There are a lot of ways to respond to the racist, anti-Semitic wingnut who killed three people in Kansas City a few days ago. This blog post, by Rabbi Royi Shaffin, isn’t one of them.
Shaffin’s argument is that we need more guns, not fewer, and that, specifically, Jews need to be armed to the teeth in order to combat anyone who might want to harm us.
To bolster his argument, he repeats several of the historically inaccurate examples that the gun lobby typically trots out. The first is that the American founders wanted an armed populace that could resist the government:
The right to bear arms as described in the second amendment to the Constitution was instituted to prevent a government and it’s army from having complete control. When “we the people” have arms, the police and the military are not as intimidating. Should there arise a government that attempts to institute a militaristic dictatorial regime, it will have the difficult task of suppressing an armed populace.
This, of course, totally ignores the founders’ response to Shays’ Rebellion, their thoughts on mobs of armed citizens, and the whole debate about state militias.
The second example is that of the Jews during the Second World War, who apparently wouldn’t have been so easily murdered by the Nazis if they’d just had more guns:
When one reads about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in the chronicles of first-hand historian Emanuel Ringelblum, one is struck by the fact that the Jews were severely lacking in arms and were reduced to fighting the Nazis with molotov cocktails. Imagine if they had actually been well-armed. Furthermore, imagine the Nazis trying to get a bunch of Jews with guns onto cattle trains headed for Auschwitz. It wouldn’t have happened.
Suggesting that the Holocaust wouldn’t have happened if the Jews had attempted to fight off the Waffen-SS with handguns is patently ridiculous and, I think, insulting to the victims of the Holocaust. The implicit argument is that, by not arming themselves and fighting, the Jews went to their deaths placidly or, at the very least, that they could have done more to resist what we know was actually a war machine that was bent on their utter annihilation.
Obviously, Shaffin is not wrong about the existence of anti-Semitism or the existence of people who specifically want to harm Jews. But this notion that Jews should arm ourselves to the teeth does little more than provide us with the illusion of safety rather than actually making us safer. The Kansas City shootings make this clear, as the people who were shot weren’t even Jewish; they just had the terrible misfortune to be at the Jewish Community Center when a disturbed man came looking for people to kill. The shooter had no reason to believe that the people he wanted to attack would be unarmed; in America, lots of people carry weapons and, in Missouri, plenty of people have concealed carry permits. This didn’t prevent the shooter from driving to the JCC and shooting people. Some people will argue that if everyone was carrying a gun, the shooter would have been stopped from killing three people. Perhaps. But this argument relies on the idea that pretty much everyone should be armed at all times … because you just never know when someone will try to shoot at Jews and end up aiming a gun at you, a non-Jew, instead.
The truth of the matter is that, no matter how much Rabbi Shaffin and I want to combat anti-Semitism, we can’t do it by shooting at it.