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From  Guns in American Society: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics, Culture, and the Law (ABC/Clio: 2d ed. 2012). 

By Paul Gallant and Joanne D. Eisen

The American Jewish Congress (AJC) is a lobbying, legal, and cultural organization; in recent years, the AJC has become a strong proponent of restrictive gun laws.

World War I had a profound effect on Jewish life in the U.S. The War was accompanied by a marked awakening of Jewish consciousness among those who had earlier stood aloof from their Jewish heritage. As the U.S. prepared to enter the War, a group of American Jews believed that a united American Jewish voice could best protect the convictions, desires and dreams of American Jewry. This resulted in a preliminary conference for an American Jewish Congress, held in Philadelphia in 1916. The first American Jewish Congress was convened in Philadelphia 's Metropolitan Opera House in December 1918. In 1920, Rabbi Stephen Wise was charged with the task of transforming the succession of haphazardly planned Jewish gatherings into a permanent organization intended to safeguard Jews everywhere--in the United States, overseas, and especially in what then was the British colony of Palestine. After the threat of Nazi Germany had passed, the AJC broadened its scope of activism to include extensive work on civil rights for blacks, and many other issues.

The AJC has a membership of 50,000. Its headquarters are in New York, and it maintains an Israeli office in Jerusalem. The AJC holds a convention every two years, at which time it sets the organization's agenda and elects a president who serves a 2‑year term. Policy is formulated in the interim by the AJC's Governing Council and the Executive Committee. The American Jewish Congress is sometimes confused with a separate group, the American Jewish Committee, which shares the same initials.

The centerpiece of AJC's anti-gun work is a petition campaign called "Stop the Guns: Protect our Kids!" The petitions demands that the U.S. Congress enact legislation to require that: 1. All gun buyers pass a government test in order to receive a license. 2. All guns be registered with the government. 3. Prospective gun buyers provide fingerprints and a photograph in order to receive a license. 4. Firearms manufacturers be "required to install safety devices to prevent accidental and inadvertent firing." 5. Licensing and registration rules which currently apply to retail firearms dealers be applied to all firearms transfers.

The petition campaign is supported by a variety of gun prohibition and gun control organizations, and AJC coordinates its work with other anti-gun lobbies, and works in a support of a wide variety of other proposed gun laws.

Opinion polls typically show that Jews are more supportive of gun control than are Gentiles, but some American Jews do not share the AJC's views on firearms ownership. For example, Jews for the Preservation of Firearm Ownership (JPFO) calls gun-control "victim disarmament", and charges that AJC's anti-gun activism undermines traditional Jewish values. JPFO believes that "Jews, like everyone else, have a duty to protect and defend themselves and their families against violence." According to JPFO, the AJC ignores both Jewish morality and the importance of armed self-defense, and from a historical perspective, that combination has been lethal for Jews.

For more information, contact:

American Jewish Congress

15 East 84th Street

New York, NY 10028



Jews for the Preservation of Firearm Ownership

P.O. Box 270143

Hartford, WI 53027




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