Opinion: Arm Our Institutions

By Avi Gutfreund. The bloody massacre in a Pittsburgh synagogue this past Shabbos struck a deep chord within many American Jews.

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.

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  1. This guy showed up with an AR 15 and multiple handguns and he took down 4 highly trained professional police officers. Do you really think the solution is a “highly trained” amateur community member?

  2. …Until some whacko Jew with a licensed firearm commits a murder even accidental. We will not be able to withstand the blowback ח״ו.

    Yaakov’s strength is only in Tefillah unless the gedolim tell us this is a war… Leave the sword for Esav.

  3. I do believe arming more people would help stop tragedies like this. I also realistically believe that will never happen here in New Jersey.

    The bigger issue is, there are hundreds of synagogues in Lakewood alone. There are thousands upon thousands across America. Where are you getting so many guards? It’s not logistically feasible, even forgetting about cost.

  4. The concept of Having Armed Mispallelim already exist not far from Lakewood,The shul I davened in Boro Park this shabbos there is a trained mispallel that davens there 3 Times a day 7 days a week & comes armed with his concealed gun. Some shuls in Teaneck,Flatbush & a Bunch of shuls in the 5 towns have the same concept of trained mispallem carrying a gun

  5. Please think, and educate your self. In this tragedy a single man with an automatic rifle was up against 4 armed and trained law officers. 3 were wounded. It is naive to think that one man with a pistol could have stopped him. I had a carry permit for many years. One of the things Iearned in my training is that it is difficult to shoot a moving subject who is shooting at you in a room full of people. You have a higher chance of killing an innocent than you do of killing the shooter. And like any other skill it takes practice. Practice with a gun is also an expensive proposition. Can you afford range time and ammo? Get some education about guns and before you start recommending that every minyan is locked and loaded.

  6. 24 hrs a day ? Billions of dollars ? Huh ?
    Each few shuls can pool together to get 1 or 2 patrolling armed guards. It’s no expensive. We need not wait for a Federal Bill to be passed. Call a security place and get a guard and finished.
    Just keep in mind, there was a frum shul across the street in Pittsburgh and wasnt touched.
    Ihm H-Shem lo Yishmar Ir……

  7. I’m sorry but I strongly disagree and appose this, arming shul members with guns is terrible and very unsafe! First of all, what happened in Pittsburgh is terrible and sad, but as far as I remember this is the first time someone lunatic walked into a synagogue on Shabbos to shoot people, Baruch Hashem it doesn’t happen every weekend, so why is there so many people panicking to suggest arming people in shul? We don’t have to rush to arm thousands of shuls just from one isolated incident. Whoever’s opinion this is (and I did read many comments here people suggesting it) I suggest first check the levels of your Emunah and Bitachon. Just remember that every bullet has an address! Second of all, who is going to be in charge of the guns in the shul? is it the Rov? or the Gabbay who has the combination code to Aron Kodesh? is it someone who I can trust? or just some random “machers” interested in the idea of walking around in Shul with guns? Lakewood has hundreds of shuls, and this town is infested with machers, I have all the respect to all the wonderful organizations of this town, but it’s one thing to carry a radio and something else to carry a gun!!! people go to shul to daven need to feel safe from within as well, specially when there are women and kids around. I do support official licensed security officers and police officers, the ones who I trust and feel safe around, not some bunch of gun lovers who want to bring their weapons into shuls. Don’t forget, your best protection in the shul is to keep quiet, and daven with concentration.

    • I wanted to add to your last statement. Another great source of protection is that when we talk about other people , we do not use the word “infested”.

  8. If someone on the premises is armed atleast there’s a chance to limit the casualties & many people stand a better chance surviving.when there’s no one armed it’s like sending sheep to slaughter

    Which would you rather?

  9. How about this idea. Allow members to carry concealed weapons, publicize it, that there are armed members in the synagogues. These people are cowards they will not attack a place that might fight back. They only go after soft targets. Even if there are no armed members present these cowards will look elsewhere to spew there hate.
    Just a thought.

  10. if i recall correctly,from an old classmate from Switzerland. In his synagouge they had a locked gun box which was opened when the shul was open for davening due to some incident that happened.

