Israeli Who Identifies as “Peaceful Hippie” Applies for Gun License; Minister of National Security Says “Weapons in the Right Hands Save Lives”

(p. A8) GIV’AT ADA, Israel—Since the Oct. 7 attacks in southern Israel, Liran Kaminer has been sleeping with an ax, a knife and a first-aid kit within arm’s reach. He has stashed away empty beer bottles and gasoline for Molotov cocktails. And he has applied for a gun license.

“I am a hippie. I am peaceful, I don’t like this whole gun thing,” said Kaminer, 50, who lives near the village of Giv’at Ada in the coastal plains of central Israel. “But if the army cannot protect me, I have to protect myself.”

Many Israelis who never thought about owning a weapon are now applying for one. Israel’s right-wing government is encouraging civilians to arm themselves and relaxing rules to make it easier to own one. Across the country, volunteers are forming self-defense units after the Hamas attacks killed 1,200 Israelis in communities along its southern border, took the army by surprise and left civilians helpless for hours.

Applications for a gun license have gone up 600% since the attack, a huge increase in a country where there are strict gun-control laws. It is a trend that reflects the deep anxiety over personal safety in the wake of the attacks and of the army’s failure to protect Israeli civilians that day.

“Weapons in the right hands save lives,” said Itamar Ben-Gvir, the country’s minister of national security, who has made the arming of Israeli Jews his flagship policy.

. . .

Since Oct. 7, the government has relaxed gun-ownership rules, sped up the application process for new licenses and supplied military-style rifles to new, rapid-response units staffed by local volunteers. It has also expanded the criteria for who can carry private firearms, including residents in additional geographical areas and people who received basic-combat military training.

According to government data, over 265,000 Israelis applied for a gun license between Oct. 7 and early December [2023], compared with around 36,000 earlier in the year. Around 85,000 licenses and conditional permits have been issued in the recent period.

. . .

In Kibbutz Regavim—a farming community in central Israel where residents share child care and volunteer in a communal avocado plantation—keeping residents safe became the priority after the Hamas attacks. Around 30 residents volunteered to set up a rapid-response unit, whose members staff the entrance gate and go on patrols inside and outside the kibbutz. The perimeter fence was reinforced, and broken closed-circuit cameras fixed.

“People felt that what happened in the kibbutzim in the south could happen to our kibbutz, and started getting weapons,” said Shahar Butbul, a resident who helped set up the armed unit.
Members of the unit are mostly men who have completed their mandatory military service and reserve duty, such as 66-year-old Eyal Nabet, a former truck driver.

For the full story, see:

Margherita Stancati. “Security Fears Spur Israelis To Buy Guns.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, December 12, 2023): A8.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date December 11, 2023, and has the title “Israelis Flock to Buy Guns as Sense of Security Shatters.”)

Californians Prepare for “Calamity” by Learning Military Tactics and Firing Guns

(p. 8) In the chilly dusk on a recent Saturday, nine people were creeping through the California hills. Their faces were painted in shades of green, yellow, brown and black, so that they blended into their surroundings. Moving uphill through thickets of trees, they tried to be silent, as if not to draw the attention of some unseen enemy. They were conscious of every breath, every dry leaf that crunched underfoot, every snapped twig.

These people were not military personnel. They were just civilians — biotech workers, a masseuse, an entrepreneur — who had decided to spend a weekend preparing themselves for a war, societal collapse or some other calamity.

A booming voice broke the silence: “Camo! Five, four, three, two, one!”

The person giving the order was Jessie Krebs, a wilderness expert who has trained hundreds of U.S. Air Force officers in how to stay alive behind enemy lines through an intensive course called Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, or SERE.

. . .

Outdoor education programs, survival courses and military simulations have been in high demand as wars abroad intensify and prospective voters in the 2024 presidential election tell pollsters and journalists about their fears of a civil war or even World War III.

. . .

Mr. Yu said his interest in survivalism germinated after reading “Emergency,” a 2009 book by Neil Strauss on his transformation from “helpless urbanite” to independent survivalist. “The coolest thing to do is to develop a skill set like James Bond,” Mr. Yu said. Of late, he said, he had taken up flying lessons, despite a fear of heights; learned to pick locks; and fired guns.

