Guns are dangerous. They are supposed to be. They
kill. The constitution of the United States protects
American citizens right to keep and bear
arms. Personal behavior earns citizens the privilege
to exercise those rights. Guns are not intrinsically
bad or good. Killing is not necessarily bad.
There is a school of thought that teaches that
an armed society is a polite society. There is
another school that teaches from the cradle: "Guns
are not toys and toys are not Guns.
Humans kill everyday for many reasons including
basic survival. Governments kill to keep citizens
in line while ostensibly protecting them. Good?
Bad? That depends upon how much the citizenry
trusts its government. Could be good, could be
Just as an only child cannot ever fully fathom
having siblings, a non gun owner will never understand
the subtle changes when a person becomes a gun
owner. Like the new lawyer recently admitted into
the bar association, a certain subconscious confidence
develops. Legal gun owners tend to be responsible,
concerned, involved citizens. They make an added
effort to understand the laws and follow them.
Any responsible citizen can choose to become
a gun owner at any point in life. I did.
Craig Rovetz taught the importance of exercising
the 2nd amendment right. He also taught what it
means to be a gun owner. He taught that gun ownership
changes the individual, and it is supposed to.
Owning a gun is a big deal. It means that you
have the power to kill. It makes you a potential
killer. If you own a gun and ammunition, then
you possess the potential to take a life.
Craig was the smartest man I ever knew. He was
the smartest man most people knew. Although he
struggled with difficult issues on a daily basis,
most of what he believed was very well thought
out. He was especially clairvoyant on the importance
of gun ownership and the ramifications. As soon
as he became of legal age Craig started shooting.
By the time he was admitted into the Rabbinate,
a favorite .45 caliber enhanced his small, impressive
collection. When Craig moved out of state he reluctantly
turned his beloved gun collection over to the
police for safekeeping. But before parting with
them he respectfully displayed them to me. He
seemed to really love them.
The first time Craig showed me his guns was also
the first time I had ever seen a real gun. These
were larger than I imagined guns to be. I was
surprised by the bond he had with these heavy
inanimate objects. I am especially surprised at
my own attachment to them today. A decade and
a lifetime have passed since my first encounter
with a gun.
Like pet lovers, people with weapons touch them
and care for them and learn to love them. Love
is responsibility. Respectable gun owners accept
responsibility for them. At first my husband Craigs
obsession with shooting was beyond my ken. He
was a target shooter. Perhaps owning a gun gave
him the innocent sense that if he ever had to
defend his family and country he could.
His connection though was deeper than a need
to be a protector. He needed to prove to himself
that he could climb the tallest mountain. Earning
ordination from a highly respected seminary and
a black belt from a respected Do Jo were two of
Craigs lifetime achievements. As proud as
he was of those accomplishments, I cannot forget
the proud I did it! smile he displayed
when he placed the simple trophy that he won in
a competition at our local shooting range on our
mantle. This prize confirmed that he shot at an
expert level and provided new ambition. Enduring
the intensive training in whatever he set out
to achieve made him strong and alert. Over the
years, he developed the insight and confidence
to seek peaceful ways. He taught that the best
warrior is one who is trained, able, ready and
astute enough to never need to actually draw his
blade. Craig, a tactical expert possessed the
ability to see the end game well in advance of
others. As a result, he was able to live life
mostly never removing his metaphoric sword from
its metaphoric sheath.
To balance the stressful work life of his Rabbinate,
my husband often resorted to being silly and childlike.
He was known in his office for telling juvenile
jokes and making ridiculous faces. This fun side
was a mechanism to preserve his sanity. Shooting
was another outlet. When it came to his affection
for guns he was very much like the child who cant
pass a puddle without dipping a toe. Craig could
not pass a carnival without shooting the coo-coo
clock or making the piano player play without
displaying that proud I did it grin.
The years he was not shooting Craig collected
swords of every kind, from every period. Whether
he was writing a sword fighting novel or studying
history, Craig had a physical need to hold the
appropriate weapon, claiming that it helped him
be in the moment and get a more complete feeling
for what the warriors of the time experienced.
But no matter how many swords he accumulated the
itch to shoot remained.
Eventually Craig moved back to New York and immediately
set a goal to shoot again. He quickly became well
versed on how to do it within the confines of
the NYC gun laws. He carefully selected and joined
a shooting range. He spent hours studying gun
catalogues, drooling over the choices. Time passed
and he was granted his license and proceeded to
build his new collection.
