Ask the Rov: I’m on the shul’s security committee. Can I show off my gun’s features to a friend on Shabbos?
By Rabbi Chaim Hillel Raskin – Rov of Anash in Petach Tikvah
Utensils are governed by varying rules of muktza depending on their designated usage. A utensil primarily used for Shabbos-permitted activities (melachto l’heter) may be handled even to protect the utensil itself (l’tzorech atzmo). Utensils with a primary usage that is prohibited on Shabbos (melachto l’isur) may not be handled for their own sake, but may be used for a permitted usage (l’tzorech gufo) or to enable using its place (l’tzorech mekomo).1
Contemporary poskim debate a gun’s muktza status due to its purpose of wounding/killing. Some posit it is considered a kli shemelachto l’heter as its primary purpose is protection — i.e., to scare off perpetrators and protect from life-threatening situations.2 (This is especially so if the owner designates the gun exclusively for this purpose.3) It would also not qualify as muktza machmas chisaron kis (expensive items not used for other purposes) since the Alter Rebbe only applies it to utensils with Shabbos-prohibited usage.4
Other poskim argue that a gun is still categorized as a kli shemelachto l’isur due to its usage that is essentially Shabbos prohibited, albeit permitted when used for saving lives. This is akin to scissors, which are primarily used for a Shabbos-prohibited melacha, but may be used for a permissible purpose like cutting open a food wrapper.5
Even according to this more stringent view, a gun may be handled for security purposes even lacking immediate pikuach nefesh. In addition, some contend that a gun to protect Yidden throughout the day may be handled like a milah knife for a mohel who has additional brissim that day.6 What wouldn’t be allowed is handling or moving the gun for reasons that don’t involve security. Additionally, when the gun is not in active use, or is a specialty model, it may be considered muktza machmas chisaron kis which may not be handled.7
While some contend that an unloaded gun or bullets are considered a “broken” vessel which is muktza, contemporary poskim rule that since their normal function is to be assembled and disassembled, they are not considered “broken.” Moreover, an unloaded gun can serve as a deterrent.8
Carrying a gun outside where there is no eruv is a separate discussion, see issue 747.
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From The Weekly Farbrengen by Merkaz Anash