Post-Pittsburgh: Capital Punishment, and Jews with Guns

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53 Responses

  1. mycroft says:

    “In other words, in modern-day America, when murder by cold-blooded monsters is sadly common, ”

    In the long term, violent crime in the United States has been in decline since colonial times. The homicide rate has been estimated to be over 30 per 100,000 people in 1700, dropping to under 20 by 1800, and to under 10 by 1900.[6]

    “After World War II, crime rates increased in the United States, peaking from the 1970s to the early 1990s. Violent crime nearly quadrupled between 1960 and its peak in 1991. Property crime more than doubled over the same period. Since the 1990s, however, crime in the United States has declined steadily.”
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_the_United_States

    Homicide. According to a 2013 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), between 2005 and 2012, the average homicide rate in the U.S. was 4.9 per 100,000 inhabitants compared to the average rate globally, which was 6.2.

    “European homicide rates have dramatically decreased over the last millennium and have remained steadily low over the past 50 years”
    https://ourworldindata.org/homicides

  2. Reb Yid says:

    Great. Just when I thought this site had sunk to a new low with the Beit Shemesh post, now we get a sponsored post from the NRA extolling Jews to buy more guns and having the chutzpah to give it a rabbinic blessing.

    There’s a reason why mass killings happen on a regular basis in the US–this does not happen with anywhere near the frequency in any other high income country. We lead the world in mass killings by a country mile. The rest of the world views us with absolute horror. The main reason cannot be avoided, as much as one tries–Americans own close to half of the world’s civilian owned guns. Couple this with the fact that it is easier in many places in America to buy a gun than it is to vote. People have to pass driving tests, get their vehicles licensed by the state and buy car insurance before they can drive. We should expect no less of gun owners. And there is no reason on earth why any civilian should own an assault weapon which all too often, as was in the case in Pittsburgh, is used in these mass killings. We need common sense gun laws like every other country on earth has–Israel has extremely tight ones.

    Yes, our Jewish institutions should use due diligence in thinking about ways to make themselves more secure. But we’ll never be able to prevent every single incident. Four armed first responders were wounded when trying to assist the worshippers at Tree of Life, despite knowing that there was an armed man inside. There’s only so much you can do against someone with a semi-assault weapon and three handguns to boot.

    My synagogue for the past 5-6 years has had an off-duty cop (armed) posted outside the building on Shabbat and holiday services, in addition to having a strong corp of volunteers posted at various entrances with Shabbat-friendly walkie talkies and earpieces. We have an excellent relationship with our local police department, and they have stepped up patrols since Pittsburgh. Our shul will be thinking about additional steps that may now be needed, but being an armed fortress is not one of them.

    We are not Israel or Europe. Thank God. God bless America.

  3. I believe that every orthodox shul in Chicago has two or more armed mispallelim. They are often members of hatzala. The rationale is identical – immediate community based response to a mortal danger is far more effective than calling 911 and is both an honor and a privilege.

  4. dr. bill says:

    Reducing complex societal issues to a halakhic sheailah is risky and often subjective. Halakha often does not speak with a single voice; even when it does the circumstances to which it must be applied are potentially multi-faceted. Yet worst, quoting sources without extensive analysis of the circumstances in which they were written, can and often is misleading.

    The need for adequate protection in synagogues and other places where large groups gather is a reality even in societies where the availability of guns is not as widespread as in the US. Even Israel, where the need for an armed populace is great, there are severe restrictions on the number of bullets any one individual can own.

    the halakha informs about everything, hafoh bah ve’hafoh bah ki kulah bah, but it is not useful without proper analysis of circumstance.

    btw, in the three synagogues I normally attend, there are trained mispallilim that are armed because as the Rav ztl once remarked, X is stupid and the halakha forbids stupid things.

  5. Bob Miller says:

    Police can’t respond quickly enough to eliminate the real or potential threat totally. Somehow or other there must be armed and properly trained people onsite, unless some new device keeps all had guys at a safe distance.

