After Sandy Hook, Jewish Voices Put Firearm Legislation Front And Center

As we reel from the unspeakable evils that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School last friday, the country is left questioning some of the fundamental blocks upon which our communities are built. “Safety,” “freedom,”  and “rights,” are words we’re likely to hear over the coming weeks, part of a growing “national conversation” (whatever that means) around our country’s seemingly incurable addiction to guns; devices whose sole purpose is to end life.

Guns are an issue that arouse passions across the political spectrum. But, in the shadow of a tragedy the lasting effects of which we cannot begin to fathom, elected officials, lead by some of the countries most visible Jewish politicians, are beginning to align – and in some cases, re-align – around what was once thought to be the third-rail of American politics: Gun control. (Ruby Cramer has a fantastic breakdown of the political calculus behind this alignment over at Buzzfeed) .

There is a growing chorus of voices speaking out against the unchecked proliferation of firearms. But, channel-hopping through the Sunday morning talk shows, one can’t help but notice the voices heard first, and loudest, belong to Jews (A fact not lost on The Jewish Daily Forward, either.) Yesterday on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” just minutes after outgoing New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) railed against the President for not doing enough to curb guns, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) announced that she would be introducing legislation to “ban the sale, the transfer, the importation and the possession” of assault weapons. Just few channels away, Feinstein’s east coast colleague Chuck Schumer (D-NY) seemed to echo her sentiment on CBS’ “Face The Nation,” saying “I think we can get something done.” And on “Fox and Friends,” Connecticut’s independent senator Joe Lieberman called for a reinstatement of the Federal Assault Weapon Ban, which expired in 2004.

It’s no secret that American Jewry is traditionally anti-gun (or, at least not explicitely pro-gun.) There exists a broad, though by no means universal, feeling that guns are treyf. Un-kosher. Not Jewish. Even editorials calling for more Jewish gun ownership begin with admissions to that effect. But, never before has this sentiment felt as immediate as it does in the aftermath of Sandy Hook: A tragedy that feels both frustratingly familiar, and achingly new at the same time.

There may be no single root cause for this Jewish aversion to firearms in the US. Likely it’s a fluid interplay between the historical after-effects of living in Eastern Europe for centuries without political (and therefor military) representation; biblical and talmudic efforts to diminish unchecked violence, focusing instead on issues of social justice, education and commerce; and the broader trend of American Jewry’s gravitation toward socially liberal issues in general.

Regardless of the reasons, The nation as a whole is currently grappling with a tragedy – one which has forced us to examine the role firearms play in our lives and communities. And, while many of those speaking out have been Jewish, this is by no means a Jewish issue. Rather, it seems as if the country is beginning to finally give serious thought to sometime that’s long been part of the mainstream American Jewish experience – The idea that power over life and death is a responsibility, not a right. And, when an instrument is designed to do nothing but kill, it is our responsibility to be silent no more.

Cover image via The Daily Beast

What do you think?

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Heeb's Managing Editor knows more about Iggy Pop than you. You can follow him on twitter (@Thejewishdream) if you'd like.

5 Responses

  1. Citizen X9

    This is crap. One of the biggest reasons there was a holocaust was that Jews did not defend themselves. Let Bloomberg march peacefully onto the cattle car and the ovens. I will demand and keep weapons till my death. I will not be a resident of the next Auschwitz. And, there is always the next Auschwitz. Let it be known that I have the greatest of sympathy for those who mourn, but I can’t help but believe if the teacher or at least an administrator were armed there would be far less mourners . Just my opinion. When you think it can’t happen here, that is exactly where it will be nextt.

  2. Daniel Sieradski

    Right, Citizen X9. Because the people who can barely teach our kids math will suddenly become heroic NAVY Seal-like action heroes once we hand them assault rifles. And requiring a five day waiting period and mental health evaluation before purchasing a gun is like, totes the next Auschwitz.

    • Citizen X9

      You don’t have to be Navy seal to pull a trigger. BTW, How are those gun bans in Chicago working out for ya’?

  3. Elliot Von Stroheim

    Speak for yourself! Once again the East coast mocky, ultra left liberal Jews and West Coast Ultra left Jews take up the lime light for the rest of us — not the case. Maybe, when you at Heeb stop bantering about homos and lesbians and other jerk-offs and sickos in our society that happen to be Jewish or otherwise, and glorifying them, and have the “it wouldn’t happen here” mentality” like so many in Germany had in the 1930s and 1940s, and wise up, you might actually realize that you are exactly the kind of people the Torah and G-D detest, and what assimilation/reformists “cultural” Jews are all about. Too busy trying be hip and accepted instead of doing what is right and defending yourselves like the Hasids wailing at the wall when the others go to fight for their preservation, or the d-bags with “coexist” bumper stickers on the cars that have never been to a Muslim country put preach about “getting” along. When has Schumer or Feinstein ever had to defend themselves in their neighborhoods? The 2nd Amendment isn’t and wasn’t created for sportsmen or hunters you schmucks! The 2nd Amendment was created for us as citizens to be able to protect ourselves from on oppressive and ever increasingly intrusive government (yes the growing centralist Federal government that now has an executive branch that can declare martial law without any checks and balances and now also has its own private “civilian DHS para-military force” — sound familiar well as Heebs it should or are you that historically frickin challenged or tone deaf to your own liberal spew to realize the slow boil your in?

    Yeah, ban guns, that will solve the problem. Pol Pot thought so too! If you’d address the actual problems our over indulged, self-centered, hedonist society, full of entitlement minded folks and non-attribution/non-accountability then maybe it would be a start to correcting behavior that led to violent acts, regard;less of the instruments used. How come no one wants to ban irresponsible parents, poor schools, drug addiction, and so on? All liberal championed program that fail and in many cases advocate (yeah let’s legalize pot and it’s OK to have unstable single parent homes as the consequences of broken hetero and homo sexual couples and teen pregnancies, the list goes on and on under the guise of the 1970s and 1980s and 1990s list of social irresponsibility of “anything goes bullshit you’ve propagated. So it’s easier to blame it on something or someone else.

  4. Lillian

    To protect from an ever growing and intrusive government we would need a lot more than guns. We would need brains, tech and bombs, but money would do in a pinch.


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