For the full story, see:

Will Higginbotham and Marlena Sloss. “Getting Ready for the Worst. Just in Case.” The New York Times, SundayStyles Section (Sunday, January 21, 2024): 8.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Jan. 19, 2024, and has the same title as the print version.)

“If Something Similar Happens Here, I Want to Know That I Have a Firearm”

(p. A1) Two weeks ago, Zvika Arran reluctantly drew a gun at an Israeli state-run shooting class for those seeking firearms licenses, part of a massive spike in applications since the Hamas-led attacks on Oct. 7 [2023].

Mr. Arran said he was repelled by the idea of owning the pistol that now sits in a safe in his house. But his sense of security, like that of so many Israelis, was shattered when Hamas fighters overran communities near the Gaza Strip, killing an estimated 1,200 people and abducting more than 240 hostages, according to Israeli officials.

“God forbid, if something similar happens here, I want to know that I have a firearm,” said Mr. Arran, 48, who lives in Eliav, a small town that borders the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

. . .

(p. A6) Another resident of Eliav, Maayan Rosenberg-Schatz, said that like so many other Israelis, she no longer believed the Israeli military — which took hours to arrive at some embattled communities on Oct. 7 — would reach them in time in a crisis.

Two days after the attacks, she sat down with two of her young children to plan how to escape should Palestinian attackers invade their home.

“We talked about trying to flee to the roof, maybe escaping from there,” said Ms. Rosenberg-Schatz, 42, who applied for a gun license along with her husband. “But in the end, there’s no replacement for having a weapon.”

Ms. Rosenberg-Schatz, who described herself as politically center-left, said she was concerned that proliferating guns might fall into the wrong hands.

“Everyone tells you they’re worried about that — but they still feel unsafe” without a gun, she added. “Suddenly, we feel this fear deep down in our guts, and it’s really difficult to argue with that.”

For the full story, see:

Aaron Boxerman and Talya Minsberg. “Galvanized by Fear, Israelis Arm Themselves.” The New York Times (Saturday, December 16, 2023): A1 & A6.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 15, 2023, and has the title “Private Gun Ownership in Israel Spikes After Hamas Attacks.”)

A.C.L.U. Defends the N.R.A.’s Free Speech

(p. 23) The American Civil Liberties Union and the National Rifle Association agree about very little. They are often on opposite sides in major cases, and they certainly have starkly different views about gun rights.

But when the Supreme Court agreed to hear the N.R.A.’s free-speech challenge to what it said were a New York official’s efforts to blacklist it, one of its lawyers had a bold idea. Why not ask the A.C.L.U. to represent it before the justices?

. . .

David Cole, the civil liberties group’s national legal director, said the request in one sense posed a hard question.

“It’s never easy to defend those with whom you disagree,” he said. “But the A.C.L.U. has long stood for the proposition that we may disagree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Mr. Cole’s group has been subject to occasional criticism that it has become less attentive to free-speech principles and more devoted to values rooted in equality in recent years. He rejected that critique, even as he acknowledged that the decision to represent the N.R.A. would not meet with universal praise.

. . .

“It will be controversial, within and outside the A.C.L.U.,” Mr. Cole said. “But if it was easy, it wouldn’t mean as much.”

He added: “In this hyper-polarized environment, where few are willing to cross the aisle on anything, the fact that the A.C.L.U. is defending the N.R.A. here only underscores the importance of the free speech principle at stake.”

In a statement, the civil liberties group drew a distinction.

“The A.C.L.U. does not support the N.R.A. or its mission,” the statement said. “We signed on as co-counsel because public officials shouldn’t be allowed to abuse the powers of the office to blacklist an organization just because they oppose an organization’s political views.”

For the full commentary, see:

Adam Liptak. “A.C.L.U. to Represent N.R.A. in Supreme Court.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, December 10, 2023): 23.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Dec. 9, 2023, and has the title “The A.C.L.U. Has a New Client: The National Rifle Association.”)

