Banning Guns Won’t Save Lives

Every time there is a terror attack in the United States (caveat: they haven’t [yet] declared the incident in Florida as a terror attack), my Facebook page is filled with people calling for gun control and each time, I respond the same way.

Banning guns won’t stop terrorism because guns are not the cause. Our experience in Israel is just the opposite. At the start of our latest intifada, the mayor of Jerusalem came out with a relatively bold statement – he ASKED people to come armed to the city, to carry your guns. As a result, the vast majority of instances of terror in the city have been neutralized in seconds if not a minutes.

By contrast, in Tel Aviv, which has a much lower percentage of guns at any given time on the street, the mayor didn’t do this – and in several cases, a terrorist rampaged through the streets or whatever until finally an armed policeman was able to neutralize the terrorist. In one case, several people in the restaurant were licensed gun owners who left their guns at home. In another, people were able to videotape the terrorist running past vehicles and stabbing the drivers wherever he found an open window – no gun took him down, no one shot him for close to 10 minutes.

Guns DO NOT kill people…and had a gun in trusted hands been on site in most of the terror attacks in the States, the results would have been vastly different. I won’t go so far as to say guns save lives because again, that’s people who do it. Guns in the hands of good people can save lives and guns in the hands of bad people can’t be regulated by laws which they are intent on breaking anyway.

I don’t know whether the incident in Florida was terrorism, as some people suspect, or the case of mentally ill man whose illness surely should have been diagnosed if people had bothered to answer his many calls for help and pay attention to the many clues he planted in advance.

What is at fault here, I believe, is not so much the gun, as the handlers. Not so much whether a person should have the right to carry a gun, but whether this man should have been carrying. Should guns be allowed to be taken across state borders; certainly there is a question about taking guns on planes.

Israel has gun-free zones, as does the US. But in the US, the gun-free zones are in places that are soft targets often making the gunman the only one with a gun. This situation leaves the terrorist free to rampage, as happened in Tel Aviv, versus Israel’s policy of not fearing guns but rather using them. In this instance, a gun in a school, for example, is often met by the guns of teachers (and even the principal in some cases), who are armed and respond quickly.

Our gun-free zones are court houses, police stations (this after a legally armed man killed himself after police charged him with a crime unrelated to his possession of a gun), government buildings, and most notably, the airport.

If one believes that guns should be allowed to be transported across state lines and via flights, at least, at very least, ban transporting bullets. Aren’t bullets available in all States at relatively inexpensive rates? Someone who feels the need to take his or her gun along will certainly be able to purchase bullets, if they make that a priority. Why allow an incident such as this to take place be enabling anyone to carry both of the elements necessary (gun AND bullets)?

They say that hindsight is 20-20 (or 6-6 for those living on the meter scale). But really…do we need hindsight to know that Esteban Santiago was a disaster waiting to happen? Whether it was post traumatic stress syndrome, mental illness, or, as some in social media have claimed, anything from an ISIS operator to a pedophile, clearly, Santiago should not have been allowed to have a weapon, let alone take it on a plane.

I understand the pain that so many are feeling in the United States. The anger at a tragedy that could have been avoided. I get that a weapon was used and had that weapon not been there, five precious souls would be alive today, more than a dozen families not suffering the death or injury of their loved ones.

But what I have to offer, as an Israeli who has seen my nation attacked again and again, is that you will never stop evil from getting their hands on weapons. The only thing you can do when you have people among you who are ready to commit murder (or terror attacks), is to have the response available, have guns in reliable hands ready to meet that threat.

More than a dozen years ago, as a bus was still smoking in the background and medics and first aid responders were frantically treating and evacuating the wounded, a reporter stuck a microphone in front of the Mayor of Jerusalem and asked him to offer some words to a nation that was in shock and tears.

I hated his response. I wished the reporter would argue with him. I wanted someone to tell him he was wrong and that was the stupidest thing he could say. Over time, as much as I hated the way he delivered that message, sadly, the message was one that needed to be understood.

If you want to remain an open society, there is no stopping someone from firing that bullet, stabbing that first person. The critical difference, where we can make a difference and save lives, is in having the weapons in trusted hands available.

Santiago reportedly fired close to two dozen times (two full magazines) before he stopped, before he essentially gave himself up by lying on the floor. There he waited to be captured by security forces.

Please America, stop fighting guns and start fighting criminals and terrorists.


Paula R. Stern

Paula R. Stern is the CEO of WritePoint Ltd, a leading technical writing company in Israel. She is also a popular blogger with her work appearing on her own sites, A Soldier's Mother and PaulaSays, as well as IsraellyCool and a number of other Jewish and Israeli sites.