The Gun-Control Debate

Torah values and today’s headlines

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The Gun-Control Debate: Torah values and today’s headlines

Are guns the problem, or the solution? Do we need more gun rights, or more gun control? Learn a Torah-based perspective on this controversial issue.
Guns: Their Aim, Their Control  
Morality; Ethics; Values, Guns and Gun Control

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Anonymous August 23, 2013

The right to bear arms must be absolute. The government will try and restrict gun ownership if given the right environment. If you ever questioned weather or not you need a weapon ask yourself one question. Would the police be there to stop an invasion into your home? Police are there to clean up the bodies after an incident anymore. Protection is up to you. The best way to reduce crime in America is to ensure every home has a weapon and is trained to use it. I come from an Orthodox Jewish home. I will not pick up arms against a nation. That is against Hashem. I will however defend my right to live against an intruder. These are tough issues. While I may have major issues with Chabad in general the Rabbi was right about one thing and that is Torah and our rabbinic leaders must dictate how we respond as Jews. That includes the topic of self defense. Think about it. Reply

Yaakov Mark Los Angeles November 12, 2018
in response to Anonymous:

The Rebbe was a big proponent of signing your name and not publishing anonymously. Be proud of your opinions if they are well studied and fact based. Who cares that you have major problems with Chabad? Noone. If you can point out certain things that you have a problem with and ask questions sincerely to test your opinions, then you are worthy of honor. Dropping bombs about how you feel about Chabad and publishing them anonymously is highly dishonorable and cowardly. Anyhow, it has nothing to do with the subject matter, so perhaps you consider keeping to the subject at hand and find an appropriate venue to ask your difficult questions. Maybe start with your local neighborhood freindly Chabad Rabbi would be a refreshing place to begin. Reply

David Weiss Spring Valley NY May 13, 2013

Gun Control Debate George Mason was one of the writers of the Second Amendment. He wrote:
"I ask, Sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them." ~ George Mason, Speech at the Virginia Ratifying Convention, 1788

I have come to realize that the Second Amendment does NOT grant the right to bear arms. That right is granted by our Creator. What the Amendment does is PROTECT that right. Reply

Danforth Smith Wisconsin May 12, 2013

gun control I see a number of errors in the above remarks, but people see things differently. The problem with saying 2nd amendment refers to militia is it does. However the right to keep and bear arms is a second issue. Not to be infringed cannot be mistaken. Refer to 9th Amendment. Reply

Yaakov Mark Los Angeles May 6, 2013

Plano Texas That Goes By Anonymous It is insulting to be called a whiner and insulting that someone has not done their homework regarding the right to bear arms as contained in the 2nd amendment. This amendment is about the right to establish militias. It was created by people who theorized that as long as the people can defend itself against a tyrannical government, they themselves can be considered free. This was the American experiment that worked well for alot of years. Today, since we have few militias, our government often does things which are against our constitution. However, even our government with its nukes and drones, detest the idea of militias rising up with guns in a civil war. Even ownership of a weapon as small as an AR 15 our government is afraid of this. As long as they fear the people their is a chance they will try to be for the people to some degree. Guns maintain our freedom in this country. The right to bear arms is bigger than merely crime prevention. I am not afraid to publish my name Reply

Dr. J.H. Reynolds United Kingdom May 6, 2013

Thank you for a thoughtful discussion of a topic that has led to much "heat" but very little common sense. Reply

dale331 May 6, 2013

heller amendment Anonymous, plano, tx

What do children of homeless veterans have to do with banning guns? Reply

L. Jonathan Kramer May 6, 2013

Assault weapons Assault weapons are capable of full-automatic fire. They are not legal for private ownership except under stringent regulation. The AR-15, being limited to semi-automatic operation, does not qualify as an assault weapon. Anyone who has had military training has been taught to fire bursts or 3 to 5 rounds across their target. This is impossible with an AR-15. Reply

