By Sheila Nazarian
If you are Jewish and live in America, now is the time to carry a firearm. Thanks to a recent National Rifle Association victory in NYSRPA v. Bruen, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects our right, any law-abiding American’s right, a Jew’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside our homes.
God willing, we will never have to use our guns. But just in case, we should be armed.
A few years ago, I was sitting in a lecture hall, watching a Holocaust survivor tell her heartbreaking story. I vividly remember one thing she told the audience.
“Arm yourselves,” she said, making eye contact with us. “In Germany, they took away our guns. It was the first step. Get as many guns and as much ammunition as you can.”
I wasn’t a gun owner. I hadn’t ever considered it. We were in America, which, at the time, seemed much safer than my homeland, Iran. I had to escape Iran after the Revolution. Iranian border guards shot at our getaway vehicle as we crossed the border into Pakistan, and I will never forget feeling so defenseless.
I thought I would be safe in Los Angeles. But that all changed once I experienced the crime crisis over the past few years. I started receiving death threats on social media because I posted my political opinions and am very publicly a proud Jewish woman. People don’t like me for being outspoken, and there are a lot of antisemites online. I thought I escaped that when I left Iran, but antisemitism is a societal disease that will never disappear.
Once the Tree of Life massacre and other shootings in Jewish communities happened, and I saw graffiti in Beverly Hills during protests saying “Kill the rich,” I knew that I couldn’t rely on the government to protect me.
I decided to take my self-defense into my own hands. I purchased a firearm, received training from an NRA Certified Firearm Instructor, and applied for a concealed carry weapons license (CCW) in California. This license will allow me to defend myself, my family, and my community.
“An estimated 6 million American adults carried a loaded handgun with them daily in 2019, double the number who said they carried a gun every day in 2015,” The Guardian reported, citing an American Journal of Public Health study.
Antisemitism is coming at us from all sides. “The Jews” and “Jewish people” are constantly trending on Twitter. The hateful rhetoric is disgusting. The worst appears on message boards like 4chan and 8chan, which spread conspiracy theories, lies from “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” and vile memes of our people.
Antisemites aren’t just posting conspiracies. They believe them. Some even act violently against us and want us dead – like the Tree of Life murderer. I will not go into a synagogue unless it has armed security. Evil monsters target Jews and innocent people of all religions. We are seen as weak. To them, we are easy targets as we are in our place of worship.
According to a 2020 Pew Research Center study, 71% of U.S. Jews lean toward the Democratic Party, which tends to support restrictive gun policy. So it makes sense that Jews have the lowest rate of gun ownership among all religious groups. But if we in the Jewish community know we are frequent targets, why do we support politicians and laws that make it harder to defend ourselves?
After the Holocaust, we knew that “Never Again” meant not only remembering what happened to the Jews who were murdered but also making sure that we had a strong homeland and military in Israel. We had to ensure that a haven would be available when needed. The times of assimilating in the diaspora and thinking we would be okay are gone. We have to be strong and outspoken, as that is the only thing have gone well for us. The Jewish community in America needs to take a cue from Israel.
In our country, I’d like to think we have protection, but at the current rate, the current crime crisis has no end. Our country and cities have revolving-door criminal justice systems, no cash bail, and increased resistance to law enforcement. We need to look out for ourselves. That means exercising responsible gun ownership and fighting for our right to defend ourselves.
There are certainly going to be dark days ahead with this antisemitic trend. But we don’t have to be vulnerable, quiet, and afraid. Not anymore.