I have not yet addressed the horrific tragedy that struck our nation a little over week ago in Newtown, Connecticut. The truth is that this is the kind of thing that I do not usually discuss since it is not a Jewish issue. Even though there was one Jewish victim, the tragedy is much larger than one victim.
But the fact is that the issues raised by this tragedy affects us all – Jew and Gentile alike.
On Friday morning, December 14th, 27 people were massacred at the Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School by Adam Lanza, a mentally ill 20-year-old with easy access to four semi-automatic weapons. Twenty of the victims were very young children and at least two of the adults, one a teacher and the other the school principal were murdered while attempting to shield children from the hail of bullets.
Like just about everyone else I was stunned by it. I could not imagine the sudden grief that parents, friends, and families must have felt. The idea that a group of six-year-old children were so quickly massacred in this way is unimaginable. So terrible is this to me this that my mind is mentally blocked from putting myself into the shoes of those parents. I think I would have a mental breakdown if I did. I was basically numbed by it. The President was visibly moved to tears when he first made public comments about it.
My immediate thoughts were about the guns. I thought it was indeed the easy access to guns that was the problem here. Those guns were legally obtained by Lanza’s mother, an avid gun enthusiast. Unfortunately for her, that attitude cost her her life at the hands of her own son just before he went on his killing rampage and suicide. The state of Connecticut is reputed to have some of the strictest gun laws in the country. It didn’t matter. The guns were there at the disposal of a mentally deranged individual.
Personally, I wouldn’t go anywhere near a gun. Guns scare me, frankly. To me the dangers of someone getting accidentally shot far outweigh the improbability of my using it for protection, which would be the only reason for me to own one. I am reminded of a former employee of mine whose son was killed by a gun carelessly placed on a table in her home by a friend who was police trainee. The boy found it, started playing with it and he accidentally shot himself in the head.
I believe that the massacre in Newton would never have happened if guns were made illegal.
It happens to be the case that in England gun ownership is very strictly controlled. If I understand correctly the police don’t even carry guns. It also happens to be the case that the gun homicide rate there is one of the lowest in the world. If we could do the same here in America, this massacre would very likely never have happened.
The trouble is you can’t do that here. It is a constitutional right of every American citizen to bear arms. And there is some truth to the slogan of gun rights advocates that if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. It is therefore quite understandable that some people feel the need to own a gun for protection.
If I recall correctly the founding fathers believed that confiscating guns from the citizenry was a first step towards tyranny. Which is one reason they introduced the 2nd amendment. But is that still the case? In my view making all guns illegal would be a huge step towards solving this problem. But the only way that can be done is to repeal the second amendment to the constitution. That is not going to happen. Although using England as an example I think it should. Will outlaws still have guns? Of course they will. But I would differ with England in that I would still allow law enforcement to carry them.
Gun enthusiasts of course would vehemently protest any such move. They use guns as toys… for target practice and the like. And then there are hunters. Perhaps an exception could be made for single shot rifles for hunting purposes. But I would outlaw all private ownership of all handguns and assault type semi automatic weapons that can take a large magazine clip filled with bullets. I would certainly outlaw those large ammunition clips. This is the type of gun and clip used by Lanza to shoot and kill so many victims so quickly.
But then I had another thought that went in an entirely different direction. I couldn’t help thinking that if the principal who had encountered him at the beginning of his shooting rampage had a gun with a conceal/carry permit, was well trained and proficient with firearms – that she could have shot Lanza before he did so much damage. I don’t know if she would have gotten to him before he killed anyone. But she surely could have saved many of those children and herself. Lest anyone think this is ridiculous, there are schools in Texas where all or most of the teachers are trained in firearms and carry weapons.
But I have to admit that the thought of a teacher who carries a gun in the classroom teaching my child is a scary thought. Teachers can be – or become – deranged too. With a gun at the ready, there could just as easily be another shooting of this type. Only this time by a deranged teacher.
Then there is the proposal by the NRA. They want to station armed police guards in every school. While many people are outraged by this, I don’t see it that way. If properly trained they too could have prevented the Newtown massacre had they been there.
The NRA points to Israeli schools who have this exact situation. Israel as we all know has been frequently subjected to terrorist attacks by suicide bombers. I don’t blame them a bit for protecting their schools in this way.
It would put my mind at greater ease to know that Israeli trained sharpshooters were on alert in my child’s school for any terrorist that might enter. Israel’s attitude about guns is more along the lines of the NRA. It is also true that a civilian carrying a handgun is a fairly common sight there. I also believe there has never been an incident like this in Israel’s history… where in the US it seems like every Monday and Thursday we see one.
Are armed guards a viable option here in America? I don’t know. Counter claims are being made that it would be ineffective. Columbine had an armed guard that was somehow eluded and students were massacred there by other students.
But still you can’t argue with the success of such a program in Israel. I think it is therefore really a matter of better training. Something the Israelis could help us with.
What about a Jewish school? Should we have armed guards in every day school? That would make quite a sight… something we are all not used to here at all. Or maybe we should all carry guns the way Meir Kahane once suggested. He coined the phrase “Every Jew – 22.” Twenty-two is the caliber handgun he suggested we own. He claimed that had the Jewish people had guns at the beginning of the Holocaust they could have fight back effectively.
That of course is very debatable. It may have made the annihilation of six-million Jews more difficult – but I doubt it would have done anything more than delay it.
Rabbi Kahane said that a Holocaust could happen anywhere; anytime. And we should be ready for it by having our own weapons. That is of course ridiculous. But I understand where he was coming from. He did not want to see us to go like sheep to the slaughter – which is what happens when an armed tyrannical government starts rounding up its unarmed citizens like Germany did to the Jewish people during the Holocaust.
But still, if every Jew carried a handgun – that would include every teacher and Rebbe. That would surely prevent the kind of massacre that happened in Newtown.
Does this sound like a viable idea to anyone?
Some have also suggested that the real issue here is mental illness, not handguns. While I agree – that too is an issue that ought to be addressed here, I don’t think that mental Illness will be cured anytime soon. No matter how much time and energy we devote to it. Although I fully agree that we need to devote a lot more time and money to it than we do now it does not offer any real solutions in the short term.
One thing seems clear to me. One way or the other something needs to change here in a big way. Because if it doesn’t. We may not have seen the last of this kind of thing.
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About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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