Anonymous GA May 5, 2013

Guns protect the innocent There would of never been a Holocaust if the Jews owned guns during that time. I will never let that happen again where the "power" lies in the hands of the hater. I hope I never have to come to that point but if I do I am ready to defend the helpless. Reply

Anonymous plano, tx via mbjewish.com May 5, 2013

The government is NOT trying to take away your gun Obama, Biden, an Diane F. have emphasized repeatedly that the government does Not want to take away your guns. Instead, the government wants to make it illegal for anyone to own a military style weapon that can kills 26 people in under 5 minutes. ( I refer to Newtown, Aurora, Gabby Giffords). Banning assault weapons is legitimate because of the Heller Amendment. Also, it has been illegal for years to own a machine gun which is basically the same as a military weapon designed to kill multitudes of people as quickly as possible. So, to you gun lovers stop whining, you know perfectly well that the government does not want to take away your gun. Reply

Lipa Kaufman MD Burlington November 11, 2018
in response to Anonymous:

You sound reassured by Obama, Biden, Diane Feinstein. Further, you seem willing and trying to convince the rest of us to be similarly reassured. History, especially Jewish history teaches us you're mistaken and giving dangerous advice!
A few points, Heller is not an Amendment, it was a Supreme Court decision on a case brought in Washington DC. Nor does Heller ban what you conflate with the term "assault weapons". Semi-automatic weapons are highly effective. Automatic weapons are legal and require only a $200 tax stamp, a clean NICS background check and the filing of the proper form with the BATF. Most importantly, self defense and the preservation of life trump all else. The deterrence effect of these weapons can make their use moot. That's the ideal outcome. Reply

Anonymous California, USA via chabadfresno.com May 5, 2013

I'm a Jew with guns- and Female We are an observant home. Our county sheriff suggests law abiding citizens buy a gun and keep ourselves armed in order to protect our families - not to go against the government but the criminals. Because of this request I took classes and now carry a concealed weapon at all times. Even to prayer. Belief and faith in Hashem has nothing to do with owning a gun or keeping it in your possession. The Halachic viewpoint is misconstrued by this rabbi. A gun is just as required in my dresscode as putting on shoes. Both are "not necessary" but both are for my protection. A gun is not a toy. It is not something that you show off. It's protection just as is putting on a seatbelt or locking your door. Reply

dale 331 rural Virginia, USA May 4, 2013

Yosef Menachem. To be clear, You can not buy a gun at a gun show from one of the dealers there without a background check. The only way to buy a gun at a show without a background check is through a private person just as you would in the parking lot of Walmart or if you sold your gun to your son or daughter. Reply

Yosef Menachem November 11, 2018
in response to dale 331:

An old post but felt compelled to respond. Respectfully, I have witnessed unlawful transactions at gun shows in three states, including three separate purchases of multiple handguns in single transactions without any paperwork, other than currency changing hands. I am a lifelong gun owner who believes that ownership of certain types of weapons ought to be severely restricted or banned, and that anyone who owns a firearm of any kind should be required to demonstrate proficiency in use and safety, and understanding of laws regarding the use of deadly force. Reply

dale331 sw va usa November 11, 2018
in response to Yosef Menachem:

i've never been to a show when there wasn't a police presence. if you see something illegal you're supposed to report it. can't say i've ever seen someone purchase more than one firearm at a time. could it be the sales you saw were not through a dealer but a private individual who rented a table? private sales do not require a check at least here in va and nc where i go to shows. Reply

Yosef Menachem November 13, 2018
in response to dale331:

I am certain that all three instances were private sales. Gun shows effectively make FFLs moot, which is a significant part of the problem. I don’t know about VA but NC is more strict than some other states in the south. However, one transaction I witnessed was in Raleigh and involved 3 semi-auto handguns with no information changing hands as far as I could tell. Those guns could have been resold anywhere. Reply

