Early in 2002, as the Second Intifada was raging, guns — normally ubiquitous in Israeli society — were even more in evidence. In restaurants, at synagogue and especially on the street, you could see pistols stuck into men's belts or pants. One of my wife's closest friends kept a gun in her purse.

Those were dangerous times in Israel. More than once, legally armed civilians killed or wounded terrorists in places as seemingly benign as the grocery store. I decided that, I, too, should probably get a gun license, and promptly went to the appropriate government office to apply.

I'd been told that I'd have to justify my "need" for the license, so I brought a copy of a New York Times Magazine piece that I'd written about the violence. I indicated that I was going to write more pieces like it and that to do so, I would need to go to places less secure than Jerusalem, where I lived. It was entirely true. I filled out a several-page form and was told that were my application declined, I wouldn't be allowed to apply again. I signed the form and turned it in.