As I write this, a person was just shot dead at the Short Hills Mall while holiday shopping with his wife. One day earlier, the nation commemorated the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings, when 20 elementary school students and six educators were murdered. In recent years, we have witnessed a profoundly distressing series of mass shootings in schools, shopping malls, theaters, houses of worship, and elsewhere. The Jewish community itself has experienced this violence at community centers, Jewish federations, and elsewhere. These violent and horrific acts shock our conscience and country.
Yet, on Dec. 11, NRA board member Scott Bach invoked the Holocaust when criticizing Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop’s new gun control measures. “His grandparents were Holocaust survivors,” Bach told an interviewer. “So you’ve got to wonder why he is not getting it.”
Mayor Fulop is one of the youngest mayors in New Jersey. He is Jewish. To conflate the mayor’s concern over gun proliferation and gun safety withhis family’s suffering in the Holocaust is perverse. While Bach is entitled to his point of view on guns, there is simply no place in our society for demagoguery that seems purposefully intended to stir religious and other passions that have nothing to do with a legitimate debate over firearms.
Fulop has requested that gun manufacturers bidding on municipal contracts respond to a survey about gun safety issues. He says he wants municipalities to use their purchasing power to influence America’s gun-safety conversation.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, there has been a proliferation of remarks comparing gun control legislation in the United States to policies upheld by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. In January, the ADL called on critics of gun control legislation to stop using references to Hitler and the Nazis. “The idea that supporters of gun control are doing something akin to what Hitler’s Germany did to strip citizens of guns in the run-up to the Second World War is historically inaccurate and offensive, especially to Holocaust survivors and their families,” wrote ADL national director Abraham Foxman.
As we remember the children and adults murdered in Newtown, Conn., Mayor Fulop should be commended for his efforts to draw attention to an industry that permitted too many guns to be available to too many people. And while responsible debate on this issue is welcome and necessary, that does not mean people can make irresponsible comments just because they disagree.
Roger B. Jacobs, an attorney, is past chair of the Community Relations Committee, Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ. The views he expresses are his own.