There is so much being written and said about the shooting in Connecticut: I only want to add a couple of links to pieces I’ve found that bring an Israeli angle to the discussion.
Judaism is founded on responsibilities not rights. My right to life is a by-product of my fellow citizen’s responsibility not to harm me. Same with my right to property. This is the most profound difference at the heart of the Jewish state, even if we don’t always realise it. There is no right to bear arms: there is a responsibility to protect life and that, sometimes, is best done with a firearm.
Israel has had horrible massacres of children at schools. Tomorrow I’m travelling to a town whose name is infamous for an atrocious event: Ma’alot. In 1974 terrorists held students captive for two days and, when forces went in to kill them, they murdered 22 children and 3 adults before the Golani brigade took them out. Unfortunately we don’t have to soul search for the reasons for this and it’s not the only one. Our schools often have armed guards and teachers can carry weapons.
Israel seems to be awash with guns: teenagers traveling to and from army bases are seen on the streets carrying assault rifles; guards at banks and shopping malls have pistols and many private individuals walk around with a gun visible on their hip. Guns are not concealed: if you carry one, you let people know. In the office where I work a few staff carry weapons.
But behind this is a very different cultural approach to guns. Without me writing reams, I broadly agree with the following two articles.
From Jewish Press: The US Should Learn from Israel How to Permit, Not Outlaw Guns
Like applicant drivers, potential gun owners must undergo extensive, well structured training on the proper handling, storage and use of their weapon, before being allowed to even buy one, and repeat the process at every license renewal. And they must have a qualified doctor sign off on them too.
And a DMV, or any other agency deposited with the responsibility to vet new gun owners, along with the individual people in the vetting process, must be held accountable should someone they approve end up using their gun license psychotically.
This personal accountability in the chain of approval is the most important aspect of what works in Israel, and what should be most emphasized in the U.S.
And from The Tablet: Why Israel Has No Newtowns
How, then, to explain Israel’s relatively low rate of gun-related deaths? For Lior Nedivi, an independent firearms examiner in Jerusalem and the co-author of a comprehensive report comparing Israel’s gun laws and culture to that of the United States, the answer lies far from the law books. “An armed society,” Nedivi wrote, quoting the science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein, “is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.” It may be a bit odd to think of Israeli society as polite, but when it comes to guns it is, and for just the reason articulated by Heinlein: When everyone has a gun, guns are no longer seen as talismans by weak, frightened, and unstable men seeking a sense of self-validation, but as killing machines that are to be handled with the utmost caution and care.