Meet Aaron Zelman, the Jew Who Loved Guns

Polite Arizonan Saw Guns as Only Path to Jewish Survival

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By Dan Baum

Published March 05, 2013, issue of March 08, 2013.
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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 What if the Second Amendment were repealed?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.”


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