  6. Bob Miller says:

    That is, bad guys

  7. Josh Eisenberg says:

    I am an owner of a legally purchased handgun(s); a veteran of Tsahal (תותחנים) and USMC.
    I possess a CCP issued by my home state. I am an NRA certified firearms safety and handgun instructor. I firmly believe that it is better to be judged by twelve than carried by six.

  8. armedjew says:

    Deapite what teenagers and teenaged-intellect posters may think, Driving is not a constitutionally protected g-d given right.

  9. Mark says:

    Some things never change.

    11 Jews are murdered in cold blood. The Conform clergy condemn the death penalty, Mycroft trots out meaningless statistics about the descent in violent crime (I wonder how the 11 victims feel about that), Dr. Bill explains how following halachah is “risky and subjective”, and “Reb Yid” lobs accuses CC of hitting an even lower low than previously.

    Do liberals ever actually address the point?
    Apparently not.

  10. Reb Yid says:

    Missing the point.

    A vehicle is a dangerous weapon–that’s the point.

  11. Reb Yid says:

    Dr. Bill:

    But the reality is that in all other high income Western countries we simply don’t see people walking into areas where individuals gather, like schools, churches, or movie theaters, and commit mass killings with automatic weapons. Any such instance in other countries is a rarity or a near rarity.

    It’s bad enough that there are some in this country who believe that the way this country deals with guns, as opposed to how other countries deal with guns, has no relevance to the above pattern. But what’s worse is some within this camp exacerbate matters even further by encouraging the proliferation, availability and usage of these weapons of mass destruction instead of trying to reduce it.

    Would such proponents be in favor of arming the entire world with nuclear weapons?

  12. Jacob Elesch says:

    Eliminating the death penalty in the United States (based on disproportionate usage against minorities) is a goal of the Democratic party. Conservative, Reform and “progressive-Orthodox” have aligned themselves with the Democratic party and are forced to advocate this view regardless of any religions rationale.

  13. Bob Miller says:

    Reb Yid,
    Doesn’t this go on in disarmed Europe? Or does jihadist violence not count?

  14. dr. bill says:

    reb yid, ideally, we would have a much more severely restricted set of gun laws; as long as it is not in the cards, we must deal with the situation as it exists.

    mark, words matter – you omitted one. quoting halakha without a full understanding of context is as i said risky and often subjective.

  15. Reb Yid says:

    Bob Miller:

    We do not see schools, concerts, etc. regularly attacked in any other high income country in the world. Only here in America–and on the majority of occasions by native-born white, Christian, male, alt-right types with more than their share of weaponry. Don’t see anyone trying to deport these groups from our country, either.

    • Yaakov Menken says:

      Reb Yid… really? I’m sorry, but I think you missed … Europe, an entire continent with high-income countries frequently hit by violent attacks.

      Among those you missed, the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, 22 dead, and the attack at Parliament, 4 dead. The beer truck driven into a Stockholm department store, 4 dead. The bombing in St. Petersburg metro, 15 dead (we can quibble about whether Russia is “high-income”). Those were all in 2017. In July 2016, a cargo truck was deliberately driven into crowds of people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France, killing 86. In March of that year, bombings in Brussels killed 32 civilians. In November 2015 in Paris, a series of attacks by suicide bombers and gunmen killed 130 people and injured hundreds — at a concert hall, a stadium, restaurants and bars. You can browse https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_terrorism_in_Europe for more examples.

      If you don’t see schools “regularly attacked” in France, it’s because Jewish schools are armed compounds defended by French military.

      And it’s not because of native-born white, Christian alt-right types. No one will argue that males are more violent than females, but that wasn’t your erroneous point.

  16. mycroft says:

    “Mycroft trots out meaningless statistics about the descent in violent crime (I wonder how the 11 victims feel about that)”
    Post states “But even without this distinction, when we now read about murders throughout the country literally on a daily basis, ”

    Which does not equal increased murder rate.

