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Gun Control Fails Again at the Pittsburgh Synagogue

October 31, 2018

Photo from VOA news

A murderer killed unarmed victims at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Many of us have asked how long will we allow mass murders to continue. We know the answer, but it is a bitter pill to swallow. Mass murders will continue until we stop them. Religious institutions are the target of criminal violence hundreds of times a year. That data comes from the dedicated individuals who work to protect our churches and synagogues. Sadly, it seems that every politician running for office also has an opinion on the recent attack. Fortunately, we can come up with better ideas than those campaign promises. Let’s look at evidence. Here is what failed in Pittsburgh and here is what works to stop mass murder.

The murderer purchased his firearms legally. That means he passed his background checks. He passed his FBI national background check when he bought his firearms in a gunshop. He also passed state background checks to buy his three handguns. Those background checks failed to stop a mass murderer because he was not a criminal until he killed at a Synagogue. The so called “universal” background checks would fare no better because all background checks contain a fatal flaw; looking backwards doesn’t predict the future.

We have looked at past mass murderers to see if proposed background checks would have stopped them. With the exception of the murderers who killed to obtain their weapons, mass murderers obtained their firearms legally and passed their background checks to obtain their guns. Background checks don’t stop mass murderers.

Pennsylvania state law requires that gun stores keep a registry of the handguns they sell. Criminals don’t buy guns over the counter, so that registry doesn’t stop criminals from getting guns. The registry didn’t stop this murderer either, even though he bought his pistols legally. Handgun registries don’t stop mass murderers.

Pennsylvania requires a license to carry a concealed firearm in public. In a singularly unusual turn, this murderer acquired his permit. That meant that the murderer carried his concealed firearms to the church in a legal manner. Having a state issued carry permit failed to stop him from murdering innocent people at the Synagogue, but the state permit requirements may have helped disarm the innocent victims sitting in the Synagogue.

When we listen to proposed solutions, the first rule is to do no harm. Most murderers don’t bother to get a permit, so more stringent requirements on carry permits could very well disarm more victims rather than disarm future murderers.

Armed security was frequently mentioned in the immediate news reports after the attack. Several politicians said that guns are not the answer to protect innocent people in churches, in synagogues, and in schools.  Without exception, the politicians I saw making those statements had armed bodyguards. A noteworthy exception was the Brooklyn, New York borough president Eric Adams. President Adams said he plans to carry his gun to church. He asked other retired law enforcement officers to carry at church or synagogue when they are off duty. Armed guards protect politicians when the politicians go to church. The rest of us should be protected as well.

Armed guards help, but off-duty law enforcement is only one of several known solutions.

The news media is a significant factor in promoting mass murder. Though less of a factor at the Pittsburgh synagogue attack, the extensive media coverage given to mass murderers lures the next narcissistic murderer to kill. We learned this lesson with teen suicide. Today, we have media guidelines in place. We won’t mention the name of the suicide victim. We know that works to reduce copycat suicide because we’ve looked at the data. Today, we don’t turn a teen suicide into a celebrity event..unless he takes several of his classmates with him.

That message is clear enough for a headline that any editor can understand-

Don’t Reward Murderers!

Armed security is already in place at many religious assemblies. These security teams can be made of off-duty police, dedicated church staff, and/or armed congregants. The only thing stopping more churches and synagogues from having armed staff is apathy. If you want protection when you worship, then ask your pastor or rabi. Armed security is only a part of a larger security plan, so ask if you can see the entire plan.

There is an exception to the trend of armed churches and synagogues. Almost all mass murders are in so called “gun-free” zones. Some states forbid or severely restrict armed church staff.  Arguing for armed churches is a difficult political proposition in some states. I propose we make the government strictly liable for every injury in a government mandated “gun-free” zone. If disarming churches and synagogues was really such a good idea, then the government wouldn’t have to pay a thing. If it is a bad idea, as most of us suspect, then the state must pay for the murders it caused.

Some churches have decided to deny their members the right of armed self defense. I propose we make these churches and synagogues strictly liable for every injury in their self imposed “gun-free” zone. Again, if disarming your congregations is such a great idea, then the church has no liability to worry about.  If these gun free zones actually increase the risk to parishioners and staff as the data suggests, then these churches and synagogues should be held liable for the safety of the people they disarmed.

Is there any “gun-free” zone where we have not found a gun?

When it comes to mental health, I’m tempted to add that we should hold bureaucrats responsible for the crazy people they release back into society. I can’t take that proposal seriously since we have never found a way to hold bureaucrats responsible for their actions. Claiming we could make bureaucrats responsible for mass violence is magical thinking, and this isn’t a blog about political fiction.

I gave you a thousand words. Please leave me a comment. RM

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Alan permalink
    October 31, 2018 2:14 pm

    Where has GUN Control, in any form, ever blocked the antics of criminals or the deranged?Anyone with factual data, not unsupported claims of hearsay, feel free to answer. As to Saturday’s shooting, one armed congregant might have checked the shooter, with fewer casualties. As it was, all people could do was run, hide and perhaps pray.


  2. Joseph Smith permalink
    November 1, 2018 8:58 am

    Liability is only one aspect of changing this dangerous mindset and behavior; the fatal misbelief in ‘gun free zones’. Heres the problem.

    When you find out your pastor, rabbi, deacon, father, monsignor, high priest, etc. prohibits ‘guns’ or otherwise facilitates a so called gun free zone you need to tell them in no uncertain terms “That may be fine for you, but it’s not fine for me and my family and we won’t worship here or with you so long as that is the case. Additionally, I’ll be taking my friends with me.”

    Then go worship somewhere else.

    All too many of us are excusing this as acceptable. IT’s not acceptable to be sitting in or around a target rich environment of disarmed people unprepared for an attack with your family unprotected.


  3. Fred Freshwater permalink
    November 2, 2018 5:21 pm

    Thank you for one of the VERY FEW well-articulated and well thought out articles on this sad subject. You have analyzed responses that may work to thwart these lunatics/haters, and refuted the most proffered ones that NEVER work. It is simply a matter of an armed individual (man or woman – preferably both) shouldering the responsibility to protect their family members; IT IS AN OBLIGATION … not a choice! The police have no legal responsibility to protect any of us (SCOTUS ruling), nor can they, practically, be everywhere when and where they are needed. Almost always, when the police arrive, it is too late to stop the carnage. I am a longtime gentile member of JPFO, Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, and I stand with them all the way. In my efforts to protect our Second Amendment, I am also a lifetime member of NRA, GOA and a state run organization, FOAC. I hope others quickly awake to the importance of our Second Amendment, particularly our Jewish friends who have exhibited a long-held revulsion for firearms and eschewing their need and obvious benefits.



  1. Gun Control Fails Again at the Pittsburgh Synagogue

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