As the Jewish community reels from the unprecedented terror attacks in Israel, some are reevaluating what kind of firepower they need to feel safe.
“It’s like having a serial killer show up in your shower next to you. It’s a place where you know you’re vulnerable, but you’d never think anything’s gonna happen there. And it just rattles you to the core. For me, it rattled me to the core,” Ross, who works at a software company in the Chicago suburbs and asked not to be named for safety reasons, told The Reload of the effect of the October 7th attacks. “I’ve heard the same from many other Jewish friends of mine.”
He said he bought a pistol for the first time after the 2020 riots ended up outside his home but is planning to upgrade in the wake of Hamas killing more than 1,400 Jews in Israel. It’s part of a trend of American Jews who are not just arming themselves but rethinking the sorts of guns would be most useful if they had to face down an attack like the one Israelis experienced.
“People historically say, ‘Well, why do you need a gun? This is America. You have the police. Like, you don’t need this. It’s part of the problem.’ And I think what we saw in Israel is that if you have a group of people that are determined to come into your home and commit harm, first of all, if you don’t have a gun, good luck,” Ross said. “And, even if you have like a little pistol, sorry to say, that’s not gonna cut it. I’m planning on purchasing more firearms at this point.”
Rabbi Yossi Eilfort, president of the Jewish security non-profit Magen Am, told The Reload he’s been hearing the same thing from many other Jewish residents in California as well.
“I had three or four calls today that were, ‘Hey, which AR-15 should I buy?” he said. “And we’re in California, so we’re talking feature list and muzzle brakes. And, like all the things you need to do to be able to buy a rifle in California. But people who have no knowledge of the industry are digging in and like, ‘well, I researched that Saint is better than the other option.'”
Even people without experience considered getting an AR-15 to try and pull guard duty at Jewish institutions.
“I had someone call me and say, ‘Hey, should I borrow my friend’s AR-15 and bring it to synagogue this weekend?'” Eilfort said. “And I know this person has zero training. So it’s like, ‘Please don’t do that. Like, we have a security team. I’ll give you some pepper spray. Come train with us. But please don’t do that.’ But that’s a real sentiment.”
Joshua, a Los Angeles physician who also asked that his real name not be shared, is in the same boat. He said when he bought his first gun this week, it was an AR-15 variant.
“Originally, I was thinking of getting a semi-automatic handgun,” he said. But he was soon persuaded that the semi-automatic rifle would be a better option if he ever had to defend his family from multiple home invaders like those who rampaged across multiple Israeli kibbutz.
“I never bought a gun before,” he told The Reload. “So the gentleman said to me, what do you need it for? Because I had some ideas in my head about what I wanted. And he said, ‘No, no, no, don’t tell me what you want. Tell me what you need it for. I said, ‘Well, you know, I’m concerned about what’s just happened in Israel.’ He said, ‘So, you want it for personal protection in the home if something goes bad?’ And he said, ‘Okay, do you want an AR-15?’ And that’s what I got.”
David Rice, a bond trader who became a gun-rights advocate in the wake of the 2020 riots, said he too had upgraded his regular defense strategies. While he already owned AR-15s, he decided to keep one closer by after the Hamas attacks because he and his wife realized how easy it would be to target them and their neighbors as Jews.
“Normally, I leave everything but my CCW in the basement safe and keep my CCW in a Vaultek in the bedroom. Last night my wife and I talked about how we have a large and visible Mezuzah on our front door and decided to bring one of the ARs to the bedroom,” he said of the traditional verse found outside many Jewish households. “While American Jews generally aren’t hanging huge Israeli flags on their front porch, many many many Jews that aren’t even involved in Jewish life have Mezuzahs on their doors. From discussions I’m having with other parents and neighbors, that makes them feel identifiable and thus vulnerable to attack.”
Ross said that vulnerability is what’s driving him to expand the number of guns he owns. He said he never wants his family to be forced into a position where they don’t have the firepower needed to defend themselves.
“I always heard this idea. It’s like, ‘Come on, okay, you want to own guns? Fine. But are you crazy? Are you defending yourself against an army?’ And now my mind is changed on that,” he said. “It’s like, ‘Yeah, I want to feel I have the horsepower I need.’ So, I’m likely going to buy a shotgun. I’m likely going to buy a heavier handgun.”
Eilfort said he was glad to see Jewish Americans starting to take their security into their own hands as much as possible. But he lamented that it took such a horrendous act of terror to get to this point.
“I wish we were more prepared before, is how I feel about this,” he said.
As for Joshua, he ended up with a semi-auto handgun to complement his AR. And his wife got a revolver too for good measure.
“If Israel laid down their arms there would be massive slaughter of every Jew in Israel. If the terrorists put down their arms, we would have peace,” he said. “So, that brings us back to our points here. I’m not putting down my arms. I’m becoming armed so that I’m prepared just in case something happens here.”