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Calling Out Bloomberg on Gun Control

Rabbi makes Jewish argument for firearms rights

Liel Leibovitz
March 10, 2011
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.(Bloomie!)
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.(Bloomie!)

There are many things I like about my mayor, New York’s Michael Bloomberg. I like the way he runs the city efficiently. I like his contribution to demolishing Coney Island, a bit of the city I consider to be a blight on the face of this earth. I even like how his voice sounds uncannily like that of the dad on Alf (see for yourself).

The one thing I dislike—strongly, vehemently—about Bloomberg is his stance on firearms. If you’re not, like me, a proud member of the National Rifle Association, you may not be aware that Bloomberg is one of the country’s most vocal opponents of the right to own firearms, and a leading force behind Mayors Against Illegal Guns, whose key tactic is to promote the statistic that 34 Americans are murdered with guns each day. Personally, I think there’s another, far more relevant statistic: 2,100 to 6,800 people—according to the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep & Bear Arms—safely use guns each day to protect themselves and their property and prevent criminal attacks.

Which is why I was delighted to read an open letter to Bloomberg composed by Rabbi Dovid Bendory ,of a group called Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, urging hizzoner to search his Jewish soul and reconsider his position on gun control.

Granted, I found some of Bendory’s language a bit hyperbolic. Even though I’m an enthusiastic defender of the Second Amendment, I do not consider our current gun laws to be “Nazi-inspired,” nor do I think that stern restrictions on gun ownership will necessarily and inevitably lead to a second Hitler.

But Bendory’s letter makes some very good points, especially when he quotes that top Talmudic hit, “If a murderer comes for you, strike him down first.” And while my support for gun ownership rights stems from universalist rather than particularly Jewish principles, I did find much to agree with in Bendory’s assertion that “the Jewish people have been at the wrong end of the gun barrel for far too long.” Rather than disarm victims, I hope Americans continue to express support for our right to own firearms, and that Jews, who traditionally pride themselves on being on the vanguard of the struggle for morality and justice, turn out in larger numbers in support of this important and inalienable right.

Liel Leibovitz is editor-at-large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.