Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, April 25, 2021
Day 22 of counting the Omer
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו, וְצִוָּֽנוּ עַל סְפִירַת הָעֹֽמֶר
Baruch Atah Adonai Elohenu Melech Ha-Olam, Asher Kid’shanu B’mitzvotav, Vitzivanu Al Sefirat Ha-Omer.
Blessed are You O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us by his commandments and commanded us about the counting of the Omer. Today is three weeks and one day of the counting of the omer.
Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 25 Apr 2021 13th of Iyar, 5781
Le 21:1-15 Isa 63-64 Job 18 (Mt 18) 3 Jn
“I’m From the Government, and I’m Here to Collect Your Guns” – Part 1
by Dr. Raymond Finney
INTRODUCTION: This RR deviates from usual topics by discussing the self-defense use of firearms and whether Biblical teachings are violated by a Believer’s owning and using firearms for protection of self and family. If you are offended by guns, save yourself some heartburn and read no more in this two-part RR series.
Rabbi’s note: Gun violence is a growing problem in America. The term “sanctity of life” is becoming an oxymoron. The question is, do we blame guns, or gun abusers? Is the law the problem or the law breaker? We have a DUI problem in America. Do we blame drunk drivers, bars and liquor stores, or alcohol? Between 35,000 and 38,000 people die every year on US highways. Should we close the highways? Should we do away with cars? So many people die. It’s unacceptable. What’s the solution? End RN.
We periodically and sadly have gunshot deaths in America. We have lost five students Austin-East Magnet High School, in Knoxville thus far in 2021 due to gunshots. Recent mass shootings in the United States may be found at: https://www.reuters.com/world/us/major-mass-shootings-united-states-2021-03-23/ .
The news media and liberal politicians predictably demand “gun control” measures after every shooting. Such measures may ultimately involve voluntary or involuntary removal of citizens’ guns. Such disarmament (gun confiscation) measures would leave the law abiding good guys defenseless, while leaving the law breaking bad guys fully armed. Does anyone really believe criminals will start obeying laws or executive orders, if not in their selfish interests? This wish of controlling guns by laws/ executive orders is akin to the grandpa who installed a new front door lock, telling his grandson: “There. That will keep the honest people out of my house.”
After March, 2021 gunshot deaths in Atlanta, Georgia and Boulder, Colorado, Vice President Harris quickly spoke to the media about “gun control,” summarizing the Biden administration’s views: President Biden is hesitant to take executive action on gun control because the White House wants Congress to act and because legislation is more permanent than executive order; Biden is, though, open to issuance of executive orders, amid renewed calls for a ban on “assault weapons” and high-capacity ammunition magazines. Harris predictability bashed Republicans for presenting a “false choice” that gun control laws would strip Americans of their Second Amendment right to bear arms.
AN UNKNOWABLE STATISTIC: Low-intelligence functionaries armed with calculators can tally deaths and injuries from gunshots. Low-intelligence politicians can, then, take these data and come to frightening conclusions upon which to base public policy. What we cannot know, though (the unknowable statistic), is how many deaths are prevented by private gun ownership. How many homes have NOT been broken into because the bad guys feared the homeowners may be armed with handguns or shotguns? (By the way, your home may have been spared forced entry in the past because criminals feared you might be armed.) How many young women working in their yards and visible to passersby have NOT been raped because of the fear that guns may be available in the home?
Guns DO cause death and injury, of course, but guns also PREVENT death and injury. No one can determine whether guns cause more deaths and injuries than they prevent. For a reporter/ politician to report/ speak of deaths due to guns without presenting the truth that guns also prevent deaths makes that reporter/ politician a biased reporter/ speaker whose words are unworthy of consideration.
In a similar vein, anti-war activists decry the horrendous death tolls in the 1945 atomic bomb blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan (estimated 129,000- 226,000 civilian deaths). However, these attacks saved many millions of lives. By forcing Japanese surrender without invasion of the island because of the atomic bomb blasts, it is estimated that nearly 1-million Allied military lives and 10-million Japanese civilian lives were spared. Evaluate statistics carefully. As Mark Twain observed: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
KNOCK ON THE DOOR? Will you, an American citizen, some day hear a knock on the door, announcing the presence of a young man or woman who cheerfully greets you with: “Hi, I’m from the government, and I’m here to collect your guns?”
