Meet Aaron Zelman, the Jew Who Loved Guns

Polite Arizonan Saw Guns as Only Path to Jewish Survival

getty images

By Dan Baum

Published March 05, 2013, issue of March 08, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

Nobody bothered anybody simply because of who they were, and that meant a lot to the grandmother who raised him. Tattooed on her arm, she carried a numbered keepsake of a different place and time.

Aaron, like other boys of the wide-open West, learned to shoot. But he was more interested in his history classes about the way people repeatedly set up others for annihilation by taking away their guns. The British marched on Lexington to seize the colonists’ powder and shot; the Union blockaded the Confederacy to disarm it; the cavalry hanged men who sold Winchesters to the Indians.

At Aaron’s bar mitzvah — a dark, mumbling affair at Tucson’s stuffy Orthodox shul — one of Grandma’s ancient friends gripped his arm with a veiny tattooed claw and rasped, “Understand, we couldn’t defend ourselves.”

It wasn’t until 1989, though, after a successful career as a brassiere salesman, that Aaron decided that he wanted to devote his life to ending gun control — all of it. He wanted the world back as it was when he was young, when no laws at all governed gun purchases or gun ownership, and firearms were sold, and mailed, as freely as kitchen supplies.

As he saw it, every time America pushed for more gun control, the people behind it were Jews. That Jewish legislators should support the disarming of civilians, after what had happened to Jews in Europe, seemed to him the worst kind of myopic self-delusion. “Howard Metzenbaum, Charles Schumer, Dianne Feinstein — she’s the granddaughter of Polish Jews!”

Aaron shook his head. Behind thick glasses, his eyes were huge and mournful.

“Jews have been on the wrong end of the gun, the crossbow and the sword forever. It’s that fawning desire for acceptance that’s always our downfall.”

Guns, as Aaron saw it, were the Jews’ path to long-term survival — and not only in Israel but in America, as well. If Jews could defend themselves with guns, they’d never again have to shuffle off to the boxcars.

When I started to ask about his interpretation of the Second Amendment, he cut me off.

“Second Amendment this, Second Amendment that. What if the Second Amendment were repealed? I’m talking about something that precedes the Second Amendment by eons. I’m talking about something that comes from God. I’m talking about preserving life. For Jews, that’s more than a right,” he said. “In the Bible, it’s an obligation.”


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!
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • 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.