The political spectacle of Rep. John Lewis leading a Democratic sit-in on the House floor June 22 and 23 accomplished at least one thing: It brought new light to the Anti-Defamation League’s support for gun control.
ADL has always been the organization standing on the front lines against anti-Semitism in all its invidious forms, and it makes sense that the organization’s century-old mission to oppose the defamation of the Jewish people has expanded to battle all forms of discrimination and to defend civil rights in general.
That’s why I was surprised when I saw ADL cheering on the gun control sit-in.
On Facebook, ADL thanked Lewis, then urged its followers to share a “Disarm Hate” image with the message “SHARE in support of the sit-in on the House floor in support of gun safety measures. #DisarmHate #HoldtheFloor.”
ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted: “Wow. Inspiring. Thank you @repjohnlewis for leading charge to #disarmhate on House floor 2day #NoBillNoBreak.”
Normally, I’d call ADL Southeast Region Director Mark Moskowitz, but even though the sit-in was being led by an Atlanta lawmaker, ADL Southeast stayed silent on guns. Instead, the ADL Southeast Twitter feed and Facebook page focused on the annual anti-Semitism report released the day the sit-in started (see Page 1) and the ongoing struggles for a restored Voting Rights Act and hate crimes laws in all 50 states.
I tried to ask the national ADL office why it jumped into the gun control argument and thus buried its own news about the latest anti-Semitism trends in the United States — the issue upon which B’nai B’rith founded ADL in 1913.
But ADL did not respond to a phone message or an email, so I have no explanation for the organization’s priorities during a week packed with news of ADL interest, including the 50th anniversary of the murders of voting rights workers in Mississippi, the first anniversary of the Charleston church shooting, and Supreme Court rulings on affirmative action, immigration and police searches.
Gun control is not a new ADL issue, according to its website. It has favored increased regulation of gun sales since 1967 in recognition of a pervasive culture of guns and violence among extremists — the hate groups ADL confronts every day.
Its policy recommendations include expanded background checks to cover all purchases of firearms and ammunition, waiting periods for such purchases, and more research into gun violence.
ADL also has actively challenged efforts to compare gun control advocates to the Nazis or to suggest that if only the Jews had been armed, they could have stopped the Holocaust.
It’s understandable how ADL’s anti-hate mission led to a quest for action against gun violence, and one of the two bills being advocated at the sit-in matched ADL’s call for expanded background checks.
It’s the second measure that presents a conflict with ADL’s place as a civil rights organization: a proposal to bar anyone on the no-fly list from buying a gun.
Criticism of that bill came from across the political spectrum because the existence of that list, let alone its use to limit rights, is a constitutional nightmare. We don’t know how many people are on it or why, and once you’re on it, it’s all but impossible to get off it. You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to fear the abuse of such a list, which involves no burden of proof by the government.
ADL does a lot of good work. Even though I disagree with some of its priorities, particularly regarding hate crimes laws, I appreciate its intentions and the consistency of its goals. But the organization is firing far off target when it blindly supports any gun control proposal under the cover of disarming hate.