Armed security instructor Ian Turner believes that carrying a licensed concealed handgun for personal protection is better than waiting for the police to arrive in an active shooter situation.
Mr. Turner, a member of Arizona’s Jewish community, said it takes an average of seven minutes for law enforcement to respond to an active shooter in the central Phoenix area.
And in those seven minutes, an organized, trained, and determined shooter can do significant damage.
“That’s a long time for an active shooter inside a synagogue that wants to do malice with a weapon,” said Mr. Turner, director of operations and training at Magen Am Arizona, providing armed security services and training for Jewish institutions.
“I’m not a gun guy—I’m a prepared guy. Sometimes the cavalry doesn’t come. That’s what happened in Israel” on Oct. 7, he said.
Mr. Turner said interest in firearms training has been on the rise in the Jewish community since the deadly Hamas attack that killed more than 1,400 Israelis.
Magen Am Arizona is a licensed law enforcement-certified affiliate of Magen Am USA in Los Angeles, whose motto is “securing our community from within.”
The company has three missions: to provide volunteer synagogue security, private school security, and armed patrols.
“All things being equal, if you have guns and pistol craft, then you have options,” Mr. Turner told The Epoch Times.
“That’s what we advocate—doing it by the book in excess of law enforcement standards. Let’s get people proficient, and they are the immediate responders.”
News outlets have reported a sharp rise in the number of Jewish Americans seeking firearms training and gun purchases in the wake of the Hamas attack in Israel.
Mr. Turner views the attack as a wake-up call in a country where the government restricts civilian gun ownership, and there is no constitutional right to bear firearms as in the United States.
According to the National Institutes of Health, Israel rejects about 40 percent of gun permit applications, “more than any country in the Western world.
“Israel requires all guns to have an Interior Ministry permit and an identifying mark for tracing, and limits which citizens may apply for a permit, based on their residence, occupation, or role in national defense,” the NIH added in the organization’s National Library of Medicine.
“Applicants are excluded if they take psychotropic drugs, or have been arrested for drug use, or domestic violence [even if not convicted], and must also pass a Hebrew language test.
“Permit holders may own only one handgun and must renew their permit annually or whenever their residence, occupation, or national defense role changes.”
Mr. Turner lived in Israel for 10 years and served in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) while he was there. He spent six years as a reservist patrolling within the Gaza Strip.
That there is widespread trust in law enforcement in the United States is “almost amplified in Israel,” he said.
He feels it’s better to be self-reliant in situations involving violent attackers. And that requires training, the right equipment, and constant practice.
“There could be a time when the police and fire are not there, and you are the immediate responder. That’s what happened in Israel—a failure of intelligence,” he said.
The mass casualties have prompted many Israelis to seek firearms for family and home defense.
A surge in gun purchases within the Jewish community has also followed reports of increasing antisemitism and large-scale protests against Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip.
“I would say a lot of people [in Israel] who were ambivalent or anti-gun kind of got the memo that they might want to be in charge of themselves. I always say, ‘Why do I carry a gun? A cop is too heavy,” Mr. Turner said.
FBI Director Christopher Wray recently told a Senate hearing that acts of violence against the Jewish community are approaching “historic levels.”
“In fact, our statistics would indicate that for a group that represents only about 2.4 percent of the American public, they account for something like 60 percent of all religious-based hate crimes,” Mr. Wray told the hearing.
“This is a threat that is reaching, in some way, sort of historic levels.”
Mr. Turner said the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting on Oct. 27, 2018, was a trigger event for him, so to speak, to be better prepared against future violence.
The incident was the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the United States, killing 11 people and wounding six.
The Oct. 7 Hamas attack in Israel served as a catalyst for the need for better security, Mr. Turner said.
“What we do is probably more [relevant] post-Oct. 7. It seems a lot of people have awakened to the things we’ve been thinking about prophylactically,” he said.
He sees a handgun or rifle as “just a tool,” though one with the lowest probability of use in a self-defense situation but the “highest liability” when used.
For this reason, Magen Am Arizona classes focus on uses and types of weapons, legal aspects regarding firearms used in self-defense, de-escalation techniques, baton and pepper spray, and “tactical medicine.”
Mr. Turner said even his rabbi expressed an interest in firearms for personal protection and security for his congregation.
“The bottom line is people who were on the fence—even in my synagogue—are more open to stepping up. People definitely are more interested in getting more trained, including my rabbi,” said Mr. Turner, who works closely with local and county law enforcement.
He acknowledged that self-defense training is primarily a young person’s activity, yet older people are getting involved out of a need for greater security.
The company’s goal is an 80 percent or better score for all students on the FBI’s firearms training and proficiency program.
‘I’m looking for good moral character. Good judgment. And I’m looking for two shots from the holster from concealment within 10 yards within two seconds,” said Mr. Turner, who does not see an end to potential threats facing the Jewish community as long as the Israel and Hamas conflict persists.
Yet even in the midst of such a threat, he said there’s an opportunity to become proficient at defending one’s home and community.
“I joke about it, saying I carry a gun because a cop is too heavy, [but] it’s going to the root cause. That is how I choose to live my life. My primary job is to get home to my family,” Mr. Turner said.