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Jews and guns

My friend Robert J Avrech, the Hollywood screenwriter behind such productions as Body Double and The Devil’s Arithmetic, lost his 22-year-old son Ariel to pulmonary fibrosis last July. Ariel, like the rest of his family, was a devout Orthodox Jew, and was also a rabbinical candidate and an incredibly learned Talmudic scholar.

Ariel was just a kid when his family found themselves trapped in a cinema besieged by thugs during the Los Angeles riots of 1992, and as he grew older and studied the Torah more closely, he turned his attention to the case made in Jewish texts for the right to private ownership of guns. He eventually grew too weak and ill to put the case down on paper, just as he never did have the chance to go to the shooting range with his father as he dreamed of doing. But Robert has written about the matter himself, and it makes for compelling reading whether you are Jewish or not. I reproduce his essay, in its entirety, with Robert’s kind permission.

Ariel was always amazed at how many Jews – Shomer Shabbos Jews – aligned themselves with the advocates of gun control, in reality a movement to banish the private ownership of guns by lawful citizens. During the Los Angeles riots of 1992, Karen and I, Ariel and Leda were inside a film theatre. Abruptly, an angry mob congregated outside; soon they were trying to break down the doors. Trapped inside, we were all terrified. I held Leda in my arms; she shivered like a frightened rabbit. Karen held Ariel’s hand.

“Don’t worry,” I said with false confidence, “the police will be here soon.”

But the police did not arrive that night, nor did they protect the city from arson and widespread looting. In fact, we watched in disbelief as news cameras captured images of police officers standing idly by while looters gleefully committed their crimes.

A few days later, I bought a gun.

I bought a gun because I realized that the day might come again when the people who were sworn to protect us would once again choose not to.

As Ariel’s conservative political opinions began to cohere, he logically fell on the side of legal gun ownership. But because he was first and foremost a Torah Jew, first and foremost a Talmudic scholar, Ariel sat down and put gun ownership into a Halachic framework. We talked often about his ideas. Ariel wanted to put them down on paper. Unfortunately, he never had the opportunity.

And so I humbly jot down a few of Ariel’s ideas on the Second Amendment.

Ariel pointed out that in his commentary on Beresheis 4:23, Ramban says: “The sword is not the cause of murder, and there is no sin upon him who made it.” In other words, a weapon, be it a sword or a gun, is neutral. It can be used for good or for evil. Thus to label a gun as “bad” makes no sense, for a gun can be used in self-defense which the Torah sees as a primary right.

The Torah (Exodus 22.2) teaches that, when necessary a householder may kill a burglar to save his own life.

Gemara Sanhedrin (72A) says: “He who rises to kill you, you must kill first.” It seems odd to have to defend the most basic notion of self-defense, but in America today, the shrill and self-righteous voices of pacifism and appeasement have become alarmingly prominent. Ariel told me that if gun control advocates had their way, the only people with access to guns would be the police, who cannot be counted on for security, and criminals, who can be counted on to be, well, criminals and to have absolutely no respect for the hundreds of gun laws already on the books.

Ariel also pointed out that on Purim the Jews were given royal permission to defend their lives. The King’s edict did not order the army to protect the Jews, no; the Jews were allowed to purchase arms in order to defend themselves. Obviously, as a minority in the Persian Empire, Jews were forbidden weapon ownership. This is not unique in Jewish history. During the Roman occupation of Judea, Jews were forbidden to own swords, spears or any implements of war. What better way for a ruling empire to control an unruly and rebellious population? And of course, in Europe, one of the first laws that Hitler imposed was an all-encompassing weapons ban. Imagine how different Jewish history would be if every Jewish family in Europe owned at least one gun that had six bullets in the chamber.

