After Newtown, Jews Lead Renewed Push on Guns

Lawmakers and Community Play Key Role in Debate

Stop the Violence: As Newtown continues to mourn its dead, the Jewish community is playing a leading role in the push for tougher gun laws.
getty images
Stop the Violence: As Newtown continues to mourn its dead, the Jewish community is playing a leading role in the push for tougher gun laws.

By Nathan Guttman

Published December 23, 2012, issue of December 28, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

A Jewish community strongly supportive of gun control plus Jewish lawmakers eager to enact new gun control laws may bring Jews into a lead role as the nation debates federal measures to rein in mass murders at its malls and schools.

The new openness to legislation and other measures following the slaughter of 26 elementary school children and school staff in Newtown, Conn. — plus the killer’s mother — is welcomed by most Jewish organizations, which have long supported gun control. But in recent years, with the prospects for progress on this front all but hopeless until the December murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School, those organizations have been largely passive on the issue.

Now, activists are fighting to seize the moment and get gun control back on the front burner.

“There has been an ebb and flow of activism on this issue,” said Dan Mariaschin, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International, one of the groups calling for legislation to limit the sales of assault weapons. “It is an issue we as a community care deeply about, but it didn’t find itself at the top of the agenda of Jewish groups.”

UPDATE: The push for new gun laws may have gained more momentum with the National Rifle Association’s widely criticized press conference on Friday, in which the group called for armed guards in every school.

In recent days, that latent passion has come alive. The Jewish Council for Public Affairs has called on members to sign a petition advocating “meaningful legislation” to limit access to assault weapons. The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism began reaching out to other Jewish movements and to non-Jewish faith groups in an attempt to create an interfaith coalition to back the drive for gun control.

“This can be a model for Congress on how people can work together at times like this,” said Rachel Laser, the RAC’s deputy director. “I think the faith community can play a central role in getting the ball across the line.”

On Capitol Hill, the effort to introduce legislation limiting access to weapons has been led by several Jewish lawmakers, all Democrats (though one now uses the Independent label). California Senator Dianne Feinstein, a longtime leader on the issue, intends to introduce legislation for renewing the ban on the sale and possession of assault weapons, which expired in 2004.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.