In a July 24 editorial (“Don’t Shoot”), you assert that a “head-strong attachment to guns” stems from “deep wells of rage” or “free-floating hostility” and you refer to a “mystique surrounding guns, even among Jews.” It is not clear what you mean by “head-strong attachment to guns” or why you think guns are surrounded by a “mystique,” but you presumably intended to condemn anyone (even, or perhaps especially, any Jew) who owns a gun or whose views diverge from the liberal party line on gun-control issues. While reasonable minds can differ on the proper scope of gun regulations and the appropriate balance between Second Amendment rights and legitimate public safety concerns, your foray into pop psychology reflects a level of ignorance, anti-gun rights bias, and irrational fear of guns that is unfortunately prevalent in the Jewish community.
Why own a gun? Putting aside the recreational aspects of target shooting, it boils down to a question of self-responsibility. If one believes that each of us is ultimately responsible for our own safety and that of our families, and that each individual has a right and even an obligation to defend oneself and others (as the Talmud in Sanhedrin teaches), the decision by a properly trained person to own a gun makes perfect sense. If, on the other hand, one believes, as the editors of The Jewish Standard apparently do, that individuals abdicate all responsibility for and control over their personal safety to the government, and that, for some reason, the average person is incapable of learning how to safely handle and store a firearm, then the reasons for gun ownership may indeed be a mystery. If one falls into the latter camp, if one believes that private citizens shouldn’t own guns because the police are there to protect us from crime and civil unrest and that a telephone is the ultimate defensive tool, at least be aware that under well-established law (including section 59:5-4 of the NJ statutes) the police have no duty to protect any individual. Furthermore, as is evident from the L.A. riots, Hurricane Katrina, and many, many cases in which victims of home invasions or other attacks have dialed 911 seeking immediate assistance, even the most diligent and best intentioned police department usually cannot respond in time to protect a victim from a crime in progress. The Teaneck Police Department may have excellent response times, but they can’t be everywhere at once.
Given our long history of suffering and oppression at the hands of others, we, as Jews, should be particularly sensitive to these concerns. It is therefore unfortunate that The Jewish Standard, in addressing an important gun-control issue, focused on inflammatory rhetoric rather than meaningful analysis.
On behalf of the members of the Golani Rifle & Pistol Club