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Rabbis offered free AR-15 rifles by Colorado gun shop. Four claimed them, owner says

In this July 20, 2014 photo, with guns displayed for sale behind him, gun dealer Mel Bernstein gives a man his change while working the register at his store east of Colorado Springs, Colo. Bernstein has offered free AR-15 rifles to rabbis in the Colorado Springs area after the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre.
In this July 20, 2014 photo, with guns displayed for sale behind him, gun dealer Mel Bernstein gives a man his change while working the register at his store east of Colorado Springs, Colo. Bernstein has offered free AR-15 rifles to rabbis in the Colorado Springs area after the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre. Associated Press

A Jewish gun shop owner in Colorado has offered free guns to local rabbis in the aftermath of the synagogue killings in Pittsburgh.

“I don’t really like what’s going on in the country, and I’m offering them free AR-15 rifles with two magazines and a hundred bullets,” Mel Bernstein, owner of Dragon Arms gun shop near Colorado Springs, told KOAA.

He told Fox News that four local rabbis have accepted his offer and that he’s gotten inquiries from around the country. But he can’t ship guns out of state, he told Fox.

“There’s a fire in a synagogue, what do you grab? You grab a fire extinguisher. Right?” Bernstein told KOAA. “Let’s say somebody comes in and starts shooting everybody. What are you going to grab? You grab your AR-15 or a rifle or a handgun. You have to have a tool to fight back.”

Just hours after the October 27 shooting left 11 people dead inside Tree of Life synagogue, President Trump suggested the outcome might have been different if an armed guard had been there.

“If they had protection inside, the results would have been far better,” he told reporters, according to Time. “If they had some kind of protection within the temple it could have been a much better situation. They didn’t.”

He went on to say that “this is a case where if they had an armed guard inside they may have been able to stop him immediately, maybe there would have been nobody killed, except for him maybe.”

Tree of Life has police officers on hand for high holidays, the Washington Post reported, “but like many synagogues across the country ... had its doors open for Saturday’s Shabbat services, welcoming its congregants” without officers around.

The morning after the shooting, according to the Post, Jewish leaders across the country participated in a phone call with the FBI to discuss security concerns.

Bernstein told KRDO that any rabbi who takes him up on his offer would have to pass a background check. He estimates the rifles he’s offering for free are worth about $650 each. “I can’t supply every rabbi because I’d be out of business,” he told Fox.

The offer isn’t for everyone, however.

Rabbis at Chabad of Southern Colorado and Temple Shalom told Fox News they did not accept Bernstein’s offer ; other temples did not respond to the network’s request for comment.

At Temple Beit Torah in Colorado Springs, where vandals last year spray-painted anti-Semitic words on its sign, board member Jeff Ader told KOAA they also passed on the offer.

“I think he absolutely is generous in what he wants to do,” Ader said. “I think he wants to help and is very well intentioned. It just isn’t for us.”

Arming people, Ader told the TV station, “is a preventative measure, it is not part of the solution at all. The solution is civil discourse.”

More than 1,500 people gathered Monday night at the Kehilath Israel Synagogue in Overland Park for a public vigil to honor the Pittsburgh Jewish community in the aftermath of the Oct 27 Tree of Life mass shooting that took the lives of 11 people.

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