    ” Sanhedrin system applied capital punishment on an extremely infrequent basis, as people during the time of the Sanhedrin were fearful of committing murder, and the stringent requirements for a Sanhedrin trial and conviction were incredibly difficult to meet, due to many factors and safeguards built into the system – when dealing with an emboldened murderer and a society in which murder is occurring on a frequent basis, a different, simpler system was applied in Halacha, in which the death penalty could be more readily administered as a pragamtic deterrent to future murders ”
    No evidence that murder rate is higher than it was thousands of years ago. In fact violence has gone steadily down over the centuries and millennia.
    See eg https://www.ted.com/talks/steven_pinker_on_the_myth_of_violence/transcript?language=en
    or read his book The Better Angels of Our Nature Why Violence Has Declined

  17. Reb Yid says:

    Yaakov Menken:

    There’s no comparison between any other high income countries and the US when it comes to mass shootings. We can’t even have a month go by without some mass shooting at a school, library, concert, house of worship, newspaper office, etc. During some months we can’t even have a week go by. There are plenty of lists easily searchable on the Internet which document these trends.

    This is simply not normal. This is why some Americans–particularly younger Americans– are now running for political offices of various kinds. We should not have to wait until every single American knows some family who has been directly impacted by such violence.

    I wish everyone a much needed Shabbat Shalom. We are in need of healing. Many of our synagogues will contain newcomers this Shabbat….people who are not Jewish but wish to display solidarity with our people as fellow Americans. This is what is needed now, more than anything.

  18. Steve Brizel says:

    I think that just as we have created means of self help as Hatzala , etc that are far more efficient and help in ways that the state won’t in the same manner we have to develop in a legal manner a way of monitoring websites and the like where anti Semitism of all kinds can potentially fester in America,. I see no reason why we should not have persons who have permits to carry firearms serve as guards in shuls. Even the NYPD and FBI can’t be everywhere.

    That being said, I ascribe the actions of the two maniacs to just that-as Peggy Noonan, a wonderful journalist noted in the WSJ-if you have an attitude that life , whether at its inception, death or as a child, adolescent and adult has no sacred meaning, then 15 minutes or so “earned” by a heinous act will be the result. A society that has relegated Lo Sirtzach to a museum and engages in public pity parties rather than in engaging in analysis as to why people committ murder and engaging in discussion as to how political and cultural issues should and can be debated is indeed a society governed by the worst elements of Parshas Noach-the equally morally offensive conduct that led to the flood and the insistence on group conformity that led to the dispersion after the vain attempt to build the tower.

  19. Steve Brizel says:

    FWIW, perhaps we do need the death penalty applied in such instances and others as a deterrent. Certainly, no death row inmate today is executed without a full range of legal remedies to ensure that he or she can litigate as long as possible on a wide range of arguments to forestall the inevitable. As a corollary, if one wants to read accurate views on who is behind bars, try reading anything by Heather MacDonald

  20. tzippi says:

    Is there a compelling reason that civilians should be able to buy assault weapons?

  21. Josh Eisenberg says:

    Remember all: when seconds count, help is minutes away!

  22. dr. bill says:

    Steve Brizel, do not desecrate the memories of those killed al kiddush hashem by mxing in some of your pet peeves. i am opposed to late-term abortion and the ability of individuals to choose to end-life prematurely, in most cases, but certainly not in all as a matter of law not just halakha. remember, a democratic society, the US or even Israel, cannot impose religious standards against a society that rejects them. that our society has less restrictive legislation is regrettable but in no way a cause of or related to virulent anti-semitism.
    if you meant something else forgive me, but given your mode of expression that came across

  23. Raymond says:

    Before I read what anybody else said on here, I better first state my own views, as I get the feeling that once I read some of the more left-leaning comments above, that I will get too upset and my already high blood pressure will skyrocket.

    I will acknowledge, though, that one good thing about today’s Political Left, is that they have so lost their collective minds, that all I have to do is find out their stance on any given issue, and know automatically to take the opposite stance. This case is a prime example of what I am talking about. How anybody can oppose giving Robert Bowers the death penalty ASAP is beyond my understanding. It simply defies basic common sense. A total loser walks into a synagogue, murders 11 innocent Jews as he yells out how “All Jews must die!” and yet somehow he does NOT deserve the death penalty? If he doesn’t, then who does? To me, the outrage would not be putting him to death, but rather the outrage is that we have not already done so. Every moment that that scumbag is allowed to continue to breathe, is a crime against humanity.

