Source: Photo credit: Ashkan Forouzani
Like many Jews, I feel vulnerable to anti-Semitism and think about taking a few of the Nazis down with me if they ever try to load Jews into cattle cars again. Once when my dad visited me in Arizona, we watched the Quentin Tarantino masterpiece Inglorious Basterds, about a bunch of Jewish commandos who terrorize Nazis behind enemy lines and end up—spoiler alert—even assassinating Hitler. The next night, my dad said, “I could watch that movie again,” and we did. Jews love the idea of taking the fight against the Nazis. “Never again.”
Minorities Don’t Tend to Own Guns
This gets me thinking, why don’t members of minority groups, or Jews, for that matter, own guns at the same rate as other groups?
This website reports: “According to a 2005 American Jewish Committee study, Jews have the lowest rate of gun ownership among all religious groups, with just 13 percent of Jewish households owning firearms (compared to 41 percent for non-Jews) and only 10 percent of Jews personally owning a gun (compared to 26 percent).”
Conflicting Minority Viewpoints on Guns?
This is an interesting psychological phenomenon to me, and I think someone needs to aim their sights on this issue, which also applies to several other minority populations and victimized groups. Of interest, I do believe that Black and Asian gun ownership is shooting up in the wake of the George Floyd murder, the recent scourge of anti-Asian attacks, and so on. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jewish gun ownership is rising, too. Even my highly liberal, granola-eating best friend told me he was thinking of buying a gun for defense during the Trump presidency – though, in the end, he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger.
Minorities, Guns, and Culture
How do feelings of vulnerability relate to gun attitudes and ownership among minorities? Many Jews, and Black people and Asian people, and sexual and gender minorities feel they have targets on their backs. If they didn’t justifiably feel in years past that White supremacy could return (or come out into the open), the last several years in our country have belied that misplaced faith in human nature.
Do family traditions and hunting explain this? Probably this breaks down a lot by urban/rural differences, which would also come with their own subcultures. I suspect some Jewish people are unlikely to hunt because meat from a hunted animal would not be kosher. Jewish people are probably less likely than the average non-Jew to have hunted with their dad.
Is it education or liberalism? Jewish people are, on average, more highly educated and more liberal than the population at large and mostly vote Democratic. Asian Americans are highly diverse but are often relatively highly educated but also more Republican than certain other minorities. My own dad had a high school diploma; I have an Ivy League Ph.D., of which he was so proud. When it comes to education, maybe it’s about knowing the statistics that keeping a gun in the house is much more likely to result in injury or death to the people in that home than protecting the home from robbers or Nazis.
How about sex roles and machoism? Some minorities don’t buy into the same ideas about gender roles as the society at large, so they might not feel like gun ownership is linked to masculinity; a lot of Jewish culture portrays men as gentle and indulgent fathers, not tough-as-bullets cowboys. But some other minority groups are highly likely to value machismo and strong sex roles for men and women. Although many American Jews do valorize the toughness of Israeli Jews, all of whom serve in the military and who don’t take any [expletive deleted] “hummous” from anyone. If Jews do own guns, is it mostly the ones who are assimilated into America’s cowboy culture?
Finally, maybe there are generational differences. My pediatrician when I was little, Paul Eglick, was a WWII paratrooper with a Purple Heart. My mother tells me that she remembers him packing heat at the hospital where I was born in North Philadelphia. He and my dad were lifelong friends until Dr. Eglick died while I was finishing my Ph.D. I remember being moved when honor- guard soldiers played “Taps” at his funeral. I further learned at his funeral that this Jewish-American hero needed to try to join the Army twice during WWII. The first time, they told him to finish medical school first. The next time he tried to join up, they were going to fail him on his physical. How did he end up in the paratroopers? “Doc, are you Jewish? Me too. You have to get me in this war.” Maybe if the cause is right, minorities will arm themselves.
More Research Needed
These are interesting questions about groups’ identities and worldviews. Maybe I will continue to ponder this and squeeze off a few rounds if I can find a minority-friendly gun range in Arizona. Then back to research.