I am a woman with military training and would like to purchase a gun to carry on me for self-protection due to all the anti-Semitism that is rising the world in general and in our neighborhood in particular. I was recently told by a rabbi that it is forbidden for a woman to carry a weapon due to it being the garment of a man, and hence I may not carry a weapon. Is this true?
It is permitted for a woman to carry a weapon for self-defense, whether it be a gun or knife or pepper spray. This especially applies during times of tension and rise of anti-Semitism or crime.
While it is true that we do find a general biblical prohibition against a woman carrying a weapon due to it being considered the clothing of a man, nevertheless, the Poskim all conclude that it is permitted to do so for purposes of self-defense to prevent danger of life. Aside from the fact that danger of life pushes away all the mitzvot of the Torah, one can argue that when a woman carries the weapon for self-defense and not in order to emulate a man, then there is no cross-dressing involved at all, just as a woman may wear a man’s coat if she is cold and is not intended to do so for cross-dressing purposes. Furthermore, one can argue that in today’s times that were many women in the military and police force who carry weapons it is therefore no longer even considered the garment of a man.
Sources: Igros Moshe O.C. 4:75-2; Yechaveh Daas 5:55; Toras Hayoles Hakdama; Ashreiy Haish E.H. 2 p. 117 of Rav Ekyashiv; Avnei Derech 5:13 See regarding the allowance for a woman to wear a weapon for purposes of self-defense in cases of danger: Terumas Hadeshen 196; See regarding the prohibition for a woman to carry a weapon due to it being considered the clothing of a man: Nazir 59a; Rashi Nazir 59a; Yalkut Shimoni Shoftim 5; Targum Unkulus on Devarim 22:5 See regarding that there is no cross-dressing prohibition when done not for cross-dressing purposes: Shach 182:7 in name of Bach; Taz 182:4; Avnei Tzedek 72; Shraga Hameir 7:124 that the Shach agrees with the Bach on this matter; See Darkei Teshuvah 182:9; See also Admur 301:6 based on M”A 301:16 and Gemara Shabbos that a female ring is not considered a Shinuiy for a man to carry through wearing on his finger on Shabbos being that at times during the week they wear it on their finger to bring it to be fixed. Thus we see that if one wears the item for non-cross-dressing purposes, it is permitted; See regarding that the cross-dressing prohibition does not apply when it becomes accepted for both genders wear the clothing: Taz 182:5; Perisha 182, brought in Rav Akiva Eiger 182; Igros Kodesh 6:268, [printed in Shulchan Menachem 4:133];Rav Elyashiv ibid