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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Feinberg, whose private equity firm manages some $20 billion for its investors, shies away from the public eye and is not known to be active in the Jewish community. His political donations are largely directed at Republican candidates. Meanwhile, Freedom Group has grown into the nation’s largest gun and ammunition maker, with nine factories and more than 3,000 employees.

During this decade, America has experienced several deadly shooting events, including the mass killings at Virginia Tech university and at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater. But the Connecticut shooting struck a personal chord with Feinberg. His father, Martin Feinberg, is a resident of Newtown and lives only a few miles away from Sandy Hook Elementary School, where the shooting took place. As a swirl of media attention focused on on his firm after the shootings, one of its larger investors, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, also raised questions about the propriety of investing its funds with a major manufacturer of semi-automatics of the type used at Sandy Hook and other mass murder episodes.

On December 18, Cerberus announced that it was selling off Freedom Group and ending its investment in the gun industry. Calling the Newtown shooting “a watershed event that has raised the national debate on gun control to an unprecedented level,” the company said it wishes to sell the Freedom Group in order to avoid “being drawn into the national debate.”

Jewish organizations pride themselves on gun control stances that date back to the early days of the debate, following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and of President Kennedy. Most played a supportive role in passing legislation then limiting access to weapons, and have since reaffirmed their commitment to reducing the availability of guns.

One reason for broad Jewish support of gun control, Mariaschin said, has to do with the community’s sense of security, “which perhaps leads us to feel that the possession of assault weapons is completely unneeded.”

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, former head of the Reform movement, listed in a recent Haaretz article several reasons for Jews siding with supporters of gun control: the community’s affiliation with the Democratic Party; the fact that Jews are urban people and detached from the culture of hunting or gun ownership, and suspicion toward the NRA, which is “associated in the minds of many Jews with extremist positions that frighten Jews and from which they instinctively recoil.”

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com or follow him on Twitter @nathanguttman


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