Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (JPFO) is a group dedicated to the preservation of gun rights in the United States and “to encourage Americans to understand and defend all of the Bill of Rights for everyone”. The group was founded by former firearms dealer Aaron S. Zelman in 1989.
The JPFO interprets the Second Amendment as recognizing a pre-existing natural right of individuals to keep and bear arms. It is based in Hartford, Wisconsin.
JPFO takes the position that an armed citizenry is the population’s last line of defense against tyranny by their own government. The organization is noted for producing materials (bumper stickers, posters, billboards, booklets, videos, etc.) with messages that equate gun control with totalitarianism. The most famous of these are the “All in favor of Gun Control raise your right hand” materials, which features a drawing of Hitler giving a Nazi salute.
The organization also attempts to prove that genocide is linked to gun control, by showing that most countries where a genocide has taken place had gun control first.
Members do not have to be Jewish. The only membership requirement is that you be a “law-abiding citizen,” by “obeying the Bill of Rights.”
JPFO’s political positions
The JPFO is probably most noted for its claim that parts of the text of the Gun Control Act of 1968 were translated from Nazi legislation.
The German Weapons Law, which existed before the Nazis came to power in 1933, was altered on 18 March 1938 by the Nazi Government.
The JPFO’s claim is based in part on the fact that the 1968 GCA introduces the “sporting purpose” test to distinguish different types of weapons, similar to the “sporting purpose” test that existed in the German law in question.
Senator Thomas Dodd was a prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials and had reviewed copies of the Nazi Germany firearms laws, and in 1968 requested translations of these from the Library of Congress.
Bernard Harcourt, professor at the University of Chicago Law School, in discussing this fundamental proposition advanced by the JPFO, notes, “On January 13th, 1919, the Reichstag enacted legislation requiring surrender of all guns to the government. This law, as well as the August 7, 1920, Law on the Disarmament of the People passed in light of the Versailles Treaty, remained in effect until 1928, when the German parliament enacted the Law on Firearms and Ammunition (April 12, 1928) a law which relaxed gun restrictions and put into effect a strict firearm licensing scheme.” Harcourt continued, “To be sure, the Nazis were intent on killing Jewish persons and used the gun laws and regulations to further the genocide”, but he concluded that the firearms laws were not central to implementing the Holocaust.
Attorney and author Stephen Halbrook, in his law article “Nazi Firearms Law and the Disarming of the German Jews”, asserts that German arms laws were extremely lax, and even under the 1920 “Law on the Disarmament of the People”, only items such as grenades and machineguns were banned and small arms such as rifles and pistols remained in common use. Valery Polozov, a former advisor to the committee on national security in the Russian Duma, claims in his book “Firearms in Civil Society” that Germany did not in fact have comprehensive gun control legislation up until 1928, which created the legal framework later built upon by the Nazis. Halbrook did clarify in the first sentences of his article that, “Gun control laws are depicted as benign and historically progressive. However, German firearm laws and hysteria created against Jewish firearm owners played a major role in laying the groundwork for the eradication of German Jewry in the Holocaust.”
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