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June 24, 2015 0

The Time to Address Gun Violence is Now

By Abra­ham H. Fox­man
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

Last week in Charleston, we were trag­i­cally reminded yet again that domes­tic extrem­ists pose a seri­ous threat to our soci­ety. And the threat they pose is mag­ni­fied many times over when extrem­ists like self-confessed shooter Dylann Roof have firearms.

Sim­ply put, guns in the hands of extrem­ists — guns in the hands of white suprema­cists, guns in the hands of big­ots — are a clear and present dan­ger. To this dan­ger, we must add the threats posed by other shoot­ers with mal­ice in their hearts and guns in their hands: school shoot­ers, work­place shoot­ers, fam­ily and domes­tic vio­lence shoot­ers, as well as all the oth­ers respon­si­ble for so many thou­sands of gun deaths each year in America.

Our nation can no longer afford to ignore this dan­ger. We face seri­ous chal­lenges when it comes to the cur­rents of racism, hatred and prej­u­dice that harm and divide our soci­ety, chal­lenges that won’t be resolved overnight. But we must also con­front and deal urgently with the plague of gun violence.

When it comes to guns, Amer­i­cans can no longer afford to look the other way, or to shrug and say we are pow­er­less to change the sit­u­a­tion. For us at the Anti-Defamation League, we have rec­og­nized the dan­ger of the pro­lif­er­a­tion of guns in our soci­ety as long ago as 1967. And in 1971 and again in 1999 we urged new restric­tions on gun pos­ses­sion, includ­ing the adop­tion of fed­eral and state ini­tia­tives designed to make it more dif­fi­cult for chil­dren and extrem­ists to access guns.

If “now is not the time” was ever a valid argu­ment to avoid dis­cussing the issue of gun vio­lence, its valid­ity has now van­ished. Now is the time; now must be the time. We have to find a way. We have no choice.

There are peo­ple in this coun­try of com­mon sense and good will who have been try­ing, against great obsta­cles, to find ways to deal with the issue of gun violence.

Five years ago, ten major law enforce­ment agen­cies stepped for­ward to cre­ate a Part­ner­ship. These promi­nent insti­tu­tions, includ­ing the Inter­na­tional Asso­ci­a­tion of Chiefs of Police, the Major Cities Chiefs Asso­ci­a­tion, and the National Sher­iffs’ Asso­ci­a­tion, expressed a shared com­mit­ment “to address the per­va­sive nature of gun vio­lence and its hor­rific impact on com­mu­ni­ties across Amer­ica.” They argued, accu­rately, that “the cri­sis of gun vio­lence in our coun­try neces­si­tates a sus­tained, coor­di­nated, and col­lab­o­ra­tive effort involv­ing cit­i­zens, elected offi­cials, law enforce­ment and the entire crim­i­nal jus­tice system.”

Polit­i­cal lead­ers from both par­ties, such as for­mer New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden, Sen­a­tor Orrin Hatch and Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Nancy Pelosi, have also called for changes in our cur­rent system.

In the after­math of the mass shoot­ing in Charleston, Pres­i­dent Obama repeated what he said after 20 chil­dren and six edu­ca­tors were killed at the Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School in New­town, Con­necti­cut, call­ing once again for “common-sense gun reforms.”

Point­ing out, sadly, that this was the 14th time in his pres­i­dency that he has addressed the nation after a mass shoot­ing, he said that even if some of the reforms rec­om­mended after New­town would not have pre­vented the Charleston mas­sacre, “we might still have more Amer­i­cans with us. We might have stopped one shooter. Some fam­i­lies might still be whole.”

In the past, too few of the men and women we count on to lead our nation have answered the call to action issued from these pub­lic offi­cials and law enforce­ment offi­cers. That must change. We no longer have the lux­ury of inac­tion, if we ever did. We must join together in a sus­tained effort.

Address­ing gun vio­lence means impos­ing sen­si­ble stricter con­trols on firearms, such as com­pre­hen­sive back­ground checks of all pur­chases of firearms, dan­ger­ous weapons and ammu­ni­tion — includ­ing pur­chases at gun shows — and man­dat­ing rea­son­able wait­ing periods.

