Jewish Gun Control Backers Plan New Push

Hope To Revive Measures That Died — Or Fight at Polls

Not Giving Up: Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) are among the Jewish lawmakers leading the gun control fight.
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Not Giving Up: Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) are among the Jewish lawmakers leading the gun control fight.

By Nathan Guttman

Published April 23, 2013.
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Despite the measure’s defeat, Blumenthal told the Forward that “the gun lobby is in no way invincible.” Before the December shooting in Newtown, he argued, gun control “was considered an untouchable topic.” No less importantly, he said, there is no alternative to battling on. “At the end of the day, better laws are needed,” he said.

Gabrielle Giffords, the Jewish former Congress member from Arizona who was seriously wounded in a 2011 assassination attempt while meeting constituents in her district, also signaled she was not giving up. Giffords stood with other victims of gun violence at President Obama’s side when he issued his angry response to the Senate vote from the Rose Garden. “All in all, this is a pretty shameful day in Washington,” said a visibly furious Obama.

Nevertheless, a sense of defeat hung over many Jewish lawmakers and advocates who have taken on gun control as a central legislative cause since the Connecticut massacre. Senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Dianne Feinstein from California led the legislation; New Jersey’s ailing Frank Lautenberg was brought to the Senate floor on a wheelchair to cast his vote in favor of the amendment. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg poured millions into TV ads attacking Republican and Democratic Senators who opposed the amendment. And several Jewish groups, most notably the Union for Reform Judaism, pitched in by lobbying and mobilizing congregants and supporters.

On the day following the Senate defeat, Vice President Joe Biden sought to re-energize the pro-gun control base. In an off-record conference call with activists, including some from Jewish organizations, Biden reminded participants that the 1983 Brady bill, the last major gun control legislation, also failed in the Senate four times before passing. He rallied activists to try again.

The stymied amendment, which is part of a broader gun violence prevention bill, was put on freeze and can be reintroduced by the Senate majority leader if and when he sees a chance to get the bill approved.

To reach that point, gun control supporters are now turning inward, reaching out to constituencies considered supportive of background checks that have yet to get involved in the political battle. They believe, said activists from within the campaign, that many proponents of closing background check loopholes remained on the sidelines because they viewed the amendment, which was a result of a bipartisan agreement, as one that would surely pass Congress. Now that the measure has failed, activists hope to see more voters speaking out and pressuring senators who voted against background checks to reconsider their stand.


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