President’s Column | No One Should Be Forced To Confront Evil With Empty Hands

by
posted on December 19, 2023
Charles L. Cotton

Faced with mortal danger to their citizens, Israel and Ukraine are restoring the God-given right of self-defense to the people, by removing the roadblocks to lawful arms ownership and carry.

Yet here in the United States—the only nation with the right to arms enshrined in its Constitution and exercised in reality by its citizens—with violent crime soaring in many cities, politicians are trying to further disarm more potential victims. Practically, politically, legally and morally—that’s wrong. And it’s up to us at the NRA to do our part to stop it.

Let me back up a bit.

A common misconception in the West is that the Israeli population is armed to the teeth. Not so. The young men and women carrying rifles on Israeli streets that we often see in media reports—uniformed or not—are actually members of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). With few exceptions, serving in the IDF is mandatory for all Israelis.

Israel’s security and intelligence services are rightly considered the foremost in the world. So, Israel’s political leaders likely saw no need for civilians to be routinely armed and thus put many restrictions on owning or carrying a gun. Thus, last October, when Hamas death squads flew in on paragliders and attacked a music festival near Gaza, and then began a campaign of murder, rape and other unspeakable atrocities against Israelis, only about 2% of Israelis legally owned a gun. In other words, 98% of them were effectively defenseless.

For decades, those who oppose the Second Amendment have told us that we don’t need guns for protection. The authorities will protect us, they promised.

In the 1990s, the then-president of NBC News, Michael Gartner, said, “There is no reason for anyone in this country except a police officer or a military person, to buy, to own, to have, to use, a handgun.” In 2022, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said that only the police should have guns.

American leaders could learn from their counterparts in Israel and Ukraine.

But the tragedy we saw in Israel shows the mortal danger of that kind of complacency. And you have to ask yourself: If a country with as much military, law enforcement, intelligence and security apparatus as Israel couldn’t protect its people, what country possibly could?

The good news for Israelis is that their government is now lifting some gun restrictions “to allow as many citizens as possible to arm themselves,” as Israeli Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir put it. “I want more weapons on the streets so that the citizens of Israel can defend themselves,” he said last January.

Ukraine authorities did much the same thing in 2022. Faced with Russia’s invading army—along with similar atrocities committed against civilians—in February, the Ukrainian parliament approved a new law allowing citizens the right to carry firearms in public for self-defense. “We will give weapons to anyone who wants to defend the country,” Ukraine President Zelenskyy said, and the government distributed 25,000 rifles to civilian defenders.

In both countries, armed citizens made a decisive difference. In Ukraine, almost 100 civilians mustered—some armed with hunting rifles—to defend bridges spanning the Mertovod River and forced Russian invaders to retreat. Armed volunteer civilians pushed the Russians out of four other towns, as well.

In Israel, while Hamas attackers executed people in their beds, murdered infants, burned down homes and massacred nearly 200 Israelies in Kfar Aza and Be’eri alone—with at least 1,200 reported overall at the time of this writing—in a third kibbutz called Nir-Am, armed defenders stopped them cold. There, a 25-year-old woman named Inbar Lieberman opened the armory, distributed guns to residents and set up ambushes against the attackers. Together, over a four-hour siege, they killed 25 Hamas terrorists before they could carry out their grisly plans. Thanks to Inbar Lieberman, Nir-Am was the only settlement bordering the Gaza Strip where no Israeli was killed that day.

Americans may not currently need to fight off hostile terrorists, like Israel, or invading armies, like Ukraine. But evil comes in many forms. It could appear at any time—as three gangsters kicking down your door at 3 a.m., as five masked robbers at your local restaurant or as the lone rapist waiting in your parking garage when you leave work to go home.

All that stands between that evil and any one of us is our right and ability to defend ourselves. And the only thing that secures that freedom is our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. So, we must not surrender it—not now, not ever.

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