As the scope of the horror carried out by Hamas against Israeli civilians becomes clear, Jews in America are responding by arming themselves. I spoke exclusively with a collection of new gun owners and firearms instructors across the country who detailed just how much interest in guns has spiked among Jews and why. The dual shock of the unprecedented attacks and the shows of solidarity across the country may have permanently altered the community’s view of firearms.
And that extends beyond the desire to be armed and into a need for heavier, more capable guns.
Several of those I spoke with expressed a desire to own AR-15s as a means to fend off the kind of multiple-assailant attacks seen in Israel. But a number also live in California, where many AR variants have been banned for decades. That may change now too because a federal judge ruled this week that ban violates the Second Amendment.
That ruling puts the fight over AR-15 bans one step closer to the Supreme Court. But the Court was also busy with another gun-related case this week as it stepped back into the case against the Biden Administration’s “ghost gun” ban to double down on the stay it issued a few months back. And Canada gave us further insight into how a more aggressive version of an AR-15 ban, where possession is also outlawed, might go. The Canucks pushed back their confiscation deadline yet again as the government fails to come up with a workable plan to carry out the task.
Plus, Second Amendment scholar David Kopel joins the podcast to explain his brief in the gun case the Court is currently working on. And I explore another brief in the case that makes the due process argument many other pro-gun commentators have adopted.
Jewish Americans Arm Themselves in Wake of Horror in Israel
By Stephen Gutowski
“There’s another order coming from Hamas to kill the Jews. I happen to be Jewish, and I don’t want to be killed.”
That’s the succinct explanation Joshua, a doctor in Los Angeles, gave for why he decided to buy his first gun this week. He’s far from alone. New owners and trainers alike described scenes of gun stores and safety classes full of Jewish Americans hoping to protect themselves from the kind of slaughter that played out on October 7th when Hamas terrorists streamed over the border into Israel and ruthlessly slaughtered more than 1,400 men, women, and children.
“I was at a local gun store a couple of days ago, where my wife was doing her firearms training test, and it was full,” Joshua, who–like several others who spoke to The Reload for this story–did not want his real name revealed in large part due to safety concerns, said. “There was a line outside to get in for people to do their tests, or buy firearms, or practice on the range. And I would say it was 90% Jewish people and Israelis.”
He said the motivation of those in line was clear.
“We all know what happened in Israel. It was a horrific attack on civilians by Hamas with the tally now up close to 1,500 dead,” Joshua said. “It’s the worst attack against Jews since the Holocaust. I never thought I’d say this, but it’s almost worse than the Nazis. They buried the bodies or cremated the bodies. The Nazis hid their atrocities. Hamas is live streaming their atrocities where they kill babies, shoot the elderly waiting at bus stops, rape women, and mow down young people at a music festival for peace.”
35-year-old Simon, an Israeli-American also living in Los Angeles, recoiled at the awful attacks. Then he too bought a gun.
“Watching the events unfold in Israel since October 7th has been gut-wrenching and unreal,” he told The Reload. “Unfortunately for us Jews around the world, our security situation has worsened. Now is the time to arm myself and protect my family. So, I’ve decided to purchase my first firearm and undergo firearm, general situational awareness, and home defense training.”
Simon said he turned to Magen Am, a Jewish non-profit organization licensed to provide armed security services on the West Coast, when he decided to get a firearm. Rabbi Jossi Eilfort, the group’s founder and president, said Simon is just one of hundreds who’ve reached out for help since the attack.
“We are frequently faced with responding to anti-Semitic attacks, but I can say that from what our organization has seen firsthand, the last week and a half has certainly been the largest spike,” he told The Reload. “The day that the attack happened, we had 638 calls to our hotline number from Sunday to Thursday of last week, which for a small organization like us is a lot to balance. On an average week, I’d say we maybe get 40 or 50. All of last year, we had around 950 calls to that hotline. So, obviously, we’re working on rescheduling our training courses and trying to move things faster to keep up with what’s going on.”