Far-fetched? Maybe, maybe not! Federal legislators are working hard to make that day come, and, perhaps, come sooner than you think. I am not a constitutional lawyer. What I write in this RR are my thoughts. Rabbi Weiner may agree or disagree– we have not conferred. However, I ask you to consider these thoughts (whether ultimately right or wrong, whether you agree or disagree), research the subject, and come to your own conclusions. Important questions, which may seem as secondary questions, are: Should a Believer own a gun? Can a Believer use a gun in self-defense, even killing a person? Is it ever permissible for a Believer to disobey the government?
AUTHORITARIAN GOVERNMENTS TYPICALLY CONFISCATE WEAPONS: How much do you trust our government? Consider a statement of China’s Communist dictator Mao Tze Tung (November 6, 1938): “All political power comes from the barrel of a gun. The Communist party must command all the guns. That way, no guns can ever be used to command the party.” I wished to use a quotation commonly attributed to Thomas Jefferson (“When government fears the people, there is liberty; when the people fear the government, there is tyranny”), but apparently Jefferson never made this observation. This statement was more likely made by John Basil Barnhill in debates on socialism (published in 1914).
Communist China, following Mao Tze Tung’s wishes, did confiscate all weapons in that country, and between 1948 to 1952, 20-million defenseless political dissidents were rounded up and exterminated. Other examples to consider include:
● 1911 – Turkey disarmed her citizens, and between 1915 to 1917 they (the Ottoman Empire) murdered 1 to 1.5-million Armenians.
● 1929 – Russia disarmed her citizens, and between 1929 – 1953 they (Communists) murdered 20-million Russians.
● 1938 – Germany disarmed her citizens, and between 1939 – 1945 they (the Nazis) murdered 16-million Jews, gypsies, Communists, and other “undesirables.”
● 1956 – Cambodia disarmed her citizens, and between 1975 – 1977 they (the Khmer Rouge) murdered 1-million “educated people.”
● 1964 – Guatemala disarmed her citizens, and between 1964 – 1981 they (the Guatemalan army) murdered 100,000 Mayan Indians.
● 1970 – Uganda disarmed her citizens, and between 1971 – 1979 they (Idi Amin’s regime) murdered 300,000 Christians.
● Is the United States on her way to become an authoritarian government? Will weapons be confiscated in America? Will innocent citizens be executed? Do not be absurd– this cannot happen in America, because we will never have an authoritarian government. Really?
AMERICANS’ FREEDOM TO OWN FIREARMS: We Americans have a constitutional right to own and bear arms (firearm weapons), guaranteed in the Second Amendment (Amendment II) of the Constitution. This amendment reads: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
Okay, the Second Amendment is not the clearest sentence ever written in the English language. But, in District of Columbia vs. Heller (2008), the U.S. Supreme Court tried (in its typical 5-4 split decision) to remove ambiguities by writing: “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.” Of course, the next time this issue comes before the Court, liberal justices– with Chief Justice Roberts jumping on board– may rule the opposite way.
In one 5-4 vote, private ownership of all or some firearms could be ruled unconstitutional. And, the Biden administration is working hard to pack the Supreme Court by adding four new justices (expanding the traditional nine-justice Court– present since the nineteenth century– to a thirteen-justice Court). With an ultra-liberal president, liberal Democratic Party Senate, no prescribed number of Supreme Court justices in Article III of the Constitution, a liberal media, and lackadaisical public, this move could actually succeed. Even such liberal legislators as Speaker Nancy Pelosi have initially opposed this tactic. Speaker Pelosi is easily “rolled” by her liberal wing, however.
If the Supreme Court is packed, liberal states are added to the Union (Washington, DC; Puerto Rico; Guam), hundreds of thousands of immigrants flood America and are enrolled as voters, liberal media and government schools continue pushing socialism and various humanistic doctrines, and the like, we may all someday paraphrase Dorothy (Wizard of Oz),“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,” by saying, “I’ve a feeling we’re not in America anymore.” I already do not recognize the America of my youth.
In a recent RR, I made a point of emphasizing that America is probably failing, but a Believer’s home is not in America. A Believer’s home is in New Jerusalem (Heaven). Keep your eyes heavenward. The Apostle Paul, who suffered greatly for the Kingdom of God, understood where his priorities lay (Philippians 3:14): I [Paul] press on toward the goal for the reward of the upward calling of God in Messiah Yeshua.
