If We Don’t Learn Something

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.

About Brian of London

Brian of London is not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy. Since making aliyah in 2009, Brian has blogged at Israellycool. Brian's interests include electric cars, world peace and an end to world hunger. Besides blogging here, Brian of London now writes at the Times of Israel. Brian of London also hosted Shire Network News

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An Armed Society is a Polite Society: A reblog from Brian of London (Israelly Cool) | tannngl
19 December 2012 at 4:12am
[...] If We Don’t Learn Something Brian of London | Dec 18, 2012 | 3 comments ...

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  • Jim from Iowa

    In trying to solve this terrible problem of ours, we Americans can benefit from the experiences of other nations and cultures. Sometimes I think the way we look at ourselves as exceptional and a democratic model for others to follow, makes it all the harder for us to learn from others. We need a practical, open-minded approach to this. And if a convincing argument supported by reliable data shows that having more guns is the answer, then I would even support that.

  • JF

    May I respectfully remind Brian of London that Connecticut has very strict gun laws and that Mrs. Lanza, who owned the guns, complied with all of them. There is no evidence that she stored, handled or used her guns improperly.

    “Personal responsibility” of the gun license issuer would have had no effect in this case – the permit holder, Mrs. Lanza, committed no crime.

    Adam Lanza, the murderer, tried and failed to buy a gun of his own.

    Approximately 47% of Americans own guns – gun ownership is far from rare. I lived for several years in a town where it was not uncommon to see, in the fall, students cleaning deer that they had shot – the meat was an important part of their food for the winter.

    Your suggestions may well be useful, but the particular examples you quote do not support them.

    • http://www.israellycool.com/author/brianoflondon/ Brian of London

      Actually the law I think is most destructive is the Federal ban on guns in schools. That’s completely crazy.

      What both those pieces drive at is that it’s not about the laws, it’s about the attitude. Gun collecting is almost impossible here. I’m sure that would upset many in the US but it points toward the gun being a tool rather than the object of fantasy. I have to admit I enjoy shooting but not enough to make it my hobby.

    • walt kovacs

      if mrs lanza had stored the guns and ammo properly, she wouldnt be dead today and all those kids and teachers would be alive

  • Pingback: An Armed Society is a Polite Society: A reblog from Brian of London (Israelly Cool) | tannngl()

    • tannngl

      Bryan, your post was so helpful to me; I knew others would benefit from it. So I linked it on my blog.
      The mass murders that have been occurring in the United States are complex in cause; they involve our cultural loss of moral standards, the rights of the mentally ill to live without treatment and the development of laws to restrict our tools of defense. Sounds a bit like a gun powder keg with sparks nearby.

      As I see it, those who believe we can make a total utopia on earth and join hands singing ‘kumbaya’ have caused these deaths. They have taken the emotional leap and knee jerk actions of banning guns, restricting their use, turning all mentally ill citizens lose to the care of their families or the streets and moving the moral yardsticks continually so our children do not believe there should be any limits to their behavior.

      I see the difference in American culture and Israeli culture. Seeing the responsiblity in yourself to love your nieghbor and seeing the responsibilty in your neighbor to not harm…
      These attitudes, both, can provide us good lives with good friends, family, neighbors. And safety. And knowing there is always someone bent on harming others gives us the common sense to know how to defend ourselves.

      Thank you. Bryan.

      • Norman B.

        The big difference between the two cultures you cite is that America’s is based on rights and Israel’s is based on responsibilities. These responsibilities are spelled out in the commandments of the Five Books of Moses, especially Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Out of these commandments, human rights naturally flow, not as an entitlement, but as a result of doing the right thing. As George Bernard Shaw wrote, “Liberty means responsibility. That’s why most men dread it.”

      • walt kovacs

        the rights of the mentally ill to live without treatment?

        if you mean not warehousing in nut houses…you are correct

        the problem is, cost and access to good mental health care

        and i blame those that claim g-d has been removed from schools…so there

        • Jim from Iowa

          gee, walt, i’m uncomfortable admitting this, but i agree with every word of your post.

        • tannngl

          The problem is difficulty and in some cases impossiblity getting someone who is mentally ill, total break with reality, the psychiatric treatment needed. In their confused state, they are given the right to refuse treatment. Not until you can swear that person is a physical threat to himself or someone else can you get a 3 day eval by psychiatric doctors. Worked in this mess for 7 years. It’s a messy system.
          No, I wasn’t talking about what your misinformed self refers to as nut houses. Educate yourself Walt.

  • juvanya

    There is no right to bear arms: there is a responsibility to protect life and that, sometimes, is best done with a firearm.

    Very good point. This might be much more convincing than rararar right to arms.

  • juvanya

    Awesome that Tablet quotes a libertarian author :D

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