A Farewell to Arms

An article in Issue 18, December 22, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here. "Where are the bullets for my pistol?" my husband shouts from inside the storage room. "How would I know," I reply. "If you don't know where you put the bullets, what's the point of keeping a pistol?" This exchange with my husband, Ya'acov, has taken place at least twice a year for the last decade. Ya'acov first purchased a small handgun in the mid-1970s in response to several deadly terror attacks in the Jerusalem Forest, where he spent long hours by himself in the course of his work in the Forestry Department of the KKL (Jewish National Fund). "Better safe than sorry," he'd said at the time, "even if it's just for show." So, he and a pal went down to the local gun shop, presented documents attesting to their non-criminal status, and bought themselves weapons. Though fortunately he never had an occasion to use it, he packed his pistol, just in case. But once Ya'acov's job no longer involved hanging out in isolated locations, his weapon was increasingly left at home in the underwear drawer, or wherever the hiding-place-of-choice was at the time. (I should make clear at this point that ours is a child-free household.) According to the law - a personal weapon must be carried on one's person, deposited in a safe, or stored separately from the ammunition. It seemed Ya'acov was inevitably forgetting where one or the other was hidden. Thus, if I thought about the gun's presence in our house at all, it certainly didn't make me feel any safer. However, with the outbreak of the first intifada, which began in 1987, Ya'acov decided to "upgrade" his weapon, and bought a larger Czech-made CZ 9mm model. But over the years, owning the gun became an increasing hassle. First, there's the biannual license renewal, which requires a doctor's approval certifying mental fitness. Next, a gun owner has to show proof of satisfactorily carrying out target practice. Finally, according to the law, if you own a weapon you're required to store it in an approved arms safe depository whenever you go abroad. Ever the law-abiding citizen, Ya'acov always did this - twice a year depositing and retrieving a weapon, which he never used, or even looked at, except when he needed to leave it for safekeeping. In the past year or so, deadly terror attacks have been thwarted, or even stopped, by skillfully nimble armed civilians. But these heroes carried their guns with them and were - how shall I put this delicately - somewhat fitter and younger than my husband. And then there was the case of Shai Dromi, who was indicted in 2007 for murder for shooting dead a Beduin who had trespassed on his Negev ranch to steal sheep. Dromi's ranch is within walking distance of our house. While the incident would inspire the recent passage of the "Shai Dromi Law," which grants legal protection to homeowners who shoot burglars, at the time keeping a weapon in one's home seemed a clear liability So, not long ago my husband reluctantly admitted that he had to get rid of the thing. But where? His only legal course, it seemed, was to try to sell it to an authorized dealer, who could sign the official permit stating he no longer owns the weapon. So, down to the gun shop, located in a large shopping mall, he went. After one look at the proffered weapon, the proprietor excused himself and went to his back room. He returned with two large cardboard boxes filled with scores of the identical model pistol. "Listen, bro," he said (that's how Israeli men address each other these days). "I've got five more boxes of these in the back. No one wants them. They have zero resale value; I can't pay you a cent." "It's the new Middle East," he added, a cynical allusion to President Shimon Peres's dream of peace in the region. After a nano-second of hesitation, Ya'acov settled for the official "you-no-longer-own-this-weapon" document, in exchange for dumping the thing. How does it feel to be gun-free? I cheered the decision and Ya'acov is relieved to have finally surrendered his weapon. Maybe we should finally do something about installing an electronic warning system in our house? An article in Issue 18, December 22, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here.