Spending a lifetime here in the metropolitan area, where middle-class Jewish families rarely have guns, it is hard for many of us to understand why anyone might possibly feel any desire to own one.
It frankly seems outrÃ©, like carrying a broadsword, or slaughtering your own dinner, or maybe building your own house, from your own sunbaked bricks, and then living off the grid in it. Or maybe even less picturesque than any of those things. Just weird and distasteful.
But it is clear that this idea of gun ownership is not widely shared by the rest of the country, or even by a sizable minority of people who live here. It is clear that not only kooks and creeps own guns, but that many real, solid people, living real lives, own them as well, some for sport, some for hunting, some for self-protection, some as a philosophical declaration of the limits of their relationship with what they see as an encroaching government.
Gun ownership is a very daily part of life for many people, most but not all of whom live somewhere other than here.
And of course the Second Amendment to the Constitution protects the right to bear arms, although it is not entirely clear how connected that right is to the well-regulated militia it mentions, in its own convoluted 18th-century way. “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,” it tells us.
It is a highly contentious issue.
But no matter how much people believe in the right to “keep and bear Arms,” very few believe in the right to shoot innocents, to open fire in schools or movie theaters or shopping malls.
The problem, then, is to figure out how to allow people who want to carry firearms, and who have proven themselves trustworthy enough to do so, to have those guns, without endangering everyone else.
It is a hard problem, but many people are working on it. As we detail on page 8, Rabbi Shaul Praver, whose Newtown, Connecticut, pulpit gave him a front row seat to a horror show, has some ideas. So does Rabbi Joel Mosbacher of Beth Haverim Shir Shalom in Mahwah, who is hard at work on establishing a coalition of municipal leaders who plan to use their buying power to push for safety devices on firearms.
Both urge the importance of civility, of understanding the truths on both sides of this issue.
Rabbi Praver, Jersey City’s Mayor Steven Fulop, who was one of the first municipal leaders to sign onto Rabbi Mosbacher’s initiative, and other leaders in the fight to control gun violence will hold a panel discussion on Thursday at Fairleigh Dickinson. We hope that it is the beginning of a fruitful effort to spark a civil discussion that soon will lead to a real solution to the horrific problem of gun violence.