One of the hallmarks of modern Liberalism, Ariel suggested, is an astonishing inability to recognize, much less confront, evil. Therefore it is psychologically necessary for the liberal to place the blame on an inanimate object – the gun – rather than the person who pulls the trigger. It is easier to fault the gun manufacturer for the horror at Columbine, rather than admit that two sixteen-year-old boys are capable of such evil. The Jewish attitude, Ariel said, is to place the blame where it squarely belongs: on the two young men; to declare their evil, and never to utter their names. For just as goodness is a reality, so is evil. Try and imagine, said Ariel, if one or two Columbine teachers had guns with them. Imagine if these armed teachers had been able to protect the students who were shot down like defenseless animals.

There was another aspect to these stories that Ariel detected and deeply troubled him. The news always referred to Columbine and even 9-11 as “tragedies.” “They’re not tragedies,” Ariel held. “They are outrages.” A tragedy is when people are killed in a fire or an earthquake. But when people are murdered in cold blood, it is an atrocity. Again, Ariel pointed out, the media, overwhelmingly liberal, is unable to distinguish malevolent acts from natural disasters.

Ariel concluded that Jews in America should be at the forefront of the right to bear arms. Jews should join the National Rifle Association. For Jews to rely on the power of the state for protection is sheer foolishness. Time and again, Jewish history reveals governments cruelly betraying their Jewish citizens. And though Ariel felt that America was “different,” he still maintained that allowing the state to make the ownership of weapons illegal is an unwise policy. But like so much else in American Jewish life, Jews have signed on to aggressively utopian ideologies that go against their self-interest. Instead, countless Jews espouse principles that feed their need to feel virtuous. But in the end, these are beliefs that defy common sense and display an appalling ignorance of Jewish history and Halacha.

Ariel looked forward to the day when he and I would go to the shooting range together for some target practice.

“Let’s shoot at a picture of Arafat,” I said.

“And Osama,” said Ariel.

“And Saddam Hussein.”

“And the President of France,” Ariel added with his wry smile.

Robert J. Avrech
Los Angeles, California
March 2004

22 comments to Jews and guns

  • If I remember correctly, during the early years of the Civil Rights struggle, blacks started chapters of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and purchased guns as a way of defending themselves from lynchings and other KKK attacks.

  • S. Weasel

    It’s part of the lore that the first gun control laws were intended to keep guns out of the hands of poor blacks. Or perhaps just poor people, full stop. “Saturday night special” is just another way of saying “inexpensive, functional gun.”

  • Yosemite Sam

    Actually, the term “Saturday Night Special” has racist origins. It comes from the epithet “N*gger Town Saturday Night” Most gun control is racist in origin. The New York State Sullivan Act was instituted to keep guns out of the hands of the Irish.

  • R C Dean

    Nearly 20 years ago, I lived in Richmond, Virginia, a fascinating city in many ways. I have never lived in a city that had more civil race relations, or was more segregated, for example. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder, it would appear.

    In any event, I was listening to a talk radio station aimed at the black half of the city one day, and an old woman called in with a story from Jim Crow days. There was a meeting in one of the black churches, I believe dealing with voting rights, and a bunch of KKK types kicked in the door. A number of the people in the meeting reached into pockets (or handbags, one imagines) and pulled out pistols. The interlopers retired abruptly, there was no more violence, and the meeting continued.

  • So you mean those churchgoers didn’t all end up shooting themselves or someone in their own homes with those guns? I mean, that’s the anti-self-defence line, isn’t it? “You’re more likely to injure yourself or a family member than you are to ever need to use a gun for self-defence!”

  • Shtetl G

    I’m sure everyone knows that Hitler was big on gun confiscation. He certainly did not want the to Jews have any guns.

    I don’t know who is going to break down my door and come after me. But I pity the poor neo-Nazi, Islamacist, PITA member, ATF agent or (insert bad guy), because Shtetl G owns a Ruger GP100 .357 magnum with 6 inch heavy duty barrel and I’m not going out like a bitch.

    On second thought, I really don’t pity them.

  • Whip

    Good choice Shtetl G. I’ve got a 6″ GP among my modest arsenal; it’s my favorite.

