A Call To Arms for American Jews

October 27, 2018: Eleven members of the Tree of Life (Or L’Simcha Congregation of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, were killed when a heavily armed attacker invaded the synagogue during Saturday morning Shabbat services. Six other members of the congregation were wounded.

April 27, 2019: One person was killed when a shooter invaded the Chabad of Poway synagogue in Poway, California, during the last day of Passover. Three people were wounded.

The difference between these two incidents was that, in Poway, California, there actually was a “good guy with a gun” in the synagogue…but the shooting at the Chabad of Poway, in Poway, California doesn’t prove the “good guy with a gun” theory. On the contrary, it deflates it.

The shooter was taking aim at Chabad Congregation Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein when his close friend, Lori Gillbert-Kaye, stepped in front of him and took the bullet that was meant for the Rabbi, dying in the process…but that wasn’t what saved the congregation from decimation (a term that actually means “to reduce by ten percent.”)

This time around a Border Patrol agent, Jonathan Morales, and a retired U.S. Army veteran, Oscar Stewart, were in the congregation and took immediate action against the assailant, but that’s not how a greater tragedy was averted either.

The shooter’s gun jammed. Pure dumb luck…or divine intervention. Take your pick. (I’m an atheist, so I am going with pure dumb luck this time around. Divine intervention would have prevented the shooter from ever reaching the synagogue.)

To be fair about this, the rapid response from Morales and Stewart probably prevented the shooter from clearing the action on his rifle and going back to work…but it also suggests that the shooter wasn’t much of a shooter…but neither was Morales.

Between them, Morales and Stewart managed to send the gunman fleeing from the building and maybe having a gun in his possession emboldened Morales to take decisive action…but if the shooter’s gun hadn’t jammed, the outcome might have been far more tragic.
The Border Patrol agent fired four rounds into shooter’s car as he attempted to escape after he fled the building…and missed the shooter four times. Now, here we have a trained officer in a one on one face-off who couldn’t get the job done. (Being fired upon may have caused the assailant to call the police and surrender himself.)

Here is the point: the “good guy with a gun” theory is bullshit. One good guy isn’t going to turn the tables on a spree shooter. You need a lot of good guys to do that.

The vast majority of gun owners are not qualified to take on an armed assailant with a rifle. A rifle beats a pistol nine times out of ten, and most gun owners don’t practice enough to be effective in a live-fire situation.

Don’t always expect police officers to be good marksmen either. Most cops never fire their weapons on the job and only shoot once or twice a year when they qualify at the shooting range under ideal conditions. (Exceptions include officers with actual combat experience in the military.)

The truth is that unless you are in urgent, immediate fear for your own life or the lives of others, it is very, very hard to pull the trigger on another human being. Under those circumstances, you’re probably going to miss anyway…unless you are a trained shooter.

Trained shooters practice the same way that other athletes practice. When I was in practice, I would fire an average of up to 300 rounds per week from a variety of different firearms…but I didn’t practice target shooting. I wasn’t interested in killing targets.

I practiced snap shooting, a technique that is often described as “ready, fire, aim” because you don’t actually line up your sights on your target. Trained muscle memory takes over and you fire instinctively simply by pointing the firearm and pulling the trigger until the gun is empty.

(Three hundred rounds is an effective maximum for a handgun shooting session and that number goes down as the caliber of the firearm goes up; after firing 300 rounds of .45 caliber ammunition, your whole body is vibrating like a tuning fork which adversely affects your aim. It also gets very expensive.)

A pistol is a close quarters weapon. Most gunfights occur at a distance of 15 feet or less. Sure, I could once hit the ten ring three times out of six at one hundred yards…at the range. Out on the street or inside a building, that skill is going to be less than useless.

I’m not in practice anymore, but the muscle memory is now so deeply ingrained that I can pick up my sidearm and put five out of seven rounds inside the eight ring at 20 feet which is good enough for a takedown unless the target is wearing body armor. That’s why you always throw the last three rounds at the target’s head.

This may sound bloodthirsty — but we are living through a bloodthirsty period of increasing unrest. There are people out there who are actively hunting down and killing Jews. I would prefer that the blood being spilled did not belong to Jews.

Congregations around the country are hiring armed guards to cover their services…but armed guards are only able to protect the congregants while they are in their congregations. Once you leave the building, you are a moving target. With people heading off into different directions, it would be impossible for security guards to protect the entire congregation.

More importantly, security guards can only respond to a shooter; it’s the shooter who initiates the action, so there are almost always going to be shots fired before a security guard can begin to react. If the first shot is aimed at the security guard, the congregation may be shit out of luck. If you think you need one security guard, you probably need at least two. (Don’t just use uniformed security guards. You may think that uniformed security guards are a deterrent. In the real world, they are prime targets. Go with one uniformed guard and one plainclothes operative.)

On the other hand, if only ten percent of us were carrying firearms, that would be enough to discourage spree shooters from taking aim at Jewish congregations. If every shooter who tries to shoot up a Jewish congregation ends up in a pine box, the shooters will stop coming.

Source: eigenes Foto (Zeughaus) via wikipedia commons

There is a biblical precedent for this in one of the most famous oddities in the Old Testament (Judges, 7:5–7), in which God instructs Gideon to carry out his mission with the 300 soldiers (or 10% of the 3,000 who answered the call to arms according to some readings) who lapped water like a dog rather than from their cupped hands. (Jewish and Christian translations differ on which group formed the 300, the dog lappers or those who drank from their cupped hands.)

Of course, since most of us quite rightly don’t want the rest of us to know that we are carrying firearms, it really is impossible to determine how many of us are armed but, if you have a carry permit, maybe you should actually carry your firearm when you go to pray. If you don’t have a carry permit, maybe you should get one, if you can.

I am not an observant Jew. I do not go to synagogues. If I did, I would go armed and so should you if you have the necessary firearms training and, if you don’t have that, get it. Things are not going to get better. They are going to get worse.

The congregation you save may be your own.

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