The State of Tennessee Constitution (Article 1, Section 26) mirrors the U.S. Constitution, reading: “That the citizens of this State have a right to keep and to bear arms for their common defense; but the Legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms with a view to prevent crime.”
Do Americans avail themselves of Second Amendment rights? Yes! The population of the United States is approximately 333-million. Americans own an estimated 434-million firearms (arms in civilian possession, which calculates to 1.3 guns for every man, woman, and child). Approximately 214-million weapons have been purchased since 1991. “America’s rifle,” the much-maligned AR-15 “assault rifle,” accounts for 19.8-million weapons.
An interesting wrinkle in gun confiscation may lie in the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution– the Takings Clause– which reads: “Nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” I will not expose my lack of legal education and knowledge by analyzing this clause, but I can think of a number of legal, financial, and “public use” hurdles the government would need to meet in the confiscation of hundreds of millions of weapons. Why would confiscation of privately owned firearms be considered a “public use” matter? And, for what use? Who would compensate several-hundred million owners for several-hundred million confiscated firearms? How do we collect illegally owned weapons from criminals, or do only honest, law-abiding gun owners relinquish their weapons?
DUELING GOVERNMENTAL DIRECTIVES: We Tennesseans live under opposing governmental directives.
● President Biden views gun violence as a “pubic health crisis” in the United States. In early April, 2021, Biden signed six executive orders as a first step toward “gun control,” while promising more to follow.
● Shortly thereafter, Governor Bill Lee signed Tennessee’s constitutional (permitless) gun carry bill into law (becoming effective July 1, 2021). Tennessee will become one of nineteen states with similar permitless gun carry laws.
I will not analyze these conflicting messages, as you need to read what the measures actually entail. We are receiving conflicting messages, though. The federal government, under Democratic Party control, will do everything possible to disarm citizens. (And, some Democrats also propose abolishing police departments at the same time. Would an unarmed citizenry and no law-enforcement agencies end well?) Tennessee’s state government, under Republican Party control, will fight to preserve and even expand gun rights. This federal-state government division is another example of Yeshua’s warning that a nation divided against itself will fall.
An executive order has the force of law, but it can be overturned by law (or, by a court ruling). Under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution (Article VI, Clause 2), federal law trumps state law. This “dueling” between federal and state governments leads to confusion among citizens and establishes the potential for a number of lawsuits. If the three Branches of government were functioning efficiently and properly, this confusion would have already been resolved.
SHOULD YOU, AS A BELIEVER, OWN A GUN? Only you, after careful thought, can answer this question. In making a decision, weigh certain questions, such as:
● Will you safely secure any gun you own from children, mentally disturbed persons, and burglars?
Casually throwing a gun, especially a loaded gun, in a drawer is unsafe and irresponsible– and likely exposes you to dire legal consequences. If you own a gun, you are responsible for its use. If you fire a gun, you are responsible for the bullet.
● Do you have a person in your home who is a minor, suicidal, mentally/ emotionally disturbed, troubled with anger management issues, member of an anti-social/ revolutionary cult, or afflicted with other risk factors for violent behavior?
No matter how much you love such a person, he/ she may some day listen to a “voice” in his/ her head and massacre innocent people. Keep weapons from disturbed or immature people, as much as possible. You can purchase a gun safe in which firearms can be secured from unauthorized persons. You can purchase a handgun which allows only preprogrammed biometric (fingerprint) operation. You can retrofit an existing weapon with a biometric fingerprint trigger gun lock.
● Are you willing to receive proper training in gun safety and operation?
A few years ago, my wife and I received gun safety instruction in Maryville (Gunny’s Firearms & Indoor Range). Our instructor, a retired Marine Corps gunnery sergeant, patiently showed us how to handle a weapon safely, and we went to the basement firing range for practice. Guns are not toys, but are deadly weapons. Probably almost every county has one or more places to receive gun use training. It is worth the relatively small fee to learn how to handle and fire a weapon properly and safely. Do not injure yourself or someone else, while claiming: “I didn’t know the gun was loaded.” If you run over someone with your car, would you make the claim: “I didn’t know the car had gas in the tank?”
● Are you willing to know and abide by the laws of Tennessee?
Once you fire a gun, that bullet, and any injury or damage it causes, belongs to you. There are laws which you must follow. I will not summarize these laws in this RR. Any incomplete phrase may make me responsible for your misunderstanding. These laws can be read in their entirety on the Internet.