  • llamas

    When I worked in a gun shop, I once had occasion to wait on an older African-American gentleman of distinctly middle-class appearance. American readers will know the type I mean – exquisitely dressed in a dark suit, shoes like mirrors, Masonic emblem on watch-chain.

    He allowed as how he was looking to replace his ‘belly-gun’, due to its advancing age. He then produced a Colt double-action revolver, model of 1879, caliber 41 Long Colt, fondly known as a ‘Thunderer’. Its serial number showed that it dated from well before 1900. This fine old workhorse had been cut off just shy of the cylinder rod, and it was a fearsome belly-gun indeed. He then produced a box of cartridges for it, which had to be at least 50 years old.

    No business ensued. I could not buy his gun from him without doing the required state paperwork, which he did not care to do. I could not sell him a new handgun, for all that he wanted one, without doing the required state paperwork, which he did not care to do. He decided, therefore, to stick with Old Faithful.

    He told me that the gun had belonged to his great-grandfather, in the South, who had passed it on to his grandfather, who had passed it on . . . He’d moved to Detroit as a young man in the 1940s, and had just brought it on up with him.

    He explained that he carried this thing or had it about him as a matter of routine, and always had.

    The best I could do for him was to take his gun in for a through cleaning and service, and sell him a new box of cartridges. It worked like the day it was made.

    Based on this and other experiences, I suspect that the African-American middle-class is actually quite heavily armed, and always has been.



  • James

    RC Dean

    I’ll likely be finding myself in VA in the next while.

    Open and concealed carry, Shall issue and now the 1 gun a month rule is gone 🙂

  • “I bought a gun because I realized that the day might come again when the people who were sworn to protect us would once again choose not to.”

    …or be ordered not to.

  • Mashiki

    …or be ordered not to.

    Or be ordered against us….

    That’s a far too realistic possibility…the state before the man.

  • Barry Mellow

    I’m a physician in an Emergency Department and I recently cared for a woman who was assaulted by her husband who was high on cocaine. I asked her if she was in fear for her life ; she answered “yes”. I asked her what she was going to do to prevent this, or worse from happening again. She responded that she was going to take out a restraining order against him. When I told her that a restraining order is really just a piece of paper and that many women have been injured and even killed when a restraing order was in effect she just shrugged. I followed up with the advice that she get some firearms training because a firearm is the only tool that a woman can use to equalize the power of a large angry man. She panicked and said that she could never own a gun and that her husband would probably take it away from her and kill her and her children. She works for the state department of children and families and has completely bought into the myth that the danger of firearms ownership is that her own firearm would be used against her. Obviously, logic wouldn’t penetrate and she has no idea what she is going to do .

  • Don Gwinn

    Llamas, what a fantastic story! I am richer for having read that.

  • Shawn Wolff

    Excellent essay. During the early part of the civil rights movement, the NRA worked with C.O.R.E. to train African Americans in the use of firearms to defend ballot boxes and polling centers from thugs like the KKK. Despite modern media stereotypes, African Americans have had a long close history with the NRA.

  • llamas

    Don Gwinn wrote:

    ‘Llamas, what a fantastic story! I am richer for having read that.’

    Thank you, we aim to please.

    Being a ‘professional’ by trade, I don’t get much interaction with the public. Even though it was between 10 and 20 years ago, I maintain that the time I spent standing behind a retail counter taught me more about human nature and the true motivators of people than any other single thing I ever did.



  • Yehoshua Mizrachi

    If you want to do something about terrorism and self-defense besides blog about it, read on…

    editors note: whilst this comment was not strictly speaking ‘off-topic’, it was clearly a commercial spam. If you want to advertise on Samizdata.net, please have the good manners to ask first. We will probably say NO anyway, but who knows, we might be so overawed by your good manners…

  • A_t

    Hmm.. yeah, saw a documentary on you guys… Nice money-making scheme you got going.

