NRA spokesperson Brian Judy took the stage at a pro-gun rally in Silverdale, Washington last Wednesday to drum up opposition to Initiative 594, a bill that is on the ballot for November and would require everyone who buys a gun in the state to pass a background check. His speech quickly devolved into making comparisons between background checks and Nazi Germany before he bitterly ridiculed Jews who support gun safety measures.
Judy launched into his anti-Semitic tirade by focusing his rage on Nick Hanauer, a billionaire Seattle entrepreneur whose family pledged a half-million dollars in support of I-594. Hanauer also published an op-ed in this month’s issue of Politico about America’s widening rich-poor gap.
In the article, Hanauer warns fellow billionaires that they must support “middle-out” economics, including a higher minimum wage, or face “the pitchforks” of a populist revolution from below. In criticizing the article, Judy made the leap from pitchforks to guns, interpreting Hanauer’s warning as a call for the one percent to confiscate the firearms of the masses in order to maintain a tight grip over society.
“Why does a small group of billionaires want to register handguns?” Judy questioned. “I know where they want to go. I’ve watched these people for 30 years, they want to ban them, but they have to register them first so they know where to get them,” he said, adding, “these billionaire plutocrats want to get rid of handguns so when things do go loose that the people only have pitchforks to come after them.”
That’s when Judy decided to play a classic pro-gun card and distastefully invoke the legacy of the holocaust. While Hanauer only mentions in passing that his family came to America after fleeing persecution in Nazi Germany, Judy made it the focus of his rant. “[Hanauer] talks about his family being run out of Germany by the Nazis. It’s like, how stupid can they be, you know?” Judy asked, met with cackles from the crowd. “Now he’s funding, he’s put half a million dollars toward this policy, the same policy that led to his family getting run out or Germany by the Nazis” Judy remarked.
In fact, as Salon notes in a take-down of gun advocates’ tired argument that the holocaust started with gun safety, Hitler signed a law in 1938 that actually reversed Germany’s previously strict gun laws, completely deregulating the sale of rifles, shotguns and ammunition for the majority of Germans. He also lowered legal gun ownership age from 20 to 18 and gave Nazi party members complete exemption from gun regulations.
Judy didn’t just get the facts wrong. He also insisted on turning his attack against Hanauer into a larger diatribe against all Jews who support gun safety. “It’s like any Jewish people I meet who are anti-gun, I think, are you serious? Do you not remember what happened? …You come to this country and you support gun control? Why did you have to flee to this country in the first place?” Suggesting that he had a better grasp on Jewish history than Jews themselves, Judy added, “It’s really sad the level of understanding some people have of history and, like they say, if you don’t understand history, you’re doomed to repeat it.”
On Monday, the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle called on Judy to resign from his position with the NRA and apologize for his comments. In 2006, a shooter fired on the offices of the community group in an attack that left one dead and five injured. Cheryl Stumbo, who was badly wounded in the attack and now works for the I-594 group Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, said Washington needs “everyone working together” to make “our communities safer. Fringe ideas like Mr. Judy’s are part of the problem,” she added.
Will Freeman is an intern with Think Progress.