Don’t Sell Guns to Idolators (Maimonides)

Apropos to the gun-murders in Florida, holding gun makers liable, and repealing the Second Amendment, this week in shul Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky at Ansche Chesed worked off this little piece of halakhah from the Mishne Torah, the code of law by Maimonides:
Hilkhot Avodat Kochavim (Laws of Idol Worship)


Just as it is forbidden to sell idolaters articles that assist them in idol worship, it is forbidden to sell them articles that can cause harm to many people – for example, bears, lions, weapons, fetters, and chains. [Similarly,] it is forbidden to sharpen their weapons.

Everything that is forbidden to be sold to idolaters is also forbidden to be sold to a Jew who is suspect that he will sell to idolaters. Similarly, it is forbidden to sell dangerous objects to a Jewish thief.

חכשם שאין מוכרין לעובד כוכבים דברים שמחזיקין בהן ידיהן לעבודת כוכבים כך אין מוכרין להם דבר שיש בו נזק לרבים כגון דובים ואריות וכלי זיין וכבלים ושלשלאות ואין משחיזין להם את הזיין וכל שאסור למוכרו לעובד כוכבים אסור למוכרו לישראל החשוד למכור לעובד כוכבים וכן אסור למכור כלי נזק לישראל ליסטם:

The Maimonides is more concisely and sharply framed than it is in its original location in the mishnah and gemara of tractate b.Avodah Zarah.

With nary a concept of individual liberty, the emphasis is on the primary good of public safety.

As for reading past the question of inter-group bias in the original locution, “idolator” would have to stand for the general public at large.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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