  • Samuel Tai

    All together now:

    Spam, spam, spam, spam,
    Spam, spam, spam, spam
    Wonderful spam!

    … Bloody Vikings!

  • Dear Mr. Avrech,
    Would loved to have known your son Ariel and especially to take him to the shooting range as I do with my son Rocky. Sometimes I take my son and his best friends who are all NRA gun safety qualified to shoot in a rock quarry which includes lakes, caves and many places to explore. Ariel will be in my heart when we venture to the quarry again. My son Rocky and his friends will also know about Ariel Avrech. My wife Penny, daughter Kallie (a Navel Aviator) and son Rocky soon to be a Navel Aviator like big sis are Christian. Ancestry (forgive me) French. I raised my son and daughter that you never allow another Holocaust even at the cost of your life as I will also do. I beg liberial anti gun Jews to understand. Jews are Gods chosen. When brains were handed out it sure did not land on the Gentiles. I fly the Israeli flag at times when the Jews come under attack by camel brained Arabs. Of course my neighbors have no clue what an Israeli flag is. Im also sure they could not find Israel on the map. Ariel Avrech. Thank you for allowing me to write this. To you anti-gun liberal Jews and Gentiles. Please make informed decisions. Just remember my son and daughter. They will be in harms way for you. GOD BLESS THE JEWS AND THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.


  • legal author

    This is wrong that Kenneth R. Bush would be listed in the newspaper called, The Daily News, as a criminal with the Most Wanted of Washington Parish, Louisiana.

    It seems that the District attorney was called 3 times the day before the November 10, 2005, court date as Mr. Bush was meeting with a FEMA Inspector regarding his home that is infected with biohazards, like mold, dust mites, and mildew. This home of poor health was needing an evacuation and clean up and Mr. Bush needed to get this Katrina broken home resolved with a higher federal official as a FEMA staff person.

    Mr. Talley, attorney of Mr. Bush, was not able to speak in Mr. Bush’s account as he was not supportive nor understanding of the situation the day of court on November 10, 2005.

    The district attorney, located at Washington Parish court house was given a voice mail and sent 2 faxes by Mr. Bush. No phone call was made or letter to Mr. Bush from the district attorney or Mr. Talley, at any time.

    Instead a warrant for Mr. Bush’s arrest was made by the sitting Judge of the case. Even as we speak, people are not able to see Mr. Bush or his family as a result of this notice of most wanted placed in the newspaper, The Daily News.

    When Mr. Bush appeared at his next court date, Mr. Talley spoke to the Judge to remove the warrant for arrest as he ( Mr. Bush ) was in communication with his office regarding not appearing on the 10th of November 2005 court date.

    If this is the case, How the Hell did Mr. Bush get a registered letter in the mail the Wednesday, November 30, 2005, before the Monday court date of December 5, 2005? The newspaper, The Daily News, listed Mr. Bush as most wanted, page 14A, on December 18, 2005. How could this be if Mr. Bush’s warrant was withdrawn on December 5, 2005?

    How did Mr. Bush end up in a newspaper as most wanted if Mr. Talley was in court on the date Mr. bush was meeting with the FEMA inspector? How did this happen if all charges are going to be dismissed?

    How is this all fair and of equal justice in the shadow of the law?

    Does Mr. Bush need to file tort charges of slander of reputation against all parties of guilt?

    Does this sound like a fair legal situation?

    Should the newspaper, The Daily News of Bogalusa be sued?

    Seems like someone should print a retraction and apology in this same newspaper.

    Mr. Talley has already told Mr. and Mrs. Bush, that the district attorney knows now that the Bogalusa Police have made a mistake in this case. That the police did not have all the facts and were off base legally.

    What research shows is that the police wanted to censor Mr. Bush for his reporting of Bogalusa police and their malice abuse of police power with people of color and kind.

    Please print this in your paper and or Internet blog

    Spread the word that Bogalusa and Washington Parish is unfair to Mr. Bush and family.

    signed “Legal Writer of Washington Parish