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 What if the Second Amendment were repealed?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!
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • 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.