    All I am saying here should be obvious to anybody with any moral sense. It is actually kind of scary to think that some people would have a problem with what I have said here.

  24. I forgot my handle says:

    Tzipi,

    “Assault weapons”? You mean like a baseball bat? That is among the worst of the assault weapons commonly used in assaults.

    What is an assault weapon? When it comes to guns, there is no standard technical meaning. When that term is used by political liberals, it means guns that don’t need to be hand cocked between shots. When used by typical gun owners/users, it means military grade hardware, which is not available to civilians at any price.

    People who believe that the Second Amendment protects private ownership of firearms, believe that no law can constitutionally prohibit the ownership of guns that do not need to be hand cocked between shots. People who believe that the Second Amendment permits civilians only to wear colonial-era minuteman clothing and go to the local National Guard armory to shoot BB guns on Saturdays, believe that laws can legitimately outlaw any type of civilian ownership of any type of firearms.

  25. mycroft says:

    I eyeballed murder rates by country compared to intentional murder rates per country. I could not spot obvious correlations. I am unaware of such analysis having been done. If anyone can give me a cite to such a study I’d be curious to read it.

  26. Reb Yid says:

    Below is a picture of one version of the AK 47. which was the assault weapon used in Pittsburgh (in addition to three handguns). Variations of this weapon have been used in virtually every mass killing in the US.

    https://www.sportsmansoutdoorsuperstore.com/prodimages/35727-DEFAULT-l.jpg

  27. tzippi says:

    I forgot my handle, thanks. Because when someone says, this or that attack happened because of assault weapons, even if you believe in gun ownership surely you’re against assault weapons, I see I need to do more homework before answering.

  28. Steve Brizel says:

    Dr Bill I regret that I have to stand by my post via a vis the present cultural and politically prevalent and dominant standards in our society as well as the consequences of a secularized world. I do not engage in assigning causes for catastrophic events but we do live in A world where anyone who lacks appreciation for the sanctity of life will seek 15 minutes of fame in the worst manner without even thinking of the consequences of the same.that has nothing IMO to do with the Holocaust

  29. Steve Brizel says:

    Dr Bill I do not and refuse to engage in or use theodicy based or related arguments to explain catastrophic events. That being said one can and should feel observe and analyze cultural sociological and political changes and ask whether they are conosistent with Torah and Mitzvos on a communal and individual basis. We have to realize that as wonderful as Galusvhas been in America and is we live in Gslus and we have to be vigilant as to those cultural and political phenomena that pose a clear and dangerous threat to our communities and individual lives as Jews today. The failure to do so or the view that modernity dictates our response must be rejected whenever modernity and its values encroach on our communal and individual vitality as Torah observant Jews

  30. Steve Brizel says:

    looking at weapons alone without focussing on the mental health issues of a potential perpetrator of a mass shooting is unfortunately a statist attitude and solution which deflects from an analysis of who perpetrates such acts and why. One sided analysis in this area of public policy approaches the well documented war against men that reached its peak during the recent confirmation hearings

  31. Jeff Schwartz says:

    I preface my remarks by pointing out that I am by no means a liberal, a leftist, or a non-Orthodox Jew. I will, however, confess to being an attorney. It seems clear that the Rabbis in the time of the Mishnah, at the very least Rabbi Akiva, were concerned that despite the rigorous procedural safeguards and nearly impossible to meet standards for eyewitness testimony, the possibility of executing an innocent person made the death penalty a disfavored option, one for which they would prefer not to bear the responsibility of implementing. Al Achas Commah V’chommah when we look at our justice system, where convictions are often decided on the basis of the testimony of co-conspirator criminals, circumstantial evidence, and coached witnesses and by 12 lay people completely untrained to judge anything (see, for example, Rabbi Shafran’s recent article here about his jury experience). And yes, the justice system is far more likely to sentence certain minorities to death. Moreover, the number of convictions that have been overturned due to new DNA evidence is alarming. Finally, there is no reason to believe that people who intend to commit mass murders are likely to be deterred by the prospect of capital punishment. Perhaps some system could be developed for ensuring that those sentenced to death actually are guilty, but until there is, I am opposed to the death penalty.

