him in general since he’s proved to be pretty ridiculous, but I’m going to share my ideas in case any Jewcers out there can use them at their own unfortunate Shabbat table. FrumNRALovr613: If Jews had had their own guns in Germany before the Holocaust they never would have let the Nazis take over. Overcompensatingmuch: I think you’re missing the larger point. If guns hadn’t been given to so many whackos during the Holocaust, people wouldn’t have died. Making guns more available just made it easier for people to kill Jews. FrumNRALovr613: Look at the Warsaw ghetto! We never would have been able to hold the Nazis back as much as we did if we hadn’t had any guns. Overcompensatingmuch: Baruch Hashem, we’re not in a ghetto now. And the Warsaw uprising, while courageous, was a largely symbolic resistance. Guns didn’t accomplish anything for us then. FrumNRALovr613: So we’re not in Warsaw–we’re in Israel now, surrounded on all sides by enemies. Don’t you think we should have guns there? Don’t you feel safer with guns all around you in Israel? Overcompensatingmuch: In Israel, everyone goes through extensive gun training and safety in the army. Israeli soldiers have to follow very strict rules about where they can keep their guns, and when they can use them. This fosters a much greater understanding of the weighty power of a gun than most Americans have. (And regardless I can’t say I feel particularly safe surrounded by teenagers with M-16s.) The only comfort in Israel is that the people walking around with obviously big guns (no pun intended) are guards, and every time I want a slice of pizza I’m asked if I’m carrying a weapon. It’s not civilians walking around with guns in Jerusalem, it’s soldiers and policemen. FrumNRALovr613: The Torah says that if a man comes to kill you that you should rise up and kill him first. Owning guns is the most surefire way to make sure you can defend yourself. Overcompensatingmuch: The Torah also says that if you build a roof it must be properly gated (Deut 22:8) which is taken by the rabbanim as a general directive to remove all safety hazards. I’m not saying self-defense should be disallowed. I’m just saying guns should only be present in places where they’re not a danger to the environment. A home with children is an unsafe place for a loaded weapon. FrumNRALovr613: Fine, but if I’m a single adult man, I should be able to just go buy a gun at Wal-Mart, no problem. Overcompensatingmuch: Here’s the problem, though: the Talmud says you’re not even allowed to own a dangerous dog because of the harm it may do. It one does own a savage dog, it must always be kept chained (Bava Kamma 79b). Even if you have the dog defanged and declawed and it has been specially trained to be docile, it still must be chained at all times because it could cause people who don’t know it isn’t dangerous to be so scared they end up with stress injuries like a heart attack or a miscarriage (Shabbat 63b). If a dog has to be kept away so as not to scare people, so much more so a gun. Very dangerous and frightening things like guns need to be severely restricted. They shouldn’t be available to just anyone who’s interested. FromNRALovr613: I agree that guns are frightening and dangerous, but that’s why I need to have my own—so I can protect myself and my family. Overcompensatingmuch: Studies consistently find that there’s a strong correlation between gun ownership and homicide with a gun. FrumNRALovr613: That’s because it’s called homicide even when someone kills the person who has come to rob them. Overcompensatingmuch: Well, I don’t think robbery justifies shooting someone, but even if I grant your premise, gun ownership is significantly related to both the level of robberies and the level of sexual assaults. High levels of gun ownership are consistently found to be related to higher levels of violence generally. Which is to say that owning a gun increases the risk that anyone in your family be exposed to theft, sexual assault, and other kinds of violence. For more on Jewish groups for stricter gun control, check out these links: Gun Shy on Gun Control Jewish Values and Gun Control Gun Control: A Jewish Look