By ALAN SMASON
As news reports came out of Poway, California, it occurred to me that I was experiencing a sickening form of deja vu. Yet another lone, white and radicalized gunman bearing an assault rifle had violated the peacefulness and sanctity of Shabbat in order to kill Jews.
Like others before him who came into schools, accessed public facilities, a nightclub or a theater, he had entered a place presumed to be safe and preyed upon the innocent. Once again, a man bent on exacting maximum violence, death and destruction, like one before him who perched above an outdoor concert, entered a sanctuary dedicated to peace and took deadly aim.
On the exact sixth month anniversary of the massacre at the Tree of Life/L’Or Sincha Synagogue our people were once again challenged by a man with a gun who objected to us because we are different. Rather than practice tolerance and acceptance, he chose a path of hate, determined to bring about change at the point of a rifle and by violence.
Religious intolerance is becoming an acceptable way of life for some Americans. We need not think of any more virulent images than those of neo-Nazis bearing tiki torches at Charlottesville, Virginia two years ago while decrying their “replacement” by Jews. We have become an expedient means to an end for the alt-right radicals who speak in thinly-veiled anti-Semitic screeds concerning globalism and world domination.
Whether by design or not, he chose a busy Chabad center holding services for its members on one of four holy days throughout the year when Yizkor is recited, a service intended to honor our loved ones.
America has always been a political and social conundrum. On the one hand, it is a nation conceived out of the right to practice religion freely. And on the other hand, it is a land of lawlessness where arms are used to slaughter more people than any so-called civilized place on the face of our world.
In the middle of all of this is the U.S. Constitution, the document which guarantees our basic rights and has established our system of governance.
The right of citizens to bear arms is found in the Second Amendment to the Constitution. Just as that document did not predict an air force or a space program, the framers of the Constitution based the right of gun ownership on protecting one’s home and hearth. That point is made abundantly clear by the parenthetical clause that modifies and introduces the right (“A well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State…”).
When James Madison wrote the Bill of Rights, he did so in a specific order. The right to a free press, the right to assembly and the right to practice religion freely came before any talk of weapons or the need to defend one’s community through a militia maintained by volunteers. It was never the intention of our Founding Fathers to have anyone claim the right to strap on a handgun or pull out a semi-automatic or automatic weapon of mass destruction. With muskets and mini-balls, they were as far removed from our modern methods of mass slaughter as we are from the phasers and disruptors of science fiction.
But this is not fiction. This is a real life tale that keeps repeating itself over and over ad nauseam. We find ourselves at a precipice. The thought of limiting the rights of adolescents to own and carry assault weapons outside of a field of battle is abhorrent to many in this country. The thought of Jews, or any religious group, having to cower while practicing their faith should be just as despicable.
No one wants to yield on either front and as a result we are spinning out of control with body counts rising amidst mounting fears.
Those who would reduce liberty in order to obtain security deserve neither, we have been warned. But without sensible movement on this issue of access to assault weapons, I am fearful that we will ever feel truly safe or secure in this great republic of ours. We are literal ducks in a barrel.