Joel Magalnick, Editor, The Jewish Sound
Eight years to the day after a man burst into the offices of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and shot six women, killing one, the Federation called for the resignation of the National Rifle Association’s top lobbyist in Washington State following controversial comments he made at a recent political rally.
As the HorsesAss.org website reported Monday, the NRA’s Brian Judy spoke at a rally in Silverdale on July 23, taking local billionaire Nick Hanauer to task for his support and contribution to Initiative 594, which seeks to require universal background checks on firearm purchases.
Referring to an article Hanauer wrote for Politico.com in which he notes how his family “got chased out of Germany by Hitler and ended up in Seattle,” Judy suggested that Jews who believe in gun safety are acting against their own interests.
“Any Jewish people I meet who are anti-gun, I think, ‘Are you serious? Did you not remember what happened?’” he said in a video clip posted by HorsesAss. “You come to this country and you support gun control? Why did you have to flee to this country in the first place? Hello! Is anybody home here?”
Keith Dvorchik, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation called the linking of gun violence prevention and the Holocaust, or the idea that had Jews possessed guns at that time might have stopped the genocide against them, “an insulting and extreme notion that does a disservice to everyone in our state” at a press conference held Tuesday.
“The Holocaust happened because of governmental policies. The Holocaust happened because of a culture of hate. The Holocaust happened because of a culture of intolerance,” Dvorchik said. “To think that if Jews only had guns they would have stopped it is inane, is idiotic, is simplistic, and simply wrong.”
He called on Judy to resign, saying the NRA should reject his “ignorant and unproductive dialogue.”
According to State Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D–36th), Judy’s comments “carry dark and ugly and sober undertones of anti-Semitism that are very troubling,” he said. The direct linkage to a modest gun safety initiative of the people of Washington State, signed by hundreds of thousands of people, and the financing by Mr. Hanauer and so many other contributors — the insinuation, the linkage, the undertone, is all directed at this core idea, this core concept, that Nazi-era Germany policies are directly linked to an initiative in 2014 in Washington State. That is preposterous.”
Cheryl Stumbo, one of the survivors of the 2006 shooting at the Federation who has since co-founded the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, also condemned Judy’s statements Monday.
“The offensive rhetoric from a senior lobbyist at the National Rifle Association is out of touch with what the vast majority of Washingtonians want: a reasonable, productive discussion of solutions to reduce gun violence in our communities,” she said in a statement. “Developing those solutions has been a major part of my life since the attack on my co-workers and me eight years ago.”
Kim Abel, president of the League of Women voters of Washington State, who also spoke at the Tuesday press conference, said she condemns Judy’s statements not only because they “perpetuate destructive falsehoods about the Jewish community,” but because “we have seen what can happen when heated rhetoric replaces thoughtful discussion.” Earlier this month, a bullet-riddled shooting-range target was found at the league’s Seattle-King County offices, with a second target found nearby.
“These incidents are being investigated as threats and are a reminder that each of us has a responsibility to create an environment that allows us discuss issues rather than one of intimidation and division,” Abel said.
Alan Gottlieb, president of the Second Amendment Foundation who is running the Initiative 591 campaign that would eliminate all background checks in Washington State, told KING-5 News Monday that Judy’s statements are factual. However, a study published by Prof. Bernard E. Harcourt of the University of Chicago School of Law in the Fordham Law Review in 2004 shows that when Hitler came to power, the Nazi party actually relaxed gun restrictions from what had been a complete ban on guns enacted in 1919. New laws passed in 1928 allowed ownership only through a strict permitting process. Gun laws in 1938 further removed restrictions on all but Germany’s Jewish population, which later was restricted from possession of any type of weapon. As Harcourt noted, “The Nazis were intent on killing Jewish persons and used the gun laws and regulations to further the genocide.”
The Federation may find that its call for the NRA to disavow any comparisons between gun control and the Holocaust falls on deaf ears: As Harcourt also wrote, the gun rights organization has made such comparisons for decades, dating at least as far back as 1968.
But the Federation’s Dvorchik issued a challenge to the NRA: “We now ask whether the National Rifle Association agrees with these views. If not, the senior leadership of the NRA must make that clear publicly, loudly and immediately. If they make no such statement and take no such action, then we can only assume that these ignorant, destructive falsehoods continue to be embraced.”