Gun sales are on the increase across the country, spurred on by the Hamas terror attack on Israel last month and reports of a growing number of anti-Semitic incidents here at home. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, gun sales were more than 8% higher last month compared to last October, and gun stores nationwide are reporting scores of new customers who are interested in obtaining a firearm for the first time in their lives.
Firearms instructors are seeing an increase in customers as well, including in locales that have traditionally been hostile to gun ownership like California, where a woman named Dani recently spoke to CNN at a gun range in Ventura County.
“Now more than ever with the rise in antisemitism, I feel we have a responsibility as Jews to speak up and speak out, and also know how to protect ourselves because the reality is people don’t seem to want us around, and it’s hard,” Dani, who declined to share her last name for her safety, told CNN.
Some gun range operators and firearms instructors throughout the country have noted more Jewish people looking for ways to protect themselves with guns – either for the first time or to inquire about obtaining additional weapons, experts say.
Gene Petrino, a retired SWAT commander in Coral Springs, Florida, told CNN he’s gotten roughly 15 to 20 Jewish people per week seeking training since the war broke out.
“They want to know about situational awareness and how they can learn to spot a threat before an attack occurs,” said Petrino, who co-owns Survival Response LLC, a company offering workplace violence prevention, active shooter and firearms training.
He says the Jewish people he’s worked with are prioritizing not only buying a gun, but learning how to use them safely.
In south Florida, the Sun-Sentinel same phenomenonhas found the taking place, with an influx of Jewish customers at gun shops and ranges. Many of these first-timers say they never thought they’d be exercising their Second Amendment rights, and are doing so somewhat reluctantly.
“To be honest with you, I hate guns,” Peter, 76, shouted over the sound of gunshots Saturday afternoon as his wife took aim at a target at Gun World in Deerfield Beach. “But it’s better us than someone else.”
The Jewish couple had arrived for their Intro to Handguns lesson with Florida Firearms Training about noon. Peter, who asked to keep his last name private for safety reasons, had shot a rifle decades ago; his wife had never shot a gun before. By the end of the day they would be returning home with one.
So would Justine Youngleson, 58, and Sandi Lazar, 65, a South African Jewish couple from Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, and Jackie Rubin, 64, a former orthodox Jew who converted to Christianity, who wore a T-shirt with a giant heart on it and described herself as a “very peaceful person.”
Across South Florida, Jewish residents are buying guns and learning to use them, many of them older, more liberal-leaning people who never thought they’d touch a gun in their lives. Spouses are dragging each other to lessons, children are going with parents. Introductory shooting classes are booked up months into the future, even on the Sabbath, because people are so desperate for slots.
I hate that it’s the very real prospect of being the victim of a violent assault or even a terror attack that’s spurring so many folks to visit a gun store or a range for the first time in their lives, but I’m glad that we live in a country where the right to armed self-defense is available to guys like Peter or women like Justine and Sandy. And no matter how reluctantly some of the students of Florida Firearms Training are approaching gun ownership, it sounds like they’re glad too.
By the end of class on Saturday, some students described a sense of empowerment mixed into their fear and aversion to guns.
“That’s good, honey!” Peter said Saturday, as his wife hesitantly lifted her paper target, the bullet holes a bit off from the center, but still very much within the silhouette. “Don’t worry, you would stop them.”
Each time Rubin finished her turn shooting, she was so nervous that her hands shook. But as class neared an end, she appeared more determined.
“I think I know what I want,” she said, walking over to where some of the other students were sitting, repeating it out loud as she scrawled it on the back of her target: “A Smith and Wesson, nine millimeter.”
The 64-year-old says her friends think she’s crazy for buying a gun, but her Jewish family doesn’t. And even though she no longer practices the religion, Rubin said, she is still a Jew, she doesn’t know what is coming next, and she wants to protect herself.
“I’ve seen the way the world is changing,” she explained. “I need to change with the world.”
It’s too early to tell how many of these reluctant gun owners will continue to support gun control now that they’re exercising their Second Amendment rights, but I’d like to believe that having to navigate the hoops and hurdles that anti-gun states have put in the way of gun ownership will make some folks think twice about things they may have supported in the past like mandatory waiting periods, gun and magazine bans, or “gun-free zones” that are inviting targets for those looking for an abundance of unarmed victims.
Those restrictions may sound well and good if you have no intention of ever owning a gun, but once you’ve made the decision to exercise your right to keep and bear arms these “common sense” ideas start to make little sense at all. We’re witnessing the rise of reluctant gun owners at the moment, but I suspect that many of them will go on to become committed Second Amendment supporters in the future.