Jewish community needs to rethink approach to guns

Mark Cantor is lead trial attorney at Cantor Injury Law in St. Louis. He is an advocate for the seriously injured and for the First and Second Amendments.

By Mark Cantor

I’d like this to be titled, “Don’t Touch It! Run Away! Tell A Trusted Adult!” Most Jews will not know what I am talking about. Readers, do you know? If you do not, you have failed to teach your children about something that can save their lives. Please do not dismiss this opinion, but read it with an open mind. I may change your thinking, even if by just a little, about guns. 

Most of you despise guns. You hate the idea that guns kill people, frequently innocent people, and are a tool used in suicides. I get that, and this opinion is not about those topics. I will not dissuade you or even try. But please be realistic: Guns are everywhere except in the Jewish population. So please consider my position, which is that we must teach our children modern safety skills, including gun safety and education just as we are commanded to teach our children to swim. 

Recently, I was interviewed in this newspaper after the Las Vegas shooting (“Jews & guns: Las Vegas shooting brings debate over gun rights, regulations to the forefront,” Oct. 4). I was disappointed in the biased nature of the article. As a member of the NRA my response was, “I am a member of the NRA and the ACLU, and do not completely agree with either one.” I was sad and dismayed when the reporter called the morning after the attack and I told him that I thought this story was distasteful so soon after a national tragedy. I felt it was below the standards we should have as Jews and a Jewish newspaper. 

In that context, I did say “I think it’s not the time for politics.” The writer saw fit to conclude that paragraph with “Cantor belongs to the National Rifle Association.” Is that a fair reporting of what I said? I am a liberal Jewish trial lawyer and believe that as Jews we must educate ourselves about gun safety, and when appropriate, protect ourselves. I am also pro-choice and generally vote Democratic, but the article clearly tried to politicize my position. Regardless of whether you are liberal or conservative, you have an obligation to teach your children about gun safety because it could save their lives. 

Guns are literally everywhere in our society, (except among most Jews), and we must educate our children about gun safety. Your child has a good chance of being asked, “Hey do you want to see my mom’s gun?” Have you spoken to your child about how to respond? Your child should be taught to say no, and if the other child goes to show the gun, should run away. Teach your kids that if they are shown a gun by a friend, they should run away, not touch it and tell an adult. 

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Because I like awards, I always offered my kids $100 if they ever saw a gun and did the right thing. As a trial lawyer, I also believe in compensation for damages and will happily enforce any civil penalties legislated when gun manufactures or distributors violate any future laws. I strongly believe in liability for gun “accidents.” (The same day I am writing this, Cantor Injury Law resolved a case for the policy limits after my client was accidently shot by her former boyfriend. Homeowners insurance will pay.) So, I advocate that we legislate for civil penalties and I will enforce them. 

As Jews, we are targets of hate and have been for 5,000 years. I guess it is part of the price we pay to be G-d’s Chosen People. Regardless of American politics and a culture that has devolved into frequent senseless mass murders, we as Jews can and should rise above those politics and refuse to be victims. We should reconsider our no gun policies at synagogues and encourage well-trained members to conceal carry whenever we congregate. 

Jews will continue to be targets of hate. The next time a Jewish institution is targeted by the pure evil that is defined in Torah as Amalek (and was my son’s Torah portion — you may say it was besheert!). So please, my fellow Jews, educate yourself and your children and protect yourself if you can. I know I will.