By Sharon Gordon
Published January 2013
Editor’s note: Ms. Gordon wrote this op-ed in 1999, which is when it appeared in The Jewish Voice and Opinion, shortly after a JCC in Los Angeles was attacked by an antisemitic gunman who came looking for blood.
I am a Jewish mother whose child attends a Jewish day school in New Jersey. When I first heard about the carnage in Los Angeles at the Jewish center, I thought that it could have been my child. Along with the rest of the country, I am horrified at the attempted massacre by the neo-Nazi monster Buford Furrow. Unfortunately, this type of violence is hardly a rarity nowadays.
Much attention is paid to the notion that such horrors can be prevented, primarily by eliminating the tools of destruction. Certainly, keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous madmen is one important step. Background checks on gun sales provide that safeguard. Had Mr. Furrow tried to buy a gun through legal methods, he would have been justifiably denied.
Unfortunately, homicidal maniacs rarely concern themselves with legal niceties. They obtain their guns through illegal methods. We must accept the reality that such people live in this country, plotting episodes of destruction and mayhem against not only Jews, but Christians and athletes (Columbine), whites (Long Island Railroad), blacks (Howard Beach), Mormons (Salt Lake City) and financial workers (Atlanta). There is no telling where the next tragedy will strike.
Protecting the Children
We must protect our children; all our children. My solution may not be a popular one, but it is a real one, a practical one, dealing with the reality of the madness that more and more evil people are acting out today.
The solution is clear, yet it is a politically difficult one. My premise is that most people are good, and that there are few evil people who will actually commit these heinous crimes. The children would have been protected had a responsible, trained, armed person been on site to stop the bloodshed.
This approach is not without precedent. Many adults in Israel—both soldiers and civilians—carry guns, because terrorism has been a chronic problem. Teachers and kindergarten nurses carry weapons. Few attacks have occurred on children in Israel since this practice began, because their teachers have had the tools to protect the children: guns. In fact, one of the few recent attacks occurred on a group of children who were visiting Jordan, after their teachers were compelled to leave their protective weapons behind.
Like a Credit Card
Closer to home, about ten years ago, there were several days of minor rioting in my suburban town after a policeman shot a teenager who had been brandishing a gun. The rioters approached my neighborhood, near friends who lived up the street.
As the rioters approached her house, the husband called the police and pleaded for help. The police, understandably busy in many other sections of town, said they could do nothing unless the rioters were entering her house.
That was an epiphany for the wife. She had previously been supportive of the efforts that are called gun control as a means to protect the population, but then she realized the police cannot protect everyone; they can only pick up the pieces after a tragedy occurs.
Her husband legally owned a gun, but she had been quite uncomfortable about it. After this incident, she decided to learn how to use her husband’s gun. She finally understood what her husband meant when he had said: A gun is like a credit card. Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
Not a Personal Gun-Owner
Let me make one thing clear. I do not have a gun, nor have I ever had one. I do not personally want a gun now because I am not ready to assume the responsibility involved in proper training for it. I am not even suggesting that most adults should own guns. However, I do think those who are willing to accept the responsibility for proper gun safety should have right to do so. I am grateful for those who do.
My attitude has evolved from that time long time ago when I believed the sophistry of the radical anti-protection lobby, whose adherents are well-meaning but misguided. But as I looked deeper into the subject, I came to recognize the folly of their arguments, and the benefit of crime prevention that a well-armed responsible populace would provide.
Even with the crushing restrictions on guns in many parts of the country, guns do prevent over 600,000 crimes per year, according to FBI statistics.
There is no question that states (such as Texas and Florida) that allow responsible citizens to carry protective weapons have lower rates of crime; the effect of deterrence is significant. Were more responsible people able to protect other innocent individuals, the criminals would soon learn that they put their own lives in peril when there are many citizen protectors surrounding them.
I know I am swimming against the tide, and that the initial reaction of the majority in the wake of a shooting incident is to impose even more stringent constraints on gun ownership.
Yet, this recent tragedy convinces me even more about the need to make it easier for responsible people to obtain protective guns.
I am sure the usual epithets will be thrown at me by the anti-protection gun control lobby. I am not a member of any gun-related group. I have not sought the endorsement of any gun-related group. I have not obtained funds from any gun-related group. I am in no one’s pocket.
These are personal, heartfelt beliefs developed through years of study and observation of the topic.
To protect our children, many of us vaccinate them, even though there is a small risk to their health by doing so. To ensure our children’s safety even more, we need to protect them with the only tool available to stop a madman: a gun in the hands of a responsible, trained, loving adult.