60-Year-Old Retired Musician Says She Will “Fetch a Gun” to Defend Taiwan’s Freedom

(p. A1) TAIPEI, Taiwan—People in Taiwan have been following every twist of the war in Ukraine. But, while their sympathy for the Ukrainian cause is near-universal, the conclusions for the island’s own future widely diverge.

To some, the takeaway is that even a seemingly invincible foe can be defeated if a society stands firm, an inspiration for Taiwan’s own effort to resist a feared invasion by China. Others draw the opposite lesson from the images of smoldering Ukrainian cities. Anything is better than war, they say, and Taiwan should do all it can to avoid provoking Beijing’s wrath, even if that means painful compromises.

. . .

(p. A8) “The young people are the ones who don’t want unification with China,” said ret. Lt. Gen. Chang Yan-ting, a former deputy commander of Taiwan’s air force. “But if you want independence, you need to fight, and they also don’t want to fight. Therein is the conflict.”

Yi-hao, a student in Taiwan’s National Defense University, was an exception. “Before the war in Ukraine, we were taught that Russia’s military power is stronger than China’s, and Taiwan’s military was stronger than Ukraine’s,” he said. “If they were able to resist this long, Taiwan will definitely be able to hold out.” He didn’t want his surname used because he wasn’t authorized by the military to speak.

Lai Yi-chi, who became a lieutenant after graduating from the Naval Academy in June [2023], said that she had been inspired by the bravery and resilience of Ukrainian soldiers, something often discussed in her classes. “We should also embody such spirit and determination,” she said.

Bypassing the official armed forces, some volunteer groups have decided to act on their own, preparing fellow citizens for a possible war. One such group is Kuma Academy, which received a $100 million donation from Robert Tsao, the founder of the United Microelectronics, one of the world’s biggest semiconductor companies.

“We don’t intend to build up a private army,” Tsao said. “But I think their effort will probably increase the resilience of Taiwan’s society. If we know how to hide, how to help each other, how to retain communication, we can pretty much reduce the damage in wartime.” Some of the students also like to learn more martial skills, such as shooting, Tsao said, but Taiwan’s strict gun laws make it difficult. Some 25,000 Taiwanese have been trained at Kuma.

Nico Li, a 60-year-old retired musician attending a Kuma class, said she was unnerved by growing risks coming from China, and wanted to arm herself to avoid being a burden to her children. “Taiwan is an island of treasure. I don’t want to hand it over to others without a fight,” Li said, referring to what she sees as the Taiwanese values of freedom and democracy. “If I have the ability, I would even go and fetch a gun if necessary.”

At another training session, run by the Forward Alliance, dozens of Taiwanese practiced how to stop arterial bleeding with tourniquets and stabilize major wounds. “There is a sense of impending doom, of feeling very hopeless,” said one of the students, Eric Lin. “So, instead of sitting at home and browsing the negative news, I wanted to come here—so that I would be able to do something.”

For the full story, see:

Yaroslav Trofimov and Joyu Wang. “Taiwan’s Impossible Choice: Be Ukraine or Hong Kong.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, July 6, 2023): A1 & A8.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 5, 2023, and has the same title as the print version.)

Environmentalists Want “Shooters in Helicopters” to “Gun Down” Free Range Cows

(p. A13) For the second year in a row, shooters in helicopters will gun down an estimated 150 feral cattle that are trampling habitats in the Gila Wilderness, a sprawling undeveloped area of more than a half million acres within the Gila National Forest in New Mexico.

. . .

Lethal removal of cattle in the Gila Wilderness has long been a divisive issue, with environmentalists and ranchers firmly at odds.

Cattle growers in New Mexico have unsuccessfully sued the Forest Service over the aerial shooting, claiming that the method imperils their privately owned cattle. The New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association, a coalition of more than 1,000 ranchers, has previously challenged the Forest Service over cattle removal and maintains that shooting cattle from a helicopter violates state and federal laws and regulations.

. . .

The plaintiffs say that if their privately owned cattle are killed, it would be “nearly impossible” to know because the agencies intend to let the carcasses decompose where they die.

Loren Patterson, the association’s president, said he wished the authorities would address the cause of the growing feral cattle population by taking measures such as repairing shoddy fences that allow cattle to enter the Gila Wilderness.

