Commentary

Gun Dealer Offers Rabbis Free AR-15s To Protect Their Synagogues, Congregations

A Colorado gun dealer is offering is matching the freedom of religion to Americans’ Second Amendment right to bear arms by offering his own wares to local synagogues to help protect them from anti-Semitic attackers — and rabbis have taken him up on the chance.

Following the horrific, Oct. 27 shooting attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Mel Bernstein, owner of Dragon Arms just outside Colorado Springs, was inspired to take action, according to Fox News.

Bernstein, who is Jewish, offered his local temples free AR-15s. Four rabbis actually accepted his offer, with a fifth accepting, but opting for a handgun instead of an AR-15. The rabbis, who also filled out background check forms, would also get 100 rounds of ammunition to go with the weapon, Fox reported.

Bernstein explained that he made the offer because, “I feel very bad that someone can walk in to a synagogue or church and start shooting and they can’t protect themselves.”

In an interview with KOAA 5, he explained that in case of a fire, you fight back with a fire extinguisher. When dealing with a shooter, you “fight back” with a weapon such as an AR-15, a rifle or a handgun. Otherwise you may be a “sitting duck” with no one and no way to stop the shooter.

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His action had supporters on social media. Some of the praise came from a veterans-owned gun parts and accessories company.

Interestingly, prior to Bernstein’s offer being widely known, the idea was mocked on social media, with most pointing at President Donald Trump or the NRA while doing it. Now someone has actually made the offer and some rabbis accepted. Think those same critics will mock the rabbis?

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In 2017, The Washington Post reported that hate crimes against Jews had gone up the prior year, according to FBI data. Anti-Semitism was the leading category in religious-based hate crimes.

Do you believe guns should be allowed in houses of worship?

The 2016 data showed that 21 percent of hate crimes were religion-based. Of those, more than half, 54.2 percent, were against Jews.

Following the release of that data, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued strong words in a statement, according to The Washington Post. “No person should have to fear being violently attacked because of who they are, what they believe, of how they worship.”

Other churches have fallen victim to shooters before, and the suggestion to allow guns in the houses of worship was hotly debated, with some changing their policy and some standing firm on not allowing them, despite the shootings.

But that is the beauty of the United States. The freedom to discuss, debate and decide for oneself.

Given the amazing and generous opportunity to protect their congregants, five rabbis said “yes.” And in our free society, that is their right to do.

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