Royi Shaffin

Jews With Guns: A Response to the Kansas City JCC Shooting

The Kansas JCC shooting was not the first time that Jews have been the victims of hate crimes or of terrorism.  On their way out of Egypt, the Children of Israel encounter the equivalent of a gunman.  The Torah describes in great detail how the nation of Amalek, the epitome of evil and of antisemitism, attacked Israel’s most vulnerable and feeble civilian population.  Contrary to popular thought among many American Jewish leaders today, God’s response was neither to pacify Amalek nor to pass gun control legislation.  Rather, God armed Israel, literally.  So long as Moses held his hands high to receive Divine fire power, Israel prevailed.  Actually, the Torah tells us that Israel even left Egypt armed, “chamushim” (Exodus 13:18). So, if God does not remove arms from people who need to fight for a just cause, why should we?

In the aftermath of the shooting at the Kansas City JCC, there has been an increase in the American Jewish communal leadership’s involvement in the movement to bring about gun control legislation.  This, however, makes no sense.  It is unwise in terms of the American legal heritage and in terms of Jewish history.  In addition, it does nothing to solve the problem of gun violence or to prevent future attacks on the Jewish community.

Not only did the framers of the United States Constitution not trust government; they did not even trust themselves.  In fact, they wisely distrusted all people with power and thus structured a system with a balance of power.  The right to bear arms as described in the second amendment to the Constitution was instituted to prevent a government and it’s army from having complete control.  When “we the people” have arms, the police and the military are not as intimidating.  Should there arise a government that attempts to institute a militaristic dictatorial regime, it will have the difficult task of suppressing an armed populace.  The American revolution itself was won by militia armies, civilians who owned guns.  They were able to stage a rebellion against British oppression because they had arms.

Jewish history teaches us a similar lesson.  When one reads about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in the chronicles of first-hand historian Emanuel Ringelblum, one is struck by the fact that the Jews were severely lacking in arms and were reduced to fighting the Nazis with molotov cocktails. Imagine if they had actually been well-armed.  Furthermore, imagine the Nazis trying to get a bunch of Jews with guns onto cattle trains headed for Auschwitz.  It wouldn’t have happened.

When the Land of Israel was under British occupation in the 1940s and we Jews rebelled, one of the main goals of the occupying administration was to confiscate arms from our underground armies, the Hagganah, the Irgun, the Palmach, and others.  Additionally, there was a world-wide effort to keep arms from getting to Israel during the War of Independence.  The often repeated phrase “Never Again” doesn’t mean being pacifists and singing of world peace.  It means Jews with guns. Never again will Jews be victims.  From now on, we are dedicated to self-defense – armed self-defense!

Gun control is not what we need. What we need is criminal control.  More police, more security guards, and more guns in the hands of the right people.  Furthermore, legislation will only keep guns out of the hands of law abiding citizens like us.  Just as criminals have no trouble getting their hands on illegal drugs, so too would they have no problem getting their hands on illegal arms. We certainly need to respond to the recent tragic events at the Kansas City JCC, but not with gun control legislation.  Rather, we need to place an armed security guard at each and every Jewish institution so that the next time Amakek the antisemite strikes, there will be someone there “chamushim” (armed) to take him down before even one person gets hurt.

About the Author
Rabbi Royi Shaffin has served as a rabbi, Jewish educator, professor, writer, and public speaker for over 15 years. His writings span the full spectrum of Jewish religious and political topics. He considers himself a member of both the faith community and the community of free-thinkers. As such, he bridges the gap between religion and reason, belief and inquiry. His commentary on Israel and the Jewish world uses unique insight, satire, comedy, passion, and life experience to shed light on Israeli and Jewish life in the modern world and creating visions and possibilities for a better future.