    As for properly trained members of shuls carrying handguns, I agree completely with the sentiments expressed in dr. bill’s comment above (“in the three synagogues I normally attend, there are trained mispallilim that are armed because as the Rav ztl once remarked, X is stupid and the halakha forbids stupid things.)

  32. mb says:

    “It is better and more satisfactory to acquit a thousand guilty persons than to put a single innocent one to death.”
    Mussa bin Maimun ibn Abdallah al-Kurtubi al-Israili

  33. Steve Brizel says:

    MB tell that to a victim of a heinous and violent crime. If you want to see how character assassination geared up by the mainstream media work and radical feminists work just read the Senate Judiciary Committee Report on the accusations without any corroboration re Justice Kavanaugh. One complainant named Jane Doe freely admitted that she lied just for the attention ala her 15 minutes of fame. I never saw fascism in action until I saw the lynch mob of radical feminists and their supporters attack senators and cabinet members with such utter disregard of political and social norms which were aided and abetted in no small part by social media

  34. Steve Brizel says:

    Jeff who commits most violent crime in the US snd why? Why shouldn’t traitors convicted and having exhausted all appellate remedies be executed and face the consequences of betraying the country they swore to defend?Defendants in Capitol cases and death row inmates have a full range of remedies and law clinics and professors and students willing to work on their cases against understaffed Prosecutors ? The rules of evidence that you cited may be less strict than Halacha but they are Dina Dmalchusa as are codes that dictate how civil cases are litigated. In criminal cases to quote Justice Jackson the Bill of Rights is not a pact to commit national suicide

  35. Jeff Schwartz says:

    Steve, what’s your point? That’s it’s ok for jurors to discriminate against members of one minority group because statistically they commit more crimes? Is that why it’s ok for frum Jews to scream anti-Semitism when overly harsh punishments are given to people like Rubashkin or Pollard but trumpet Dina D’malchusa when the system discriminates against African Americans?

    All criminals who actually committed the crime they have been accused of should be sentenced fairly. My issue is not with the fairness of the sentence for one who actually committed the crime. My issue is with a system that often convicts innocent people and discriminates against people based on factors such as race, political expediency, poverty, and yes, sometimes religion.

    Sadly, it is not only people on the Left who have been brain-washed to believe things that are patently ridiculous. Just because the Right supports Israel, we don’t have to buy into all the nonsense spouted by the likes of Rush Limbaugh. A modicum of critical thinking on both sides would be a much welcome change.

  36. mb says:

    Steve Brizel,
    You said
    “MB tell that to a victim of a heinous and violent crime.”
    No, you tell the Rambam to tell that to a victim of a heinous and violent crime. (I assume you meant the family of the victims)
    As for the rest of your post, I have no idea what the connection is to the subject at hand.

  37. Jeff Schwartz says:

    Not sure why the quotations were omitted from my most recent post. Each of the 3 paragraphs therein were in response to each of the first 3 sentences in the post directly above mine. For clarification, my last comment in that post was primarily in response to the “novel” suggestion that defendants in capital cases and death row inmates, most of whom tend to be poor, somehow have access to better resources than the “understaffed prosecutors”. While there may be some high profile cases where public interest advocates get involved, for the most part this statement is exactly the opposite of the truth. It is the public defenders that lack resources and are understaffed, while the state has access to investigators and experts and an entire police department. And the nature of the adversarial system and the political gain of winning often encourage everyone on the state’s side to play fast and loose with the rules and honesty.

  38. Steve Brizel says:

    Jeff please read Heather MacDonald . The only numerical factor that counts is who commits violent crime and the sociological indices and factors for doing so. That is not discrimination

  39. Steve Brizel says:

    You can find capital offender defense clinics in almost any major law school who specialize in good and st times archane arguments against capital punishment, not a lot of sympathy for thei victims of violent crime in those quarters

  40. Steve Brizel says:

    It is not racist to focus on who commits violent crime and their educational sociological and educational backgrounds or lack thereof. That is what is called basic criminology

  41. Steve Brizel says:

    Defendants in criminal cases have numerous constitutional and substantive legal rights under the Penal Laws and rights to discovery .

