Monday, December 3, 2018

Being a Maccabee Is Harder than It Sounds

Chanukah...a celebration of the courage to fight our enemies. 

It sounds so much nicer on paper. It is not nice in real life.

I have always taken self-defense seriously...on paper. I never actually followed through on getting an education in it, not even a basic class when we had one every few weeks on my college campus... 15 years ago. Maybe I thought it would feel too real. Spoiler alert, that's exactly how it feels. (To be fair, I have taken a gun education class, but that was focused on "hunter safety." Human safety is a different beast.)

I was taking self-defense more seriously in the wake of #MeToo (especially given my own experiences with it) and trying to find something, then the Pittsburgh shooting happened.

So when I saw a shul offering a self-defense class, I jumped at the opportunity. Even better/scarier, it was a self-defense class specifically about active shooter scenarios. I figured it would be an hour about where to run and places to hide.

It was not.

So I put my babies to bed on a motzei Shabbat, and went to the class.

It was two hours (2.5 in the end) entirely about how to disarm someone with a gun if running and hiding is not an option. 

The first thing we learned was a basic move to build upon: someone holding a pistol (a handgun) to your chest. First, you move out of the line of fire then move to disarm. In the struggle, it is almost a given that the gun will shoot because they'll squeeze harder to try to hold on to the gun. 

A thought occurred to me as I watched, so I raised my hand: 
I have little kids, and when they're scared, they hide behind me. When I move out of the way, it will put at least one of them right in the line of fire. 
His response was less than reassuring (paraphrasing because I can't remember the exact quote):
She may get shot. But maybe the rest of you won't.
He later spoke about how many people survive one gunshot, even many. He reassured(?) us that if it's our time to go, it's our time to go, but that if Hashem is going to make a miracle, it will be using "derech hateva" - the laws of nature. It's our responsibility to do our part, and he's right, and that's why I took the class and why I'm going to take another one.

But I saw the angle we were working with. For my 2 year old, that angle went right to her head. When I move out of the way and make that gun go off, the bullet is going right at my daughter's head.

That's why, as a Jew, a mother, a lawyer, a human being, (and as someone who has volunteered in a domestic abuse shelter), I support common-sense gun control. We regulate freedom of speech, to a degree that I think the average person doesn't think/know about. I'm tired of shuls being shot up. I remember the multiple Jewish preschools and schools over the last few years that have been shot at. I remember Sandy Hook. I remember Parkland. My shul had a lockdown drill this Shabbat. We've had a member-based security force for a while, but now we're adding armed guards. I previously belonged to a shul that was firebombed about ten years before I attended. I take the rise of hate groups and hateful people seriously.

Governments should be a social contract, where we come together to sacrifice some possible rights for the greater good so that we can have the largest number of rights, but that our rights end where another person's rights begin. The absolute failure to treat the Second Amendment like every other Amendment, treating it as though it cannot have any limitations even when it encroaches on the rights of others is ridiculous. These what-about arguments to change the topic to "he could use knives or cars" or mental health or something else are a smoke screen. Don't let other people do it. The discussion is about guns, what guns can do, and that the lack of gun control in our country allows them to kill lots of people in a minute or less. In Las Vegas, the gunman shot over 1,000 bullets in 10 minutes. We can't stop all mass murders, but we can sure lower the number of people they kill and increase the possibility that law enforcement can arrive before he finishes. This isn't a hard question, it is an epidemic of violence and murder, and it will only get worse as these hate crimes continue to grow thanks to the emboldened alt-Right neo-Nazis. There is clearly bipartisan majority support on at least some measures, and something would be better than nothing. 

Contact your representatives and tell them you support common sense gun control because you don't want another Pittsburgh. (What to expect when you call a Congressmember and a sample script for speaking to them on any issue is included here.) Our lives depend on it. My children's lives depend on it, and I just saw that in the most visceral way as I spent hours role-playing and visualizing how my self-defense actions will almost certainly result in my toddler being shot. Sure, she could be shot anyway by a madman, but it's different to know that I'm physically taking an action that will expose her to certain harm instead of possible harm. Our nation has lost its mind. This is not what "the land of the free" should mean. Whose freedom? Where's my freedom to attend shul and raise my children as Jews?


  1. It's fantastic that you've attended a self-defense class and have interest to attend another. However, it appears that your experience left you with unmet expectations and fear. This detracts from the feelings of empowerment and motivation you should have come away with after attending a class such as this. You speak of "common sense gun control", though you fail to understand that you are asking, in fact, to take away more options for legal and trained firearm owners to step in as first responders when seconds count and police are minutes away. As a lawyer you should already be aware that there are ~20,000 laws across this country pertaining to the purchase, possession and use of firearms. What "common sense" gun law would have stopped the tragic murder of innocents at Sandy Hook, Sutherland Springs, or Parkland? Murder is already illegal. Murderous criminals do not follow the law. The right to keep and bear arms is as much of a feminist issue (one of empowerment) as it is a Jewish issue. Every murderous regime in the 20th century, including Soviet Russia, Cambodia, China, the Philippines, Germany, and Iraq first disarmed their citizens before murdering millions. There are no more "common sense" gun laws to be enacted. What you are tacitly espousing is gun confiscation from legal firearm owners, the vast majority of whom will never use their firearms in a felonious manner and some of whom will use their firearms to protect themselves (as I have), their loved ones, and persons in their religious communities.

  2. I find it interesting that my previous comment on your post was not published. How sad that you have convinced yourself that the pro2A/pro-self defense Jews should not be given equal time on your forum. I wish you well in the journey of your life. You have proven to me what kind of a Jew you really are. But, it is your blog and you are allowed to censure whom ever you want that may have an opposing position.

    1. "What kind of Jew I am?" You mean the kind of Jew with two kids 2 and under, a job under deadline, the kind who only has an hour a week (at most) to work on this blog and all its admin needs and personal requests for help, and a blog done solely out of the goodness of my heart that I don't earn any money from? That kind? GTFouttahere. Your comment, and the fact that you took the time to monitor this page and took the time out of your life to write this encouraging missive to a total stranger, shows more about you than me.