Kew Gardens Rabbi Gary Moskowitz, a former NYPD officer, says he’s all for keeping guns out of the hands of anyone who isn’t law enforcement — most of the time.
But when it comes to protecting houses of worship from what he calls “credible threats,” he doesn’t want his parishioners to wait around for the police to arrive.
“When you know there are credible threats against you, you can’t ignore that,” Moskowitz said. “I would feel more comfortable in a synagogue if someone is armed.”
Moskowitz, a former cop and martial arts expert, believes arming qualified clergy members and congregants of any religion would allow for a situation involving an active shooter or suicide bomber inside a house of worship to be diffused quickly and effectively, rather than waiting for the police to come.
His proposal calls for premise permits for those who undergo criminal background checks, pass 100-hour training courses and meet physical fitness benchmarks.
He said such a permit would allow those eligible to carry their unloaded weapons in locked boxes only to and from prayer.
Only upon arriving at the religious institution could the heat-packing congregant load his or her weapon, and any ammunition must be removed from the gun at the end of the service.
They also would be required to wear bulletproof vests while inside the premises.
Once someone earns a premise permit, Moskowitz said, two or three hours of vigorous weapons training must be completed each month for he or she to maintain it.
“You’ll have to go through a more rigorous training program than the police do,” the leader of the Wellness Synagogue said. “I hope [an attack] never happens. But if it does, we’ll have five or six trained guys with guns ready to take care of the situation.”
In addition to protecting worshipers of all faiths from harm, Moskowitz, the president of the American Jewish Security Council, says the implementation of his plan would take pressure off the NYPD, who he said isn’t properly equipped or trained to handle such situations.
“Our cops are not trained with weapons properly and I should know, I’ve trained people,” he said. “Our cops shoot at targets like kids at a carnival. These are the people you expect me not to worry about when they come?”
While Moskowitz has reached out to city, state and federal elected officials and is optimistic his plan will one day become law, Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) is one who doesn’t see arming houses of worship as worthwhile.
“I’m all for gun control so I don’t feel this is necessary,” Koslowitz said. “I know every year around Jewish holidays, the synagogues are watched by the police. In my community in Forest Hills and Rego Park, they’re there. When I walk in to pray, they’re there.”
Moskowitz, like Koslowitz, is a gun control proponent, but protecting his practitioners comes first.
“I’m not looking to hurt people,” he said. “I’m looking to save people.”