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Washington — Other leading Jewish voices on behalf of gun owners include Sandy Froman, an Arizona attorney who served as the NRA’s president from 2005 to 2007, and Alan Gura, an Israeli-born attorney. It was Gura who led some of the gun rights lobby’s courtroom successes, including McDonald v. Chicago in 2010. The landmark Supreme Court decision found that the Second Amendment’s guarantee of the people’s right to bear arms as part of a “well-regulated militia” applied to individuals even outside a militia context and thus limited the government’s right to regulate their individual use.
In conversations, pro-gun Jewish activists quickly pull out an entire set of arguments addressing each gun control measure, from limiting the sale of assault weapons, which they argue are no different from any other gun, through limiting magazine size, a move they claim is impractical and useless, to closing the gun show loophole, which they say has little to do with gun violence.
But Jewish gun backers also turn to Jewish history for support. “I wish there had been more armed Jews when Hitler came to power,” Gottlieb said. “I think the government should not have a monopoly on owning firearms.” Others argue that had the Jewish community been armed, Nazi SS units would have suffered losses that would have led Hitler to reconsider his plan to exterminate Europe’s Jews.
Michael Berenbaum, an internationally recognized scholar of the Holocaust, labeled this idea “preposterous.”
“The Germans conquered half the Soviet Union, and France and Poland, and the rest of Europe, against massive armies with huge weapons,” said Berenbaum, who was project director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. “Look at what it took to defeat the Germans.”
According to Berenbaum, “The huge disproportion of power held by the Nazis, and their readiness to use their power for total destruction” would not have been changed had Jewish civilians had guns. “The most you could say is, it might have caused the Nazis to have greater casualties, as it did in the Warsaw Ghetto. It would have exacted a cost. But the idea that Jews with guns would have stopped the Holocaust is not in the realm of the conceivable.”
Another argument frequently raised is that Israel, a country where guns are abundant, does not face a serious gun violence problem. Gun licensing in Israel, however, is a complicated process, and most firearms are held by military or police forces, not by citizens.
Going a step further, Gottlieb suggested that the perception of Jews as being opposed to gun rights has been fueled by anti-Semites and helps reinforce their stereotypes about Jews in America. “It strengthens the notion that Jews do not support the values held by most Americans,” he explained.
Forward assistant managing editor, Larry Cohler-Esses contributed to this story.