Anonymous orange, CT May 4, 2013

Gun Control Annon in TX asks:
"Would you feel comfortable having everyone in your neighbourhood within a 5 mile radius owning an assault weapon with a high capacity mag."
First, in Connecticut, anyone can get a concealed carry permit unless the background check finds some reason NOT to have it issued.
Not sure what you call an assault weapon, but if you tell me that a gun is more dangerous because it is embellished with a fancy stock, but shoots the same ammunition, I have to question that.
If you tell me that those embellishments make the gun look more scary, then I have to say that a "scary looking" gun might not necessitate the need to actually fire it when defending yourself. Google "pink gun" if for some reason you would rather have one that is less menacing.

Would you put a sign outside your house that says "This house is a gun-free zone"? Did not think so. Reply

Ed Houston, TX May 4, 2013

why no need for further backgound checks Currently, gun dealers, whether in a store or at a gun show, must do a government background check. I think that is consistent with halacha because they sell to strangers - it is the only way to meet the requirement to not provide a dangerous item to someone in whose hands it would be unsafe. However, when we sell as an individual to an individual, we have both the ability and responsibility to evaluate and judge to whom we are selling the gun to meet our halachic responsibility. We do not need further laws for this. We should jealously and assiduously avoid unnecessary laws because they create the slippery slope of infringing our right to keep and bear arms and our right to be secure in our homes, both of which are protected by the Constitution and are consistent with halacha. Reply

Thomas Gray Colorado Springs, Colorado via chabadnorthernnevada.com May 3, 2013

Firearms The Solution or the Problem I have always Said this Fear the person not the firearm. I am a serving Police Officer, I believe that everyone has the right to carry concealed. I am taking classes right now to become a gunsmith, I am my Departments Firearms Instructor. So what does that say? That I am a gun nut who is about to go insane and go to a gun free zone and commit mass murder? Or Does it say that I am a well educated man who knows and understands that a firearm in no better or worse than the person welding it? I say this to all; gun bans do not work (sorry but it is true Bans Do Not Work). Gun Free Zones do not work Sandy Hook, and the Aurora CO shooting and all of the active shooter events in the last 5 years were in gun free zones. A Gun Free Zone creates victims. I am a Veteran I am a Cop, I will not walk into a Ghetto, nor will I walk into a Gas Chamber. I will not dishonor those who died in the Holocaust giving up our right to bear arms or banning certain weapons turns us into the next holocaust victim Reply

Sara S Virginia, USA May 3, 2013

Thoughtful but Missing a Point Rabbi Mangel,
Thank you for your thoughtful presentation, BUT in presenting your holistic approach, you fail to cover a HUGE aspect of the problem, that is, that the evil amongst us, who would perpetrate such heinous acts (of harming innocents), are not the ones, nor will they be the ones following our laws! The evil acts outside of our laws. Also, you fail to present the hundreds and hundreds of laws already on the books (attempting to hinder our 2nd amendment rights). Law-abiding citizens do not need more laws; our sick society, as evidenced by violent media exposure as you point out, is what needs attention. G-d bless you and yours. G-d bless America. Reply

Jonathan Kramer Warminster, PA May 3, 2013

How can guns protect life? In most places good people outnumber the evil. If most people were armed and trained, a small number of evil people could not attack anyone. Therefore, the most effective way to prevent weapons violence is to train and arm as much of the population as possible, and to urge the trained to go armed everywhere.

Until we can train and arm most of the population, it will be necessary for the trained citizens to carry weapons that can fire easily and rapidly, i.e. semiautomatic pistols with large magazines and laser sights. They should be urged to carry their guns everywhere not protected by armed guards, since a crowd of unarmed people is an easy target for even a single attacker. In places that do have armed guards, there should be secure lockers where people can store their guns in full view of the guards before they enter the gun-free space.

