October 29, 2018
This photo shows some of Stars of David with names of those killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in Saturday's shooting, at a memorial outside the synagogue, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
For some time I have been a supporter of the Second Amendment -- intellectually. I agreed with the Founders' rationale for the right to bear arms. I even joined the NRA.
But I never bought a gun.
Although I know the basics of how to shoot, I didn't want a pistol around the house. I didn't think I needed it. I thought it too risky to own a weapon unless I practiced with it regularly and I didn't want to make time in my schedule for that. Real physical exercise was more important at my age. Also, I'm not a particularly fearful type who keeps a claw hammer secreted under the bed. Beyond that, I didn't want to awaken my mother -- a devoted gun-control advocate -- from her grave.
Until now. Until Pittsburgh. This Jewish boy is going to buy a gun.
The local and global situation with anti-Semitism has reached such a level I'd be a fool not to. Between the rising anti-Zionism and Jew hatred on our campuses and in the Democratic Party (what were Barack Obama and Bill Clinton doing being photographed with Louis Farrakhan?), the bloodthirsty jihadists, and the neo-Nazi monsters like this Bower character, we are at a point I never thought we'd reach in my lifetime. And as the co-screenwriter of two feature films about the Holocaust, I have a pretty good idea where it can lead.
So I will buy a gun. It's not about fear. It's just history and logic -- the canary in the coal mine thing. I want my family and me to be ready if catastrophe strikes, although I sincerely hope it never will. Oh, how I hope that. But I still have to be prepared.
When I heard Donald Trump recommend to the congregation of the Tree of Life synagogue that they have armed guards, I could but nod. Actually, I was surprised they didn't already. Many, if not most, temples and other Jewish institutions I know in New York and Los Angeles are at high levels of readiness, often with police and/or security personnel standing by. In France, all Jewish organizations, synagogues, schools, etc. are constantly guarded by gendarmes with highly visible automatic weapons. It's an accepted part of the landscape Given what has occurred there, they have no choice. Israel's security measures are legendary.
I am not angry at the people -- some are friends of mine -- who are adamant about gun control, just frustrated with them. I understand the idealistic impulse. I had it myself for many years. But the world is not a John Lennon song. Pittsburgh showed us that yet again. It's time to grow up.
According to reports , Bowers was inside the synagogue for twenty minutes before help arrived. Whether this is precisely accurate is immaterial. He was in there for a good while. As the president said, if a trained armed person had been there, lives could have been saved. We will never know, of course, how true this is, but it seems likely.
The mass shooting in Pittsburgh is similar to what happened in the even more horrendous (at least by number) 2015 Paris attack by jihadists on the Bataclan theatre in which 90 died in the theatre, 130 overall. Paris has stringent gun-control laws. The concert goers at the Bataclan were defenseless, just like the congregants at Tree of Life.
There are many other examples like Chicago with its strict gun legislation meshing with a horrific murder rate, and the mass murder at the Orlando night club, again of a defenseless crowd. I could go on, but we've all heard the arguments.
Hitler took the guns away from the German Jewish population in 1938. We all know what happened. It's actually too grisly to contemplate, even for this author of Holocaust movies.
I will buy a gun with a heavy heart. It's not something I really want to do. I don't enjoy hunting (I've tried it) and find target practice only mildly diverting, something I would only want to do a few times a year. (I'll have to do more.) But the world gives me little choice, not just as a Jew but as a citizen. Self-defense is common sense.
It should go without saying that I grieve for the victims of the Tree of Life synagogue and their families. We all do. Two of those murdered were Bernice and Sylvan Simon, a married couple in their late 80s. To my knowledge, we are not related, but Ashkenazi Jews are an extraordinarily small DNA pool. Perhaps somewhere back a few generations were are connected. I would not be surprised.