It also means bet­ter data col­lec­tion and research on the causes and pre­ven­tion of gun vio­lence, and — as lead­ing law enforce­ment agen­cies have pre­scribed — “clos­ing gaps in the cur­rent reg­u­la­tory sys­tem, includ­ing those that enable felons, minors, per­sons with men­tal ill­ness and other pro­hib­ited per­sons to access firearms, and those that allow the traf­fick­ing of ille­gal guns.”

These reforms do not need to, and should not, demo­nize law­ful gun own­ers, nor should they inspire more irre­spon­si­ble, inac­cu­rate and odi­ous analo­gies to Nazi Ger­many or stig­ma­tize those who suf­fer from men­tal illness.

The time has come for us to come to grips with this prob­lem. It is not enough to con­demn the Charleston shooter and mourn the vic­tims. We owe it to those vic­tims and to our­selves to find a way mean­ing­fully to advance gun vio­lence pre­ven­tion efforts before there is another tragedy.

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January 17, 2014 6

Gun Advocates Continue To Misappropriate The Holocaust

The heated polit­i­cal debate over gun con­trol con­tin­ues to be tainted by the inap­pro­pri­ate use of Holo­caust imagery by some gun advocates.nugent-weinstein-gun-control-hitler-nazi

One such anal­ogy sug­gests that those who sup­port stronger gun con­trol are akin to Hitler or other Nazi fig­ures. Most recently, rock musi­cian and gun advo­cate Ted Nugent com­pared film pro­ducer Har­vey Wein­stein to a Nazi pro­pa­gan­dist, stat­ing that those who watch Weinstein’s planned film about the National Rifle Asso­ci­a­tion (NRA) “will see that Joseph Goebbels and Saul Alin­sky is [sic] alive in the form of a fat punk named Har­vey Wein­stein, and as he tries to destroy the NRA, it will back­fire on him.” He also said that “you have to be brain-dead to believe that the gun-free zones of Chicago and Nurem­berg in 1938 are a desir­able condition.”

Another his­tor­i­cally inac­cu­rate anal­ogy sug­gests that if those who per­ished under the Nazis had bet­ter access to guns, the regime would not have been able to sys­tem­at­i­cally mur­der so many Jews and oth­ers. For exam­ple, in response to Jer­sey City Mayor Steven Fulop’s efforts to improve gun safety in Decem­ber 2013, NRA board mem­ber Scott Bach said, “…if you’re going to be a Jer­sey City mayor you have to by default be anti-gun…His grand­par­ents were Holo­caust sur­vivors accord­ing to Wikipedia. So you’ve got to won­der why he is not get­ting it.”

It must be noted that the small num­ber of per­sonal firearms in the hands of the small num­ber of Germany’s Jews (about 214,000) remain­ing in Ger­many in 1938 could in no way have stopped the total­i­tar­ian power of the Nazi Ger­man state. When they had weapons, Jews could sym­bol­i­cally resist, as they did in the 1943 War­saw Upris­ing and else­where, but could not stop the Nazi geno­cide machine. Gun con­trol did not cause the Holo­caust; Nazism and anti-Semitism did.

Invok­ing offen­sive Holo­caust analo­gies in dis­cus­sions of con­tro­ver­sial issues is noth­ing new. Such com­par­isons have been used by both Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans on a num­ber of issues, and by numer­ous pub­lic fig­ures when dis­cussing top­ics rang­ing from abor­tion to ani­mal rights to the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict to LGBT rights. A spike in offen­sive Holo­caust analo­gies also fol­lowed the Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School shooting.

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January 24, 2013 8

Holocaust Imagery Taints Gun Control Debate

Update 1/17/14: The polit­i­cal debate over gun con­trol con­tin­ues to be marked by the inap­pro­pri­ate use of Holo­caust imagery by some gun advo­cates. Musi­cian and gun advo­cate Ted Nugent com­pared film pro­ducer Har­vey Wein­stein to a Nazi pro­pa­gan­dist.