  42. Steve Brizel says:

    Focusing on who commits violent crime and their educational sociological and educational backgrounds or lack thereof is called basic criminology

  43. Steve Brizel says:

    Jeff Schwartz- I stand by my comments re the radical feminist lynch mob and its fascist tactics during the Kavanaugh hearings which were premised on the denial of due process and the denial of the presumption of innocence as well as a hostile view towards men in general

  44. Zach Leiner says:

    Hopefully, the new Attorney General will follow his predecessor’s idea of pursuing the death penalty. The AG is not beholden to the radical chic liberal/left who are foaming at the mouth with misplaced compassion for a neo-Nazi mass murderer.

  45. Steve Brizel says:

    For all who view gun control as the only answer to mass shootings, please read the annexed column,ww.peggynoonan.com/the-parkland-massacre-and-the-air-we-breathe

    A society that attaches no sanctity to the beginning of life ( for those interested there is a movie out about the trial of a doctor who performed late term abortions on scandalously poor conditions , which probably won’t be shown in NYC even at art house theatres) and the termination of life, will produce mentally disturbed people who attach no value whatsoever to the taking of many lives at once no matter howl, as long as they get their 15 minutes of infamy . Viewing a statist solution as a panacea without focusing on the role of the individual and an underlying mental illness, especially in a society where traditional religious values are increasingly viewed as history, will produce more, and not less acts of violence, regardless of the ideological basis. I do note that there are acts of violence in frum neighborhoods against frum Jews by members of minority groups, but many of the groups that sought public pity parties in the wake of Pittsburgh seemingly ( and have rarely in the past) condemned such crimes.

  46. Steve Brizel says:

    The Gemara in BB warns against excessive mourning as counterproductive to Jewish continuity. While mourning is absolutely required after such events, we need to focus as well on the spiritual decimation of our Klal Yisrael in this country where the secular components of support for Israel and the uniquely Jewish nature of the Holocaust no longer serve as bases for Jewish identity in the younger generations who reside outside of the MO and Charedi worlds. Without a committment toJewish observance and at least an awareness of the elements of basic Jewish literacy and belief, one must be concerned about who will support Israel and mourn appropriately for the Holocaust in the next generation

  47. Steve Brizel says:

    For those interested, this is a review of the movie that I mentioned.https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2018/11/the-point-of-gosnell

  48. Reb Yid says:

    One of the biggest kiddush hashems is YU’s The Innocence Project. And a huge cautionary argument right there against anyone who is all gung ho for the death penalty.

  49. SB says:

    True. But you could set standards that insist on a different standard then just beyond reasonable doubt.
    You could require absolute knowledge in a form that even the innocence project would agree too. DNA proof, video proof, etc.

  50. SB says:

    I am sure you realize by now that you are incorrect. The weapon of choice is an AR15. I assume you will say “so what, my point is still valid?”
    The problem is, as was pointed out to tzippi, the argument is mostly based on ignorance of guns.
    The argument against so called “assault weapons” is mostly political, as can be proven by the fact that most so called “assault weapons” can be tweaked to get them past even the most restrictive weapon laws.
    Want proof? google ” NY Safe law legal guns” and you will see how inventive second amendment lovers are.

  51. Zach Leiner says:

    The Innocence Project web page is adorned with the following quote:

    “Injustice anywhere is injustice everything”

    Agreed. And injustice encompasses many, many varieties . And no single group or organization enjoys sole exclusive rights to the statement or its philosophy.

    One example of injustice is perpetrated by gung-ho pseudo-humanitarians coddling an unrepentant genocidal neo-Nazi with 3 squares daily, a bed, fully-stocked libraries, high-speed internet access, and an opportunity to be an Aryan Nations gang leader hero for the next 40 years on the taxpayers’ dime.

  52. Zach Leiner says:

    excuse me:
    “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere”

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