American Jews views on gun control

American Jews and Guns: An ambivalent relationship

Two U.S. Supreme Court rulings in recent years show the organized Jewish community’s widespread support for strict gun control laws.

A 5-4 decision in 2008 struck down the District of Columbia’s ban on owning handguns for self-defense, the strictest gun-control law in the country. The Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress and the National Council of Jewish Women issued statements criticizing the decision.

“The culture of guns and violence is pervasive among extremists,” said Glen S. Lewy, the ADL’s national chair, and Abraham Foxman, its national director, in a joint statement. “This decision places our communities — and the law enforcement officers that protect them — at greater risk of violence.”

NCJW President Nancy Ratzan warned that the decision “overturns the basis for two centuries of government regulation of firearms” and could spark challenges.

Marc Stern, counsel for the AJCongress, explained that Jews overwhelmingly support gun control because they tend to live and work in urban areas, where support for gun control is strong and gun violence proliferates.

At least one Jewish group — Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership — praised the 2008 decision.

“The decision clearly and unambiguously establishes the strong and fundamental nature of the individual right to keep and bear arms,” the group announced on its Web site. It also stressed the court’s insistence that “its decision should not be read to cast doubt on such laws as longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons or the mentally ill, or in such sensitive places as schools or government buildings and the like.”

In a 5-4 decision in 2010, the court limited the rights of cities and states to restrict gun ownership.

ADL’s statement said it was “a disappointing setback in the fight against extremism and violence,” and expressed its regret that the court “has restricted the latitude that cities and states retain to keep guns out of the hands of extremists, terrorists and violent bigots. The decision makes America a less safe place for law enforcement officers and the communities they protect.”

NCJW and the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center also expressed “disappointment” in the ruling.

“Whenever sensible gun control laws are struck down, it is a disappointment,” said Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the RAC.

— Compiled from JTA reports

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