Whenever he could spare a small window of time,
often before officiating at a funeral or a wedding,
he ran to the range. For sport, Craig took part
in competitions. He told me competing makes you
a better shot. When he joined the range, I did
too. I became a licensed handgun owner. I learned
how to handle a weapon. Handling a gun is much
more than shooting it. It is taking care of it,
and respecting it. When I started shooting Craig
and I made the deal that he would clean the guns.
So, I never learned how.
My father would not have approved of this. When
I learned to sew, Dad made sure I could thread
the sewing machine, and before I was allowed to
drive a car, I had to prove to Dad that I could
change a tire. Craig and my father did not share
the same value systems, so I learned to shoot
but not to clean. Craig figured that I would learn
when I needed to or that someone would take over
the task if it became necessary.
It soon become clear to me that Craig had a premonition
that he would predecease me. Only weeks before
his death, my dear husband made it a point to
sit me down and carefully explain how to handle
certain details in the event of his demise. Of
utmost concern was how I was to deal with the
gun collection. He made sure that I understood
and agreed to do everything necessary. He purposefully
sat facing me, looked me straight in the eye and
told me how important it was that I learn this
lesson. And step-by-step he explained what to
do. He made me repeat the steps to him, until
he was satisfied that I got it.
Craig understood that when people die, they leave
behind stuff. The category of stuff is more than
concrete objects it also includes value systems
and lessons. He made sure I could handle his stuff
by educating me while he was alive. I learned
many lessons well and as instructed. So when Craig
died suddenly, I knew what to do and what to expect.
I turned his guns in to the police according to
protocol. As expected, I received a voucher and
anxiously awaited the moment I would get permission
to take possession. That permission eventually
came, making me the proud owner of a beautiful
collection of handguns, which filled me with a
new respect and a new confidence.
Getting the guns transferred to my license was
time consuming and cathartic. It took six months
for me to get back my guns. The day after I received
the letter informing me that I had permission
to transfer the guns to my license, I made sure
that I had all the paper work, trigger locks and
a lockbox. I went directly to One Police Plaza.
This was the first time I crossed this threshold
alone. It was a good experience. While waiting
for my new picture license, I made friends with
a few of the officers. I even shared a potato
pancake recipe with one friendly Sergeant. Once
the paper work was processed, I went to the property
clerks office in another part of the city.
A beautiful red-haired sergeant, who happened
to be an observant Jewess handed me back possession
of my prized collection. I felt a momentary touch
of Karma as I rode home with these five handguns
As soon as I got home, I carefully examined and
touched each of the guns. I sorted the magazines
and read each manual. I locked them up safely.
Craigs beloved gun collection continues
to be beloved. Now by me. Somehow, I have learned
to love these heavy pieces of metal. The more
I touch them, the more I learn to respect, appreciate,
understand and love them.
I intend to remain a licensed handgun owner and
will make the pilgrimage to One Police plaza as
required by law whenever necessary. To help improve
my skills I plan to shoot in my gun clubs
next competition. I went through all of the hoops
necessary to have the handguns added to my license
and even though I make it a point to practice
shooting on a pretty regular basis, I still dont
know how to clean them. Out of respect for Craig,
my gun dealer willingly took over the cleaning
part. I know that my dad was right, and like changing
a tire, I plan to learn how to clean the guns
myself, one day.
It was not unusual to find Craig cleaning a gun
in his spare time
for fun and relaxation.
As he played and tinkered with his guns, he composed
sermon and novels. Its now about two and
a half years since Craig Rovetzs soul departed
this world. He is missed by many people from many
walks of life. A loved and respected leader and
Rabbi, he was also a patriot, often requesting
applause for our American war veterans.
Guns are dangerous. They are supposed to be.
They are for protection. They are to be respected.
I will teach these lessons to my children. I will
always remember Craig Rovetz, the smartest man
I ever loved and I will always treasure the lessons
he imparted before he departed.
The writer is the widow of Rabbi Craig Rovetz,
z.l. who was spiritual Leader to congregations
in New York and Georgia. He was the author of
a yet to be published novel, The Flying Lion.
Mrs. Rovetz will be leading a pilgrimage to Israel
in February 2008. Participants in this trip will
have an opportunity to visit and shoot handguns
at a shooting range in Jerusalem. Since this article
was written, Mrs. Rovetz won a shooting competition
(marksman) at the Woodhaven Rifle and Pistol range
in Queens, New York. The trophy sits next to Rabbi
Rovetzs trophy on the mantle. Mrs. Rovetz
still does not know how to clean her guns.