● If you own a gun for self-defense, can you keep quiet about it?
If you broadcast the fact that you own a gun (guns), this information may set you up for gun robbery or another act of violence. People who know me, including my neighbors and readers of this RR, have no idea whether I own zero guns or a small arsenal of guns. And, I never ask people I know whether they own guns. One self-defense tactic is to not let the bad guys know what they might face (that is, whether the homeowner will offer no resistance or a barrage of bullets), if they assault a family and home. Incidentally, a disturbing number of mass shootings occur in churches/ synagogues. I will not ask Rabbi Weiner to divulge in this RR what Shomair’s protection plan entails. I do hope that he has given this matter careful, prayerful thought and that congregants are well protected (armed security members, all doors locked from outside during services, entryways monitored during services, etc.).
● If you own a gun for self-defense, can you plan angles to shoot at home intruders that will not harm family members or neighbors?
A bullet fired from your gun might pass through a window or wall to hit a family member or neighbor. You want to shoot the bad guy who intends harm for you or your family, not a family member or the sweet grandma who lives next door and who would never harm you in any way.
● If you plan to buy a gun/ guns for self-defense, will you do your homework and buy the proper weapon(s) for your needs?
There are handguns and shotguns that are designed for home defense. Visit a knowledgeable gun dealer to find the weapon(s) which best suit(s) your needs. A high-caliber “elephant gun” may be more than you need for self defense.
● If you plan to buy a gun for self-defense, could you actually shoot someone who plans harm for you or your family?
This question may sound silly, but I know a kindhearted woman who planned to purchase a handgun and store it– unloaded– in a bedstand by her bed. She planned to retrieve her unloaded gun and frighten away any intruder. This plan seems dangerous to me. If this woman pulls an inoperative (unloaded) gun on an armed intruder, will her bluff scare away the intruder, or will she more likely be shot? The intruder is frightened, anxious, and an amateur. There are no armed thug courses with extensive boot camp training to teach an armed robber how to make a home invasion as smooth as a Hollywood movie production. If someone threatens an intruder, the intruder will likely seek to neutralize the threat with lethal force. And, only a fraction of a second may be afforded to react. If you plan to purchase a gun, you need to sort out all religious, philosophical, and moral arguments before the purchase. You will not have time to ponder such questions, if an armed intruder enters your bedroom at 3:00 am. And, you need to think out ways to identify family members. Remember: lighting is dim in the early morning hours. I have a friend who worked as a night shift security guard. He was required to carry a loaded revolver. Coming home in the morning after work, he went to bed. His son, coming home unexpectedly from school to pick up something that morning, climbed the stairs quietly not to wake dad. My friend heard someone quietly climbing the stairs. He drew his weapon, and…. Well, happily he was able to identify his son before firing the revolver. Several lessons could be learned from this tragedy that almost occurred. Plan for the unexpected.
● But, I pay taxes for sheriff/ police protection, right?
Yes, we all pay taxes. Yes, taxes fund protective services. Be realistic, though. I live in the City of Maryville. I believe that if I make an emergency (911) call about a perceived threat, Maryville Police Department cruisers will be dispatched immediately and at full speed to my home. I believe the police officers will do everything in their power, even jeopardizing their own lives, to protect me. But, a well-known phrase applies here: “When seconds count, the police department is minutes away.” Police officers cannot be every place at every moment. Law-enforcement protection for you and your family will take some time to set in place.
● Will replacement peace officers become a vanishing breed? Some liberal politicians are seeking to defund (abolish) law-enforcement agencies and replace them with, say, social workers. Can anything be wrong with that plan? A common motto on police/ sheriff cruisers is, “To serve and protect.” It is my understanding, though, that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled (as late as 2005) that law-enforcement officers have no constitutional duty to protect members of the public from harm. With all of the vitriolic hate hurled at them, low pay, danger (including deaths), lawsuits and legal entanglements following split-second decisions made in the line of duty, and unprovoked assassinations, I find it amazing we can find young men and women to enter a law-enforcement occupation. I would choose another field, and you probably would, too.
TO BE CONTINUED: In next Sunday’s RR, I will continue this RR. I will discuss such topics as Scriptures relative to use of weapons and measures you can take to minimize your need for the use of lethal force weapons. Until then, Shalom and Maranatha.