A Very Personal Report on “Gun Control”

I am an American citizen, born in Rochester, NY. My family and I moved to Israel in 1973, a month before the Yom Kippur War. I was turning nine. One of my first memories was the sight of so many young men and women walking around toting rifles. I quickly came to accept this was normal and in fact desirable. These young conscripts were the first to leap into action if anything went awry.

I was drafted into the service in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in 1983, and served for three years in a combat unit. I saw two tours of combat duty in Lebanon. I saw a lot. Clearly, by the time I became a Staff Sgt., firearms were a natural extension of my arm, reserved for what Masad Ayoob would call the gravest extreme. I encountered many such extremes, as there was much fighting in South Lebanon.

At various points in my military career, I carried an M-16, short M-16 (w/folding stock) M-203, Galil, and short Galil (Gilon). I was a good shot, and in my specialty in the IDF, functioned as a drill Sgt for the eighteen-year-old boy-soldiers that were recruited every few months.

In the summer of 1986, I returned to the U.S. I lost contact with the world of firearms, until a pathetic but deadly Neo-Nazi called Ben Smith tried to kill me as I walked home from synagogue on Friday, July 02, 1999.

I am a Chassidic Jew, and was wearing my Sabbath garb. This was not what I expected to happen anytime, let alone on the 4th of July weekend. But there he was, idling at the stop sign on my block. As soon as I came within a few feet from his vehicle, he opened fire. I didn’t have a clue as to what was happening. I kept walking but the pain increased and I realized that I was bleeding heavily.

I had been shot in the abdomen, shoulder and arm. I was riddled with holes.

I was categorized as seriously wounded, and, thank God, received emergency treatment at our best trauma unit. I had to stay in the hospital for a number of days before I was sent home for a long convalescence.

I was astounded at the number of phone calls I received (friends picked up the calls) right in my room from the news media, local and national. All of a sudden, I was somebody to these folks, because Ben Smith was still on the rampage, and this was big news. I refused to speak with anyone. I needed time to think, and the pain was the most unbearable I had ever experienced.

I needed all the energy I could muster to fight back and begin healing. But I recall all too clearly that the vast majority of the media people sent to my room requested to speak with me about the implications of my personal tragedy with regard to gun control. And they were not talking about target acquisition and shot placement.

I became interested in the issues pertaining to this so-called panacea called gun control. I am a doctoral student in psychology. I pride myself on keeping an open mind when delving into new issues. So, in spite of the rage and pain, I read about handguns, and about Second Amendment issues, and about all sides of the argument.

Gradually, I reached the conclusion that good people, such as myself, were being systematically disarmed. I reached the conclusion without any input form JPFO, NRA, GOA, etc. I am sure others would like to detract my argument and state something to that effect. But this is the truth: I want to have the legal option to at least have a fighting chance of surviving if a two-legged animal of any persuasion tries to kills me again, or if, God forbid, my wife and two children are in mortal danger.

What amazed me was how unpopular my new standpoint was in my Orthodox Jewish community. I naively thought that I had some insight to share with people, and at first did so liberally. But as I was told that: “The police are here to protect me, and I’m not in the army anymore, and so on ad-nauseam,” I realized that I had to keep my opinions to myself.

The tragedy of this censure is that it double victimizes me in a rather cruelly ironic fashion: I was shot by a Neo-Nazi and studiously ignored by my close coreligionists. Sure, they took care of my basic needs, and were very nice people. But they didn’t want to even hear about the new fire in my soul. I think it scared them. However, I am beginning to feel much more like a survivor, rather than a victim these days. Way too many ancestors of mine died under Hitler’s reign of terror for me to defile their memory by indifference.

A few months after I was shot, I walked into the gun shop with great trepidation, expecting to meet red-necked crazies with Nazi regalia. What rubbish! These were nice guys. They talked to me about my needs, and helped me get hooked up with equipment and ranges. I will update you as I relearn the art of soldiering, albeit the civilian version.

You know, it is UN-Jewish not to try to defend oneself. We are commanded to defend ourselves. The Torah says so unequivocally in Vayikra (Leviticus) and elsewhere. So I have no qualms, only a gnawing feeling of alienation that comes and goes, and a new ability to bear my scars with pride.