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 Jossi 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.'”
California AR-15 Ban Ruled Unconstitutional
By Jake Fogleman
California’s ban on AR-15s and other so-called “assault weapons” violates the Second Amendment.
That was the determination United States District Court Judge Roger Benitez reached on Thursday. Benitez found that the Golden State’s criminal prohibition on the sale and possession of semi-automatic rifles with certain features could not pass the tradition-based test established by the Supreme Court in its latest landmark Second Amendment case.
“In the United States, with its long tradition of gun ownership, there are no historical laws prohibiting simple possession of any type of firearm until long after the 1868 adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment. That is too late,” Benitez wrote in Miller v. Bonta. “Notwithstanding having significant time to do so, the State has identified no national tradition of firearm regulation so broad in its coverage or so far reaching in its effect as its extreme ‘assault weapon’ statutes.”
SCOTUS Again Intervenes to Keep Biden ‘Ghost Gun’ Ban in Place
By Stephen Gutowski
The Supreme Court does not want the Biden Administration’s rule outlawing the unregulated sale of unfinished gun parts to be blocked while the case against it moves forward.
On Monday, the High Court issued an order vacating a lower court’s attempt to enjoin the ATF from enforcing the ban. It is the second time SCOTUS has sided with the federal government to intervene in the case on an emergency basis. The order means nobody can sell unfinished gun parts without a gun dealer license.
“The application to vacate injunction presented to Justice Alito and by him referred to the Court is granted,” the Court wrote in Vanderstok v. Garland. “The September 14, 2023 order of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, case No. 4:22-cv-691, is vacated.”
Canada Further Delays AR-15 Confiscation Deadline
By Jake Fogleman
For the second time, the Canadian government has been forced to postpone its plan to confiscate hundreds of thousands of lawfully purchased firearms from its citizens.
Canadian owners of AR-15s and similar rifles will now be allowed to retain their guns until Oct. 30, 2025. That’s due to a quiet extension of the amnesty period announced by Public Safety Canada early last week. The previous amnesty period—already an extension from the original deadline of April 2022—was set to expire at the end of this month.
“The extension of the Order will ensure affected firearm owners and businesses continue to be protected from criminal liability for unlawful possession while they come into compliance with the law, including having the opportunity to take part in the buyback program,” Public Safety Canada, the government division in charge of administering the ban and mandatory buyback program, said in an update to the agency’s web page.
This week, we’re turning our attention back to the Supreme Court. It is deciding the first gun case since its landmark decision last year. And we have one of the most influential Second Amendment scholars in the country on the show to discuss it.
David Kopel joins the podcast to explain his amicus brief in United States v. Rahimi. He is one of the most accomplished scholars on the topic. His work has been cited in countless federal court decisions and all of the Supreme Court’s major Second Amendment rulings.
Plus, Contributing Writer Jake Fogleman and I explain how Israel is loosening its gun laws in the wake of terror attacks.
Analysis: The Due Process Defense of Rahimi [Member Exclusive]
By Stephen Gutowski
Due process is always essential whenever somebody’s unalienable rights are at stake. Concerns over process have taken center stage in many debates about gun laws in recent years, especially in the fight over red flag laws.
Now, complaints over the lack of due process protections are also at the center of the Supreme Court’s latest gun case.
While Rahimi has focused on the lack of similar historical laws barring gun ownership by people accused of domestic violence and other Second Amendment advocates have focused on problems with how the modern prohibition is written, the Cato Institute is focused on the process involved. In its amicus brief, the libertarian think tank said people who commit domestic violence should be kept away from firearms, but only if the process for taking their gun rights is sound.
If you’re a Reload Member, click here to read the rest. If not, buy a membership today for exclusive access to this and hundreds of other pieces!
Outside The Reload
That’s it for this week in guns.
I’ll see you all next week.