The Right to Bear Arms: A Torah View Rabbi Rachel Miller Solomin 2015

United States Constitution, Second Amendment

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Does the Sword Make the Man?

מתני׳ ללֹא יֵצֵא הָאִישׁ לֹא בְסַיִף, וְלֹא בְקֶשֶׁת, וְלֹא בִתְרִיס, וְלֹא בְאַלָּה, וְלֹא בְרֹמַח. וְאִם יָצָא, חַיָּב חַטָּאת. רַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר אוֹמֵר, תַּכְשִׁיטִין הֵן לוֹ. וַחֲכָמִים אוֹמְרִים, אֵינָן אֶלָּא לִגְנַאי, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיה ב) וְכִתְּתוּ חַרְבוֹתָם לְאִתִּים וַחֲנִיתוֹתֵיהֶם לְמַזְמֵרוֹת, לֹא יִשָּׂא גּוֹי אֶל גּוֹי חֶרֶב וְלֹא יִלְמְדוּ עוֹד מִלְחָמָה.

MISHNAH: A man may not go out [on Shabbat] with a sword, nor with a bow, nor with a shield, nor with a round shield, nor with a spear. If he has gone out [with any of these] he is liable for a Chattat [sacrificial offering]. Rabbi Eliezer says: They are ornaments for him. But the Sages say: They are nothing but an indignity, for it is said, "They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears unto pruning-books; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Isaiah 2:4).

The "Bad Dog or Broken Ladder" Analogy

ר' נתן אומר מניין שלא יגדל אדם כלב רע בתוך ביתו ואל יעמיד סולם רעוע בתוך ביתו שנאמר (דברים כב, ח) ולא תשים דמים בביתך:

Rabbi Nathan says: From where [do we derive] that a person should not raise a "bad" dog inside his house nor should a person raise a ruined ladder inside her home? It is stated: "and you shall not bring blood upon your house" (Deuteronomy 22:8).

Does the Torah support "Stand your ground" laws?

(א) אִם־בַּמַּחְתֶּ֛רֶת יִמָּצֵ֥א הַגַּנָּ֖ב וְהֻכָּ֣ה וָמֵ֑ת אֵ֥ין ל֖וֹ דָּמִֽים׃

(1) If a thief is found breaking in, and be stricken so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him.

(א) אם במחתרת. כשהיה חותר את הבית:

(ב) אין לו דמים. אין זו רציחה, הרי הוא כמת מעיקרו כאן למדתך תורה אם בא להרגך, השכם להרגו, וזה להרגך בא שהרי יודע הוא, שאין אדם מעמיד עצמו ורואה שנוטלין ממונו בפניו ושותק, לפיכך על מנת כן בא, שאם יעמוד בעל הממון כנגדו יהרגנו:

If in the act of breaking in. While he was searching the house.

Shall be no bloodguilt for him. This is not murder. [The thief] is like a dead person from the onset [of his break-in]. Here the Torah teaches that if someone comes to kill you, you should kill him; and this one comes to kill you, since you know who he is, and a person will not stand idle when she sees things be taken from her and remain silent. Therefore the thief comes knowing that if the property owner stands up to him and [the thief will try to] kill her.

Rashi applies here a principle--that the Torah teaches to kill someone who seeks to kill you--from a discussion in the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 72a. Do you agree with this logic? Are all thieves willing to become murderers?

Don't just stand there: DO SOMETHING!
(טז) לֹא־תֵלֵ֤ךְ רָכִיל֙ בְּעַמֶּ֔יךָ לֹ֥א תַעֲמֹ֖ד עַל־דַּ֣ם רֵעֶ֑ךָ אֲנִ֖י יְהוָֽה׃

(16) You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; neither shall you stand idly by the blood of your neighbor: I am the LORD.

Limits on selling weapons

אין מוכרין להם לא זיין ולא כלי זיין ואין משחיזין להן את הזיין ואין מוכרין להן לא סדן ולא קולרין ולא כבלים ולא שלשלאות של ברזל אחד עובד כוכבים ואחד כותי...

א"ר דימי בר אבא כדרך שאסור למכור לעובד כוכבים אסור למכור ללסטים ישראל

We don't sell to them a weapon or the housings [or accessories] of a weapon, nor do we sharpen a blade for them. Not stocks, nor neck-chains, nor fetters, nor chains of bronze--neither to an idolater nor to a Cuthean.


Rav Dimi Bar Abba said: In a likewise manner, that which it is forbidden to sell to an idolater [it is also] forbidden to sell to an Israelite [i.e. Jewish] bandit.

The parapet analogy and inherent danger
(ח) כִּ֤י תִבְנֶה֙ בַּ֣יִת חָדָ֔שׁ וְעָשִׂ֥יתָ מַעֲקֶ֖ה לְגַגֶּ֑ךָ וְלֹֽא־תָשִׂ֤ים דָּמִים֙ בְּבֵיתֶ֔ךָ כִּֽי־יִפֹּ֥ל הַנֹּפֵ֖ל מִמֶּֽנּוּ׃ (ס)

(8) When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, so that you will not bring bloodguilt upon your house, when any man fall from it.

Sforno on Deuteronomy 22:8

If it were to happen that someone falls from there you would not be the indirect cause [since you had put up a protective railing]. Had you not done so, your family might bear part of the bloodguilt for such a mishap.