“They are not looking at solving the reason the cattle is there,” Mr. Patterson said, adding that for two consecutive years, federal authorities were instead opting for lethal removal as quick fixes.

For the full story, see:

Christine Chung. “Feral Cattle Will Be Shot From Above to Cull Herd.” The New York Times (Thursday, February 23, 2023): A13.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Feb. 22, 2023, and has the title “Feral Cattle in New Mexico Will Be Shot From Helicopters.” The version quoted above omits a sentence that appears in the online, but not the print, version of the article.)

Gun Inventors Were “Inveterate Tinkerers”

(p. A17) Whenever I hear the name Smith & Wesson, I think of the scene in the film “Sudden Impact” when Clint Eastwood’s Inspector Harry Callahan confronts a group of would-be robbers. “We’re not just gonna let you walk out of here,” Callahan tells them. When one of the crooks asks, “Who’s we, sucker?” Callahan responds, in classic Dirty Harry fashion: “Smith, and Wesson, and me.”

In “Gun Barons: The Weapons That Transformed America and the Men Who Invented Them,” John Bainbridge Jr. chronicles the rise of America’s greatest gunmakers—among them Colt, Remington, Winchester and, yes, Smith and Wesson. Many of these American armorers began as inveterate tinkerers in small workshops along the Connecticut River during the mid-19th century, in a region that could be called early industrial America’s fertile crescent. While some of these inventors were focused on rifles and others on handguns, they all shared the same goal: to design a repeating firearm and a reliable, waterproof cartridge containing bullet, gunpowder and ignition device, making it possible to fire shot after shot without needing to reload.

. . .

. . . there was the Volition Repeater, invented in 1847 by Walter Hunt, the creator of the household safety pin. Hunt’s rifle, in theory, could be loaded with up to a dozen cartridges underneath its long barrel. But the complex loading mechanism “never worked quite right,” so Hunt sold his patent and left it to others to perfect his idea. “With this would-be firearm, Walter Hunt had made the nation’s future but not his own,” Mr. Bainbridge tells us. “Among those who benefited from Walter Hunt’s genius were Oliver Winchester, Horace Smith, and Daniel Baird Wesson. None of these gun barons possessed the broadly inventive mind of Walter Hunt, yet all would eclipse Hunt while taking advantage of his pioneering work in weaponry.”

For the full review, see:

Mark Yost. “BOOKSHELF; Repeat Inventors.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, May 19, 2022): A17.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the essay has the date May 18, 2022, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘Gun Barons’ Review: Repeat Inventors.”)

The book under review is:

Bainbridge, John, Jr. Gun Barons: The Weapons That Transformed America and the Men Who Invented Them. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2022.

Surge in Blacks Buying Guns “for Protection Against Crime”

(p. A17) It’s well known that gun sales have surged in recent years, but less well known is that blacks have led the trend. Retailers in an online survey conducted by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade group, reported that they sold 58% more guns to black customers in the first half of 2020 than a year earlier, the highest increase for any ethnic group. Personal safety tops the list of why people decide to buy a firearm. In a 2021 Gallup survey, 88% of respondents said they own a gun “for protection against crime,” which is up from 67% in 2005.

. . .

The source of the problem is the failure or inability of the government to protect us. Common sense dictates that we do what is necessary to protect ourselves in the meantime.

For the full commentary, see:

Jason L. Riley. “Why Black Americans Are Buying More Guns.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, June 8, 2022): A17.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary was updated June 7, 2022, and has the same title as the print version.)

“Huge Increase” in Gun Purchases by Black Women

(p. A4) TAYLOR, Mich. (AP) — Valerie Rupert raised her right arm, slightly shaking and unsure as she aimed at the paper target representing a burglar, a robber or even a rapist.

The 67-year-old Detroit grandmother squeezed the trigger, the echo of her shot blending into the chorus of other blasts by other women off the small gun range walls.

“I was a little nervous, but after I shot a couple of times, I enjoyed it,” said Rupert, among 1,000 or so mostly Black women taking part in free weekend gun safety and shooting lessons at two Detroit-area ranges.

Black women like Rupert increasingly are considering gun ownership for personal protection, according to industry experts and gun rights advocates.

