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On Thursday, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson sat for an interview on CNN with Wolf Blitzer (the relevant exchange begins at 6:48):
Carson’s views were quickly highlighted (and distorted) by liberal media, with headlines such as:
- “Ben Carson Says Guns May Have Stopped Holocaust” [BBC]
- “Ben Carson Suggests Holocaust Would Have Been Less Likely If Jews Were Armed” [ABC]
- “Ben Carson Blames Holocaust On Gun Control” [Huffington Post]
- “Ben Carson Says Holocaust Would Have Been ‘Greatly Diminished’ if Jews Had Guns” [TIME]
- “Ben Carson Suggests Holocaust Might Have Been Stopped If Jewish People Had Guns” [The Independent]
- “Ben Carson Says Gun Control To Blame For Holocaust” [Telegraph]
The Anti-Defamation League also weighed in. “Ben Carson has a right to his views on gun control, but the notion that Hitler’s gun-control policy contributed to the Holocaust is historically inaccurate,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, National Director of the organization. “The small number of personal firearms available to Germany’s Jews in 1938 could in no way have stopped the totalitarian power of the Nazi German state.”
Maybe not. But I once met a German Holocaust survivor who said that his biggest regret was that he complied with the law when Jewish gun ownership was outlawed. Never, he said, would he go unarmed again.
Survivors who migrated to Palestine shared this sentiment. Syrian Arab attacks on Jewish settlements prompted the formation of the Jewish self-defense league, or Haganah, which evolved into the modern-day Israel Defense Forces. Palestinian Jews would seek peace, but if necessary, they would defend themselves — with guns. This ethos is central to the modern State of Israel.
Today Israel finds itself in a new wave of Palestinian Arab terrorism. Hour by hour, there is news across the country of murders and attempted murders with guns, with stones, with firebombs, with knives, with screwdrivers, with vegetable peelers. In many cases, security personnel with guns were nearby and were able to respond quickly. In others, responses were longer in coming.
It’s important to note, though, that Israeli notions of self-defense have been collective rather than individual. To own a gun for self-defense, Jewish Israelis must meet strict permitting requirements, which include a demonstration of need. Anyone granted a permit is allowed only a single firearm. So it’s noteworthy that Israeli attitudes may be changing. Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem — who tackled a terrorist himself earlier this year — is encouraging Jewish residents of his city with permits to carry their weapons all the time. “One advantage that Israel has is that there are quite a few ex-members of military units with operational combat experience…. Possessing weapons increases the confidence of residents, who know that in addition to police there are many people who are not afraid to intervene. If we look at the statistics in Jerusalem and elsewhere, we see that aside from the police, civilians carrying weapons have foiled terror attacks. They will increase the likelihood of fast intervention.”
This proactive approach security has a respectable pedigree in Jewish history and theology. “If one comes to kill you, arise and kill him first,” exhorts the Talmud (BT Sanhedrin 72a), and gives examples of rabbis who did just that (BT Berakhot 58a). The rabbinic tradition understands — as did the authors of the Declaration of Independence — that we are all born with God-given rights to life and liberty. And moreover, that those rights are meaningless without the further right to forcibly resist those who seek to murder or enslave us. None of us, Jew or gentile, is required to be a victim.
Ben Carson, in his defense of gun rights, appears to understand this well. Unfortunately, the elites at the heights of journalism, government, and culture — our President among them — appear not to. Perhaps someday they will learn. In the meantime, those of us who truly value freedom will continue to cling to our guns and defend our right to keep them. Because without them, the phrase “Never again” is not much more than an empty slogan.Published in