If I had to choose one news story about gun violence which ranks as the craziest, most bizarre example of the American experience with guns, it would be an article I read yesterday detailing a class held in armed, self-defense last week in Monsey, NY. The class was attended by 150 residents of Monsey and other towns, all of whom happen to be extremely religious, ultra-orthodox Jews. The class gave attendees an opportunity to fool around with various self-defense guns like an AR-15 and some handguns, and it was conducted by a guy who runs a security and self-defense so-called training program which, of course, is staffed by ‘elite’ members of Israel’s Defense Forces, a.k.a., the vaunted IDF.
What brought the crowd out for the evening’s entertainment was the recent machete attack at a rabbi’s home in Monsey, along with a shooting that left three dead at a kosher supermarket in New Jersey, as well as several individual attacks. Of course before anyone knew anything, Governor Cuomo called the Monsey assault a case of “domestic terrorism,” which has become the standard description of every violent event requiring a response from some politician who wants to make sure he’s staying ‘in touch.’
I don’t mean to make light of any kind of behavior that creates fear of physical or emotional violence. Of all the threats to the human community, the only threat we still do not understand how to solve is the threat of violence. We may not have the political will or the political alignment to solve the threat of global warming, but we know what to do. Ditto other threats to the human community like famine or disease. But when it comes to the threat posed by violence, what I know is that you can’t go out, buy an assault rifle and think that now you are ready to protect yourself from a violent event, or that this purchase will do anything to reduce violence overall. What you have basically done by plunking down your thousand bucks for that black gun is to ratchet up the possibility that more violence will occur.
Not only doesn’t violence prevent violence, but before we even get to that issue we first have to make sure that when we use a word like ‘violence,’ we all can agree on what we are talking about. So, for example, the Anti-Defamation League publishes an annual report on anti-Semitic attacks which claims there has been a disturbingly-high number of such events over the last several years. But if you read the fine print, you discover that while incidents of vandalism and harassment have increased, the number of physical attacks have gone down. So what should members of the Jewish community do? Walk around with an assault rifle handy in case someone tries to paint a swastika on the synagogue wall?
I notice, by the way, that the promoters of armed self-defense at the Monsey meeting forgot to mention that bringing a gun into a synagogue during Shabbos (Sabbath) religious services happens to be a violation of Jewish law. You can’t carry metal objects in your pockets during Shabbos; you can’t wear any kind of ornamental items like a holster on your pants. Maybe the alleged security experts from Israel can provide the Orthodox residents of Monsey with the name of a Shabbos goy (a gentile to perform prohibited tasks during the Sabbath) who can walk around the synagogue with a gun.
Forgive me for sounding just a little bit less than enthusiastic about the spread of armed, self-defense into the Orthodox Jewish community. And if anyone wants to tell me that by being disarmed, these Jews are just inviting another nut to show up and slaughter some more innocent folks, do me a favor and in the words of my late friend Jimmy Breslin, go lay brick.
What did Solomon say in Ecclesiastes? “A time to kill and a time to heal.” He didn’t say that after someone is killed, you should go out and by an AR-15.