To deny criminals the knowledge of where guns can be found, it should be a felony to create or divulge any list of gun or permit holders. Reply

ATM Lafayette, California via jewishcontracosta.com May 3, 2013

With Respect Rabbi,

With respect, the Constitution and Declaration are not based in religious law. They are based on the Age of Reason, not on Jewish or Christian law. They derive some of their principles from early human legal codes of various cultures, certainly including Biblical precepts, but the central idea of eighteenth century thought was reason. The Second Amendment was clearly intended to be "incorporated" under the Fourteenth Amendment if you read the original intent of those crafting the Amendments. It means that the right is one wielded by individuals. The real reason to have guns is if governments become tyrannical. If they do, then they do not respect reason or debate. Jewish and human history have both shown this to be true, over and over again. Reply

Anonymous orange, ct May 3, 2013

How many bullets? Very balanced article. You said if we have a weapon, it should be the "best weapon". My guess that would include the number of (within practical reason) rounds in a magazine.

As to background checks, all gun sales since 1998 have been required to be run though the The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) with the exception of private sales. No federal proposed law (as of this date) will include private sales.

People accused of any violence...including domestic violence, are excluded from owning guns, also since the 90's.

If we need a few more gun laws to fix a problem, I can't see it needing THOUSANDS of pages that no legislator will take the time to read. We should not have to wait till a bill is passed to find out what is in it. Reply

Anonymous houston, tx via mbjewish.com May 3, 2013

GUN CONTROL Ask yourself this question: Would you feel comfortable having everyone in your neighborhood within a 5 mile radius owning an assault weapon with a high capacity mag. Would you feel comfortable having even 1/2 or 1/4 or those in your neighborhood owning these weapons. Under either of these circumstances, would you feel comfortable having your kids play in the front yard, walk to school, ride their backs all around the neighborhood. The problem is that we cannot possibly predict who will be the next "crazy" that snaps. That is why these weapons must be banned. The Newtown and Aurora shooters had no criminal records. Reply

Lipa Kaufman MD Burlington November 11, 2018
in response to Anonymous:

Yes, absolutely comfortable, "the more guns, the less crime" (John Lott Jr PhD). Deterrence is as important as the use of weapons. In fact, the deterrence effect more often than not precludes the need to fire the weapon in civilian situations. Vermont has the lowest firearm homicide rate in the nation for years and until a few months ago, no restrict anti-selfdefense legislation. No one goes to rural homes with I'll intent as they also know most of those homes have armed occupants. The opposite obtains in gun free zones. A killing field.

The aberrant mentally ill person is a rarity. However, in Newtown, Aurora and every city or town where criminals killed numbers of people with firearms, they made their plans known to others in advance, they were known to present serious risk to life, and either parents, police, schools or other authorities knew of their troubles. That's where the problem lies and NOT in the tool a mentally disturbed person used to hurt other people. Reply

Rabbi Nochum Mangel Dayton OH May 3, 2013

Mistrust of Government It's clear that behind many comments lies a fear of the government. Polls tell us that this fear is growing in America, and we note it respectfully.

It's important to understand that the Torah commands us individually. In the case of weapons, as in most cases, we are each individually obliged to make sure that we do not allow weapons to get into the hands of dangerous people.

Can we find a way to do that without using a government? Perhaps. The Torah doesn't specify the means, only the result. We welcome thoughts and suggestions of ways to accomplish this without using legal coercion or by using it minimally.

Torah is not anarchic. It does not oppose government per se, only bad government. It recognizes both sides of the question of government. On the one hand, people who have power often abuse it. Thus, we have in the Mishna (Avot 2:3): "Be wary of those in power, for they befriend a person only for their own benefit..." On the other hand, the rabbis recognize that even a bad government fulfills an indispensable role of maintaining order: "Rabbi Chanina, the deputy High Priest, said: Pray for the welfare of the government, for were it not for the fear of it, men would swallow one another alive. (Avot 3:2)" Reply