Pistol Packing Pedagogues?

With the increase of terrorist threats and attacks in the United States, by those who abhor our way of life, there are growing security concerns about protecting our citizenry. And with the alarming rise of anti-Semitism the Jewish community has heightened its vigilance at: Jewish community centers, synagogues and Hebrew/Jewish day schools. Consequently, there have been calls by some to arm teachers in the classroom. It comes as no surprise that the NRA and other Second Amendment advocates are strongly in support of that idea.

Often, those in support of loosening the reins of gun laws in the United States trot out examples of the success Israel enjoys, as being relatively free of gun violence, as compared to the United States. In an effort to support their assertion, they point to the fact that visitors to Israel routinely see soldiers lined up at a falafel or pizza stand with rifles slung over their shoulders or civilians standing in line at a local market with a pistol holstered to his or her hip. Regrettably, Israel has been misrepresented as a gun brandishing society by those in support of lifting restrictions on obtaining weapons. And the oft-repeated bogus claims, that in Israel the school children’s classrooms are filled with teachers packing heat, are not true.

I’ve been in Israel dozens of times and have had the occasion to accompany my grandchildren to their elementary schools and high schools and not once did I see a teacher carrying a weapon. Admittedly, there may be rare exceptions, as in the case of schools located in the disputed territories, but that does not negate the fact that as a rule teachers do not carry guns in the classroom. However, there is a weapons-trained armed security guard stationed at the entrance of every school.

There is a picture that went viral a few years ago that portrayed a teacher with a rifle slung over her shoulder protecting her students on a class trip. That photo is a misrepresentation and cynical distortion of the truth promulgated in order to further a pro-gun agenda. The woman in the picture is in fact an armed security guard, a former member of the Israel Defense Forces well trained in the use of firearms. All school class trips are protected in that way because the enemies of Israel purposely target school children; that’s what terrorists do. They prey on the most vulnerable targets thereby instilling the maximum amount of fear in the general population.

Although under the Second Amendment, in the United States we have the ‘right to bear arms’, in Israel there is no such right. In Israel it is a privilege. Also, because hunting is rare in Israel there is not the same demand for weapons as there is in the United States. Nevertheless, even if hunting were popular in Israel, you could not buy a pistol or rifle at a gun show or from a gun collector, as is the case here in the US. In Israel assault rifles are banned, except for those who live in those areas of the disputed territories where they are under attack almost on a daily basis.

And if perchance you do have a permit to carry a pistol, a privilege accorded only to those who have served in the IDF and attained the rank of a lieutenant or staff-sergeant or higher. Also included in that population are those who served in special (unnamed) units of the IDF, security guards trained by the Shin Bet, Airport Authority guards and of course law enforcement officers. Additional qualifications must be met as well: 21 years of age or older, a citizen of Israel for at least three years, a clean police record and in good physical and mental health, as certified by a licensed physician. Granted exceptions are made for those living in close proximity to the Green Line and disputed territories. But only 4% of the civilian population is licensed to own a weapon and those who do are permitted just one pistol, not an arsenal.

So for those who want to see pistol packing pedagogues prowling around the halls and in the classrooms of our children’s schools, you can’t use Israel as your poster child for gun advocacy. And take note for those who claim, “Guns don’t kill people, people do”; it is also true that although “Guns don’t kill people, people with guns do”.

About the Author
Since retiring from IBM as an IT Systems Analyst Steve Wenick has served as a freelance book reviewer for HarperCollins Publishing. His reviews have appeared in The Algemeiner as well as The Jewish Voice of Southern New Jersey and The Jewish Voice of Philadelphia. His articles on Jewish, Holocaust and Israel topics also have appeared in The Jerusalem Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Attitudes Magazine and Varied Voices. Steve and his wife are residents of Voorhees, New Jersey.