Update 3/5/12: The list of inap­pro­pri­ate Holo­caust analo­gies regard­ing gun con­trol con­tin­ues to grow. NRA Pres­i­dent David Keene defended the depic­tion of New York Gov­er­nor Andrew Cuomo as Hitler at a rally in Albany protest­ing new state gun reg­u­la­tions. In an inter­view on March 1, Keene said, “Folks that are cog­nizant of the his­tory, not just in Ger­many but else­where, look back to the his­tory, and say we can’t let that sort of thing hap­pen here.”

The charged polit­i­cal debate over gun con­trol in the after­math of the Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School shoot­ing con­tin­ues to be tainted by inap­pro­pri­ate invo­ca­tions of Hitler, Nazis, and gen­eral Holo­caust imagery.

These com­par­isons, made by polit­i­cal pun­dits on national news pro­grams as well by oth­ers out­side pol­i­tics, are not only mis­placed and offen­sive, rely­ing on fac­tu­ally incor­rect premises and exag­ger­a­tions, but also deflect atten­tion away from an impor­tant national discussion.

One anal­ogy sug­gests that Pres­i­dent Barack Obama is some­how rem­i­nis­cent of Hitler because of his gun con­trol pro­pos­als. For exam­ple, on Jan­u­ary 9, the home­page of The Drudge Report fea­tured an image of Hitler and Stalin with the cap­tion “WHITE HOUSE THREATENS ‘EXECUTIVE ORDERS’ ON GUNS.”

A sim­i­lar com­par­i­son was made by Ohio State Board of Edu­ca­tion Pres­i­dent Debe Tehrar, who posted a num­ber of pro-gun and anti-Obama mes­sages on her Face­book page, includ­ing a photo of Hitler with the cap­tion: “Never for­get what this tyrant said: ‘To con­quer a nation, first dis­arm its cit­i­zens.’ — Adolf Hitler.”

Another com­mon theme that has emerged in recent weeks is that if only the vic­tims of the Holo­caust had bet­ter access to guns, the Nazi regime would not have been able to sys­tem­at­i­cally mur­der so many people.

For exam­ple, Fox News’ Andrew Napoli­tano made this argu­ment in a Jan­u­ary 10 col­umn on FoxNews.com. Napoli­tano wrote that, “If the Jews in the War­saw ghetto had had the fire­power and ammu­ni­tion that the Nazis did, some of Poland might have stayed free and more per­sons would have sur­vived the Holocaust.”

Indi­vid­u­als on the fringes of the polit­i­cal debate also have weighed in with this nar­ra­tive. In a Jan­u­ary 15 col­umn for the web­site World­Net­Daily, dis­graced for­mer Major League Base­ball pitcher John Rocker wrote that “the Holo­caust would have never taken place had the Jew­ish cit­i­zenry of Hitler’s Ger­many had the right to bear arms and defended them­selves with those arms.”

It should be noted that the small num­ber of per­sonal firearms in the hands of the small num­ber of Germany’s Jews (about 214,000) remain­ing in Ger­many in 1938 could in no way have stopped the total­i­tar­ian power of the Nazi Ger­man state. When they had weapons, Jews could sym­bol­i­cally resist, as they did in the 1943 War­saw Upris­ing and else­where, but could not stop the Nazi geno­cide machine. Gun con­trol did not cause the Holo­caust; Nazism and anti-Semitism did.

Invok­ing the Holo­caust in dis­cus­sions of con­tro­ver­sial issues is noth­ing new. Con­spir­acy the­o­rist Lyn­don LaRouche, leader of a fringe polit­i­cal cult that defies cat­e­go­riza­tion, and his sup­port­ers have con­tributed to the divi­sive­ness sur­round­ing the pub­lic debate on health care reform by pro­duc­ing and dis­sem­i­nat­ing mate­ri­als com­par­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and other gov­ern­ment offi­cials to Hitler, Nazis and fas­cists.

Offen­sive Holo­caust analo­gies have also been used by Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans alike on a num­ber of issues, and by pub­lic fig­ures from var­i­ous sec­tors of soci­ety when dis­cussing top­ics rang­ing from abor­tion to ani­mal rights to the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict to LGBT rights.

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