President of Threatened Synagogue on Armed Worshippers: 'We Refuse to Be a Soft Target'

November 6, 2019

The president of a Colorado synagogue targeted in a foiled bomb plot said his congregation allows armed worshippers because they don't want to be defenseless in the case of an attack.

Michael Atlas-Acuna, president of the Temple Emanuel Synagogue of Pueblo, Colo., was asked about the temple's "This Is Not A Gun Free Zone" sign during an interview on CNN. Host Brooke Baldwin asked Atlas-Acuna why he felt the sign was necessary even before the plot to blow up the synagogue was uncovered.

"I think it's necessary because of the very obvious: Churches and synagogues have been shot up," he said. "And I think for somebody to put a sign that said 'this is a gun-free zone' is asinine. You're only asking for trouble."

"We refuse to be a soft target. So we're gonna defend ourselves and we're gonna have the security that we need," he added.

Atlas-Acuna said the synagogue takes threats to its members very seriously. He noticed a number of members arming themselves in the wake of the attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa., last year.

"We have armed guards, and I come to find out that after the Pittsburgh occurrence that a lot of our members, well not a lot, but several of our members are carrying weapons," he told CNN. "So, I just think we have to defend ourselves."

A 27-year-old man was arrested on Friday while attempting to purchase pipe bombs from undercover FBI agents, according to court documents obtained by CNN. The alleged white supremacist intended to use the bombs to attack Temple Emanuel; he now faces a federal hate-crime charge.

The Tree of Life shooting caused a number of those in the Jewish community to advocate for others to arm themselves. Grant Schmidt, who carries a concealed firearm at his synagogue and spoke with the Washington Free Beacon in the wake of the attack, believes Scripture implores Jews to defend themselves.

"The truth is that, as much as I am close to police in our area, they are second responders," Schmidt said. "We have a biblical directive to set watchmen, to be our brother's keeper, and when someone rises up to kill us, we have to rise up and kill them first."

However, guns remain controversial within the Jewish community. Atlas-Acuna said he understands that some disagree with his congregation's decision to allow members to arm themselves, but believes it is necessary for them to be able to ensure their own safety.

"I know that is not a popular stance with a lot of people, but that's a reality we live in today," he told CNN.