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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 terrible.
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 Craig’s 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 Craig’s 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 can’t 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 clerk’s 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 in tow.
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. Craig’s 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 club’s 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 don’t 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. It’s now about two and a half years since Craig Rovetz’s 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 Rovetz’s trophy on the mantle. Mrs. Rovetz still does not know how to clean her guns.