. . .

About 8.5 million people in the U.S. bought their first gun in 2020, the National Shooting Sports Foundation says. The trade association for the firearms industry adds that gun purchases by Black men and Black women increased by more than 58% over the first six months of last year.

. . .

Black firearm owners still represent a relatively small portion of the gun-owning population, with 9.3% of gun owners being Black men and 5.4% Black women. Nearly 56% of U.S. gun owners are white men. Over 16% are white women, the Newtown, Connecticut-based National Shooting Sports Foundation says.

Still, 2020 saw “a tectonic shift in gun ownership in America” where there was “a huge increase of African Americans taking ownership of their Second Amendment rights,” said Mark Oliva, its director of public affairs.

. . .

For many Black women, it’s about taking care of themselves, said Lavette Adams, a licensed firearm instructor who participated in the free Detroit-area training sponsored by gun advocacy group Legally Armed In Detroit.

“Crime against women is nothing new. Women protecting themselves, that’s new,” said Adams, who is Black.

That’s the premise behind the training that launched 10 years ago with 50 women attending. Last year, more than 1,900 participated, according to Rick Ector, Legally Armed in Detroit’s founder, who says he started it “to bring awareness and training to women who are the favorite preferred targets of bad guys, rapists and killers.”

For the full story, see:

COREY WILLIAMS, Associated Press. “More Black Women Turn to Guns as Protection.” Omaha World-Herald (Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021): A4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 1, 2021, and has the title “Black women seeing guns as protection from rising crime.” Where the wording of the two versions differs, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)

Armed Parishoners Avert Massacre

(p. A1) WHITE SETTLEMENT, Texas — A gunman opened fire at a church in Texas on Sunday morning [December 29, 2019], killing two people with a shotgun before a member of the church’s volunteer security team fatally shot him, the authorities said.

About 250 people were inside the auditorium of the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, near Fort Worth, when the gunman began shooting just before communion, said Jack Cummings, a minister at the church.

Mr. Cummings said the gunman was “acting suspiciously” before the shooting and drew the attention of the church’s security team. The team, he said, has existed for at least 10 years and is made up of members of the church’s congregation who are licensed to carry firearms and practice shooting regularly.

“They saved a lot of lives today,” Mr. Cummings said. “Because this thing would have been a massacre otherwise.”

For the full story, see:

Patrick McGee and Mihir Zaveri. “‘This Would Have Been a Massacre’ if Not for Church Security.” The New York Times (Monday, December 30, 2019): A9.

(Note: bracketed date added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was last updated on December 31, 2019, and has the title “Shooting at Texas Church Leaves 2 Parishioners Dead, Officials Say.”)

Schools Are Safer Today Than 20 Years Ago

(p. A9) Americans believe schools are more unsafe today than they were two decades ago, according to a new poll — even as federal data shows that by most measures, schools have become safer.

. . .

A survey last month of 1,063 adults by The Associated Press and the N.O.R.C. Center at the University of Chicago found that 74 percent of parents of school-age children, and 64 percent of nonparents, believed schools were more unsafe today than they were in 1999. Only 35 percent of parents said they felt “very confident” that their child was safe at school.

. . .

Their fears run counter to the data presented in a federal report released this week. School is still among the safest places an American child can be.

Homicide is a leading cause of death for American youth, but the vast majority of those deaths take place at home or in the neighborhood. Between 1992 and 2016, just 3 percent of youth homicides and 1 percent of youth suicides took place at school, according to the federal report.

School crime levels decreased between 2001 and 2017. The number of students between 12 and 18 years old who reported being the victim of a violent crime at school over the past six months dropped from 2 to 1 percent. Incidents of theft, physical fights, the availability of illegal drugs and bullying also went down.

These changes echo the national drop in crime.

For the full story, see:

Dana Goldstein.  “Schools Are Safer, Even if They Feel Less So.”  The New York Times (Saturday, April 20, 2019):  A9.

(Note:  ellipses added.)

(Note:  the online version of the story also has the date April 20, 2019, but has the title “20 Years After Columbine, Schools Have Gotten Safer. But Fears Have Only Grown.”)