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.
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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.
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New York Senator Charles Schumer, another leading gun control advocate, has called for legislation that would increase background checks. Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey announced his plan to reintroduce legislation banning the sale of high-capacity magazines. The two Jewish senators from Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal and independent Joseph Lieberman, also stood at the forefront of calls for gun control following the tragedy that hit their state.

But perhaps the most prominent voice on the issue has been that of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has been urging President Obama, ever since the December 14 shooting, to make gun control his top priority. During the 2012 election cycle, Bloomberg also funded a super PAC targeting pro-gun candidates.

The outpouring of Jewish support for measures limiting access to weapons does not, however, represent the entire community. As with most issues, on gun control there is more than one view among Jewish Americans. And while Jewish Democrats are drawing attention to their work to curb access to guns, some Republican Jewish politicians are taking a different approach.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has been a staunch opponent of putting new limits on access to guns. He voted for legislation protecting gun manufacturers from lawsuits, signed on to a bill easing the restrictions on carrying concealed weapons and opposed tough gun limits for the District of Columbia. All these helped Cantor win an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association. The NRA also gave Cantor its fifth-highest donation in the recent election cycle, $7,450.

Cantor is not the only Jewish politician on the list of top-10 recipients of NRA money. GOP Candidate Josh Mandel, who lost his bid in November to represent Ohio in the Senate, ranked third, with $9,450 received in donations from the NRA.

But the largest Jewish player in the world of gun ownership has been a person little known outside the Wall Street business community. Stephen Feinberg, founder and CEO of the New York-based private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, in recent years became the single largest owner of assault gun manufacturing companies in the United States. Feinberg, through a subsidiary company he set up, Freedom Group, has purchased several gun brands in recent years. The most notable is Bushmaster, the best-selling assault gun in America. Adam Lanza used a semiautomatic Bushmaster AR-15 rifle in his shooting rampage that left 20 children and seven adults dead.


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