Although we have become accustomed to living in relative safety, the shooting awakened our deepest worries – that we are targets even in our own homes and places of worship. It sometimes feels like it would be easier to simply bury our heads in the sand and ignore the reality that is becoming terrifyingly clearer each day: the United States is a dangerous place too. But the stakes are too high to make such a deadly mistake. With the ever-increasing polarization and demonization of adversaries and opponents within US political and sociocultural circles, the fringe lunatics are slowly emerging from the woodwork, feeling ever more validated and emboldened by the country’s tense social climate.
The US has seen an uptick in anti-Semitic incidents in the past several years. According to the ADL, anti-Semitic incidents in 2017 rose 57% over 2016, the largest single-year increase on record. Jews were also the most commonly targeted group for harassment based on religious affiliation, with over 54% of such cases being committed against Jews. These stark facts should reinforce our innate cognizance of the fact that no matter where we are, we remain in galus, constantly pursued and with nowhere to call home.
Based on the aforementioned, it seems quite clear to me that, aside from improving in areas such as Emunah and Bitachon, we must raise our level of hishtadlus as well.
It is high time we outfitted all our schools and shuls with armed guards. It is the obligation of the government to protect and defend it’s citizenry from those wishing harm upon them. The police forces in the United States do an admirable and heroic job in offering protection from evildoers, but there is a limit to their resources and they cannot be everywhere at once, giving a mass shooter the opportunity to wreak untold havoc on a gathering before the cops have the opportunity to respond, as was so painfully illustrated in Pittsburgh.
As President Trump correctly noted following the bloodshed in the synagogue, it is likely that lives could have been saved had there been an armed member of the congregation in attendance. A good guy with a gun could have theoretically taken down the shooter or at least slowed him down, giving the police more time to respond and bring an end to the threat. Even if one protagonist with a gun wouldn’t stop an individual armed with a rifle, in an active shooter situation every second is an eternity, and every measure, however minor, should be taken to mitigate the lethal effects of the monster behind the gun. This being the case, it is imperative that we and our communal leaders make a concerted effort within the halls of political power to facilitate a bill which would provide funding for religious institutions to get much-needed 24-hour armed security personnel.
However, it is important to note that such a bill would be a monumentally challenging undertaking. The nation has a short memory – the massacre in Pittsburgh will be forgotten within a week or two – and it could be difficult for politicians to vote for such a bill, which, if implemented on the national level, would cost billions.
Due to this, I think what may be a more practical approach would be to get our politicians to pass a bill permitting a limited number of highly-trained members of each religious institution, whether a school, synagogue, church, or mosque, to carry a concealed weapon on them when on the institution’s premises. As it stands now, New Jersey rarely grants permits to the general population to carry a weapon. This needs to change. Good guys with guns stop bad guys with guns; it really is that simple. A good example for New Jersey to follow is the system that has been set up in Israel. Over there, the average citizen is not permitted to carry a weapon; however, those who can show that carrying a gun could help save lives are given permits and are required to undergo extensive and ongoing training. They are also required provide exact details of the guns they possess and how their ammo was used. Something similar to this general idea would be extremely beneficial to the minority communities of New Jersey and the country which are threatened by hateful and murderous extremists.
It shouldn’t take another communal tragedy to serve as an impetus for much-needed changes. It is time we took a stand for our safety; it is time to say enough is enough – we must protect ourselves. Upgrades to our security must happen, and they must happen NOW.