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Local gun shop owner offers rabbis free weapons

COLORADO SPRINGS – Following the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting last Saturday, numerous people and organizations have stepped up to raise funds and offer assistance to the families of the victims.

Even the leader of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh announced that the Muslim community has raised more than $70,000 for synagogue attack victims and their families. There’s been an outpouring of support at many vigils held across the nation.

Mel Bernstein, owner of Dragon Arms

Just outside of Colorado Springs, the owner of Dragon Arms is offering a different type of support. Mel Bernstein, the owner of the store, is offering to give rabbis a free AR-15 or a handgun. He’ll also include training and ammunition.

When speaking to News5, Bernstein made the comparison of an active shooting to a fire. He said if a fire broke out, you’d reach for a fire extinguisher to keep people safe, and by his reasoning, you should be able to reach for a weapon during an active shooting.

There is a mixed reaction to Berstein’s offer.

Jeff Ader, with Temple Beit Torah, spoke with Bernstein and his daughter earlier today. He said he thought the offer was very generous and thoughtful and that he’d have to think about it. Ader also talked to him about giving some people their concealed weapons training.

Another local rabbi said he’d prefer not comment on the offer.

News5 spoke with Scott Levin with the Colorado Anti Defamation League. Levin isn’t so fond of the idea. He says that to him, a rabbi with a gun causes image issues and he feels as though it would be a disruption. Levin also says that he believes there should be panic buttons installed and that he’s fine with armed security personnel, but he believes armed clergy sends the wrong message.

We also spoke to another woman who attends services at various synagogues. She asked to remain anonymous. She said the offer of the free AR-15 was nice, but the weapon is too big. She didn’t have a problem with a rabbi having a handgun. She said that many of the people who attend with her are actually already carrying weapons and that they do so discreetly.

News5’s Jessica Barreto is following up on the offer and possible implications. See her report tonight on News5 at 6 p.m.

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