Are Women Permitted to Carry Weapons?

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In Parshat Ki Tetze, Dvarim 22:5 we read:

No male article (kli gever) shall be on a woman, and a man shall not wear a woman’s garment...

In the Talmud, Nazir 59a, the Braita teaches:

Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov says: From where do we know that a woman may not go out wearing weapons of war? It is learned from the verse “No male article shall be on a woman.”

The commentary on Nazir which is Meyuchas L’Rashi (associated with Rashi) points out that in Shoftim 5, Yael, the wife of Hever HaKeini didn’t kill Sisera with a weapon. Rather she killed him with a tent peg since women aren’t supposed to use weapons.

The Rambam, Sefer HaMitzvot Lo Taaseh 40 points out that “klei gever,” men’s articles can include armor and weaponry.

Does this mean that women can’t use weapons or are there exceptions?

Shu”t (Responsa) of Maharsham, Section 2: 243 explains that since Yael had the tent peg handy she used it to kill Sisera. However, if she needed to use a sword for protection then that would have been acceptable as well.

We see from here that if a woman needs a weapon for protection then she would be permitted to carry it.

Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 182:5 teaches: A woman may not clothe herself in men’s clothing (put on a helmet, wear armor etc.). Rama points out that this is what men wear according to the local custom.

We can learn from here that if it is the local custom for women to use articles such as guns then they would not be forbidden as they would not be in the category of men’s articles.

In Israel today, we see both men and women on a regular basis wearing army uniforms and carrying guns. These items are not considered men’s articles as they are commonly used by men and women.

May we merit to see true peace in Israel and throughout the world and may the prophecy of Yishayahu 2:4 be fulfilled: “…They shall beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not raise a sword against nation; no more will they learn to make war.”