I recently purchased a Glock 19. It is my first Glock but second firearm. My first is a slim, black pocket pistol, a Ruger LC9, which we keep in our safe. I practice shooting from time to time and trained for a Concealed Handgun License (CHL) as well.
Sidearms are new to me. I grew up in a large frum family in New York. We never saw private handguns, let alone held them. The only weapons in my childhood home were in the kitchen drawers, the largest a silver-plated, finely serrated challah knife, able to cut the sweet raisin bread my mother made on Fridays but not much more. My grandparents did have a more serious weapon in their home – the chalef, or slaughter knife, my great-grandfather, a shochet, used in his day. It was tucked away as a keepsake when he passed away in the 1960s.
In the Brooklyn neighborhood of my youth, crime was both existent and consistent. Bikes were stolen. Porch furniture went missing. We had two home burglaries. Once someone broke in to our home in broad daylight and stole most of our modest silver collection. Another time, at night, a teen pushed a trash can up to our kitchen window, climbed in and stole my father’s wallet from his jacket pocket.
I remember the first weapon I ever owned. It was a survival knife, purchased from a friend for $5 when I was fourteen and about to go to summer camp. I smuggled it into the upstate campsite in my hatbox. A quiet, mild-mannered teen, I left it in the hatbox for the duration of the summer. Once, I removed the fishing kit from the knife’s hollow core and tried my luck on the pier near the camp lake. I put some bread on the hook and dropped the line into the water. A fish bit and I pulled it onto the dock. But seeing it gasp for life, I felt bad and threw it back into the water. My lust for the wild life was over.
My wife and I now live in a relatively safe neighborhood in Dallas. Every so often bikes go missing and lawnmowers disappear. From time to time a home is burglarized. We have an alarm system throughout the house and video cameras on the perimeter.
Why do I own guns? Is it not to be tough or macho. I am a mild-mannered rabbi and businessman and the tough, macho image fits me poorly. Had my wife and I remained in Lakewood, New Jersey, where we lived when we married in 1997, we wouldn’t have thought of owning one. There, we perceived guns as the media portray them, violent instruments reflective of anger and belligerence. In Dallas it is different. Here they are seen as the means to defend your family in a time of danger, and a responsible thing to own. It took me a while to absorb this view, but I now appreciate it.
When I entered the business world in 2004, one of my primary desires was to provide for my wife and children in an honorable way. Joined to the moral hip of the desire to provide is the promise to protect. These are perhaps the most basic responsibilities of a husband and father. My decision to protect my family comes from the very same place as my commitment to work twelve hours a day to provide for them. Both are natural and both are good.
Are we living in innocent times? In truth, I am worried about the stability of our nation. When a business spends more than it makes, and covers the difference by selling bonds to new investors, it is headed for ruin. Our government has been doing that for years. Companies built on machinations like these fail well before the leadership thinks they will. Cultures fail, too. Where there is chaos there is anarchy and where there is anarchy we ought to be protected.
When I heard of the horrible massacre in Newtown my mind went numb. Those beautiful children were the same age as my 6-year-old-son. When the details became known, the issue to me was not the lack of firearm regulation. It was the story of a father-detached child sucked into a God-detached world of violent video games, where armed human beings are all powerful and can destroy others with impunity. And it was the tale of a mother who didn’t have the strength to withhold guns from her sick son who wanted them. The conversation I hoped for what one concerning we can do for parents struggling with mentally ill children, and how we can keep our youth inspired by values not violence.