  11. The difference between the police and an armed civilian is the gunman knows who the cops are he doesn’t know which civilian would be armed so it would be easier for an armed civilian to take him out we know a good guy with a gun is the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun by virtue of the fact that we call the police who are armed

  12. there are actually several legally armed misspalilim in several shuls, but they are mature and humble. They have no reason to let people know about their legal fire arms they have on them at all times. Its the reasonable think to do, those that already have carry permits and are experienced etc.. should definitely carry when ever legal,( but g-d forbid to let those young kids running around with flashers etc.. looking for attention to get permits)

  13. Though it’s disturbing and sad to think we need armed guards to guard our yeshivas and Shuls
    We need to wake up and smell the coffee yes times have changed the world is a dangerous place and seems to be getting worse by the day look at the stats last year alone anti Semitic acts in the the us went up 57% from the previous year that’s a MAJOR increase
    Changes definitely need to be made
    And yes unfortunately we do need armed Guards in our yeshivas and Shuls
    Whether we like it or not we are a target and on some crazies list being a soft target increases the risk if it were known that each Shul and yeshiva had armed Garda that itself is a deterrent
    As per unofficial conversations with law enforcement as much as they want to be their to protect us it’s impossible for them to be everywhere and like it or not unless we protect our selves at least until they can arrive it’s practically impossible for stopping this from reoccurring
    We need to be pro active and of course safeguards and protocol needs to be in place before one be given a license to carry
    The process here in NJ takes 4-6 months before even receiving a license to own a weapon nj is one of the strictest states when it comes to issuing a carry permit
    Perhaps new laws should be implemented allowing Houses of worshipping and places where their are large gatherings on a steady basis to have licensed carrying individuals that can be chosen,vetted and capable to be the first line of defense no we don’t need or want hockers
    But we need to get with the times
    And the comment about rav Avigdor Miller ztl not being happy, no ones happy we all preferred when we didn’t need this but even Rabbi Miller would agree we have an obligation to protect our selves as the Halacha requires

  14. In case of a medical emergency civilians are trained in cpr and the government mandates every schools, halls…. to have an aed on premises for this exact reason. So you can stabilize the patient on till professional assistance arrives(Emt’s & paramedic). So too if we had civilians trained for this they may have been able to stop the amount of fatalities Or possibly the entire shooting

  15. We should at least carry pepper spray and other sprays that can disable a killer and we should definitely be armed its very scary to think that if someone comes into a shull we are all helpless and cant to anything to defend ourselves,the world is allot more dangerous with the INTERNET as that brings out allot of haters against Jews and the hate spread very easily all over the internet on a daily basis,just open the Asbury park press and u can read how much hate is directed against the Jewish community.

  16. The point about the fact that even the police were shot by this guy is a good point, but not decisive. There are several elements to consider. One is that the police were at a severe tactical disadvantage having to approach a structure with a heavily armed individual inside enjoying the protection and concealment of the walls, etc. coupled with the police having to be extremely careful not to shoot if there was a risk of hitting the congregants still inside. They literally had to put themselves in harm’s way to get to the shooter and heroically did so.

    The flip side of this same point is that armed mispallelim inside will know exactly where the shooter is and where the other congregants are, giving them much better opportunities (if they are well trained), to have a clear shot. Their familiarity with the structure and layout of the building and thoughtful planning would give them added advantages as well.

    Even more important is that regular mispallelim will be able to immediately detect a threat: their familiarity with the membership and regular attendees would enable them to immediately see someone who is out of place. In Orthodox shuls in particular, such things as a person arriving by car or carrying bulky objects will also be very bright red flags, giving them a chance to get a tactical jump on the shooter. They would also be able to quickly warn the other congregants to take cover, hit the floor, evacuate, etc.

    I’m no one to argue with Rabbi Miller but I truly wonder what he would say in today’s climate.

  17. Why are security guards allowed to carry a gun anybody familair with the laws and are there any loopholes that would allow people to carry guns in shulls?

  18. Like Gov Murphy will allow more CCW permits that’s a joke. There is a law going into affect lowering magazine limits to 10 from 15. To the person who has a CCW but says it is more dangerous to use it I say put yours back in safe. The idea is 2 fold #1 you are no longer a soft target. #2 is that hopefully a situation doesn’t get so bad that you don’t have 11 dead rachmana ltzlan.

  19. Just as Hatzoloh members go through training, I don’t see why it should be a big deal to put several mispallelim in each Shul through firearm training. No one is suggesting that everything can be prevented. It is an important precaution. That’s all.

  20. We should arm ourselves with Torah and tefilah. We should stop talking in shul and we should leave our cell phones off in shul. We should remember we are in golus and eisav soneh es Yakov. We may be comfortable here in golus but we need to remember there are plenty of people out there that hate us and this is not our ultimate home. We need moshiach bekarov and until we all (including myself) love each other and unite as one we will continue to be stuck in golus with having to deal with hate and acts of violence. This is the reality of golus. May we join together bekarov in greeting moshiach and end this horrible and painful golus.

  21. In order to get an armed carry permit one needs to show cause as to why he needs it does business in high crime areas collects rent works in diamonds etc
    Otherwise wise one can work for an armed services company which is bonded and insured and heavy training is needed before being issued a carry permit

  22. indeed, only the mispalilim really know who belong there and who looks out of place. A security guard has no idea who is up to no good, until much later in the game.

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