The right of self-defense

Masada Siegel learns to fire a gun from Joe Bridgman during a Ladies of Liberty class at the Scottsdale Gun Club

By Masada Siegel, Special To The Dayton Jewish Observer

American Jews and Guns: An ambivalent relationship

Dayton gun enthusiast Ryan Levin believes every responsible Jewish adult should know how to use weapons for self-protection and self-preservation.

Ryan Levin

“We say ‘never again’ and think of the Holocaust as ancient history, but it was recent,” he explains, “and that was our family and it could happen again.” Ryan, who collects antique guns, believes that to change the future we must learn from the past and teach new generations how to protect themselves from any types of threats.

He is working on a project to educate Jews in firearm safety.

“I will sponsor any Jewish, mature, qualified person who wants to learn how to use firearms — and be safe around them — to a course,” he says. “It will help debunk any of their fears. If I make one Jewish home safe from an attack, it will be a personal victory for me.”


According to Rabbi Joseph Telushkin in A Code of Jewish Ethics, “The Talmud makes it clear that the residents’ right to kill in self-defense applies to any burglar who gains entry and who seems to pose a mortal danger (Sanhedrin 72b). Such permission would also apply to anyone threatened by an armed assailant in the street.”

The right to bear arms, as stated in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, is contingent on the need for a “well-regulated militia.” The wording ratified by the United States is: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm unconnected to service in a militia and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense in the home.

According to JTA, this case brought the greatest number of friend-of-the-court briefs from Jewish groups of any during that session, with Jewish groups staunchly supportive of tight gun controls.


Pop pop pop….My arms were steady and my eyes focused as I pressed the trigger. I felt the power surging out of my hands. The three holes were right near the crossbows of the target.

It was hard not to smile; shooting a Ruger Mark III .22 caliber pistol was exhilarating. I breathed deeply as if I was in yoga class, relaxed and my shots got even better.

I was taking the Ladies of Liberty gun education class at Scottsdale Gun Club. I decided to do it because guns scare me.

I’ve grown up in a family where both my parents were in the military; my mother was a sergeant in the Israeli army and my father served in the U.S. Army, so guns were not foreign.
When my sister and I were kids, my Dad taught us how to shoot.

I’ve spent a great deal of time in Israel, where young men and women are required to serve in the army.

It’s a common sight there to see stunningly beautiful 18- to 21-year-old women walking around with their machine guns.

Almost every position in the IDF is open to female soldiers, including combat, field instruction and intelligence. However, only three percent of women in the IDF serve in combat.


The best way to conquer fears is to confront them, so I signed up for the Ladies of Liberty class. I wasn’t sure what type of people to expect. Before I walked into the club I sat in my car, chatted with my sister on my cell phone and watched the people who walked into the club.

It was warm outside so I watched with my car door open. A man walked out of the club toward me and said, “Excuse me miss, is everything OK? Do you need some help? Are you stranded?”
I shook my head no, pleasantly surprised by the kindness of the random man holding a case full of weapons.

There were 16 well dressed, attractive women in the room. Some had never held a firearm and some had them at home but did not know how to use them; their husbands owned them.

We had two instructors, Trisha Lowry and Joe Bridgman. Joe is the grandson of a World War II veteran and son of a San Diego Police Department range master. He has been shooting competitively since the age of 9 and is the 15th ranked shooter in the USPSA Open Division in the nation, a two-time world champion and three-time national champion when competing in the junior (under 21) division.

Joe had a firearm on his belt and Trisha had one in her purse. This was the real deal. They were super friendly.

The first part of the presentation was on safety rules. Joe started to explain the first rule. “Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.”

He moved on to a discussion of rule number two: “Never point your gun at anything you are not willing to destroy.”

The third was keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire and be aware of your target and surrounding areas.

The instructors were vibrant, interesting and explained everything about firearms, from the specifics of what a bullet is made of and how it works to the fundamentals of shooting.

After two hours in class, we headed to the range, headsets and protective goggles on, and I found a .22 caliber handgun in my hands.

After loading my weapon and assuming the correct stance, I started shooting at the target, and hitting the bull’s-eye.

Learning to use a weapon in a safe, legal, secure environment was empowering. It’s an extremely serious matter: firearms are powerful and can harm people as well as protect them.

The class also changed my thinking. A few days later there was another senseless killing of people by an unstable man with a weapon.

My first thought was, “If a knowledgeable gun owner with a concealed weapon had been there, perhaps the story would have had a better ending? Perhaps fewer people would have died?”

I don’t know. But knowledge is power. And the experience opened my mind to a new perspective.

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