A suggestion by a National Rifle Association spokesman that Jews should oppose gun control because of what happened in Nazi Germany has added new ammunition to the debate over two competing measures on the November ballot.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle on Tuesday called for the resignation of NRA state lobbyist Brian Judy, who was recorded at a recent meeting saying he couldn’t understand why Jews would support gun control, a policy instituted by the Nazis.
Judy reportedly was telling a group of gun rights advocates he couldn’t understand the support for Initiative 594 by a major donor whose family he said was “run out of Germany by the Nazis.”
“It’s staggering to me,” Judy said on a tape that first surfaced on a liberal Seattle blog, Horsesass.org. “That these people, it’s like any Jewish people I meet who are anti-gun, I think, ‘Are you serious? Do you not remember what happened? And why did that happen? Because they registered guns and then they took them.”
The federation – joined by the League of Women Voters, Grandmothers Against Gun Violence and state Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle – called for Judy to resign for “likening gun violence prevention to Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.” Federation spokesman Jim diPeso said the comment has “no place” in the debate over I-594.
“We don’t think that it’s right that if only the Jews in Germany had guns they would have been able to hold off an industrialized genocide machine,” diPeso said.
Judy couldn’t be reached for comment, but the views tying gun control to Nazi policies are in line with other gun rights advocates, including NRA chief executive officer Wayne LaPierre.
Alan Gottlieb, of the Bellevue-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, said Nazi gun control laws are a historical fact and he doesn’t believe Judy said anything controversial or offensive.
“He never said the word ‘Holocaust,’ ” Gottlieb said. “They’re trying to spin it this way to kill the messenger so he can’t deliver the message.”
Historians debate the impact of Nazi gun control laws, which in some ways were less restrictive than laws in place from the previous government, the Weimar Republic. But Nazis did forbid ownership by Jews, who were stripped of many other rights as well before the Nazis embarked on a system of wholesale extermination.
Zach Silk, campaign manager for I-594, said bringing Nazis into the debate ratchets up the rhetoric on an issue that’s already very emotional. The initiative is about background checks, not confiscation, and the only registration involved is the system already in place for gun purchases in stores, he said.
“It doesn’t belong in a political debate where we’re trying to have a respectful conversation,” Silk said. “He overstepped those bounds and there’s been a reaction to that.”
Washington voters will have two gun control measures on the November ballot. I-594, supported by the federation and the league and opposed by the NRA and Gottlieb’s organization, would extend background checks beyond sales in stores to private transactions. I-591, where support and opposition are basically reversed, would not allow Washington to change background check laws unless there’s a national change.