A new Jewish pro-gun group: The Zelman Partisans

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Published: Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 1:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 1:50 p.m.

Aaron Zelman was a titan within the gun-rights community.

Aaron Zelman Founder and guiding spirit of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (JPFO), 1989-2010. Photo Provided by The Zelman Partisans

Aaron Zelman Founder and guiding spirit of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (JPFO), 1989-2010. Photo Provided by The Zelman Partisans

The group he founded in 1989 — Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership — mimicked his bold, uncompromising personality and his truth-telling style.

Zelman and the JPFO called out anti-gun politicians, many of whom represented districts in the Northeast. He had a loud, powerful voice lawmakers learned to respect if not fear.

Some of Zelman’s tactics, though effective, could appear controversial to the uninitiated.

He once paired a picture of a saluting Adolf Hitler with the caption: “All those in favor of gun control raise your right hand.”

A classic, that.

Zelman never compromised in his support of the Second Amendment, or any other amendment, and his members loved him for it.

I had the honor of interviewing him a couple of times. In a world accustomed to politically correct double-speak, he always spoke his mind. You always knew exactly where he stood on an issue.

When Zelman died in 2010, of course, the JPFO foundered organizationally and financially. How could it not? Fundraising and staffing problems worsened. The group’s very survival became in doubt.

In August, the JPFO board of directors opted to merge with the Second Amendment Foundation — an educational and legal-action nonprofit with 650,000 members, focused on protecting the right to keep and bear arms.

According to an announcement on its website, the JPFO would still be “operated independently” by the Second Amendment Foundation. However, moves such as this nearly always spawn controversy and acrimony, especially since one man’s merger is another’s hostile takeover.

Dissatisfied with the merger, one group of former JPFO staffers quit and formed their own gun-rights group: The Zelman Partisans.

I think their namesake would appreciate the group’s motto: “Jews. Guns. No compromise. No surrender.”

He’d also like their logo, which features the Star of David, an M4 carbine and a K98 Mauser, the rifle Jewish resistance fighters used against their Nazi oppressors in the Warsaw ghetto.

Sheila Stokes-Begley, one of five co-founders of The Zelman Partisans, has served in regional and state Second Amendment advocacy groups since 2003. She was recruited by the JPFO in July, and served as its director of public relations until it became part of the Second Amendment Foundation.

“Our goal is to carry on Aaron’s legacy,” she said Monday. “The country is in too precarious a position to not have a strong Second Amendment group laying it all out there.”

While her group’s website began as a blog — there’s no to-join button to click yet — Stokes-Begley expects it will become a full-fledged national gun group within a month.

“The response has been overwhelming,” she said. “People want to join. People want T-shirts. I truly think God has his hand on this.”

She and the other co-founders remember the days when Zelman was at the helm. It’s what they’re trying to emulate.

“The JPFO did not back down. It did not shut up. It did not give in,” she said. “They did some amazing research. They were hardcore and just told the truth. It was a group that really took all of the Bill of Rights very seriously.”

I think the gun-rights community is certainly large enough and broad enough to support another pro-gun group, especially one that bases its goals and mission on the good works of Aaron Zelman.

If we don’t run into each other at the range, you can reach me at (941) 361-4975, by email at lee.williams@heraldtribune.com or by regular mail, 1741 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can also follow me on social media at www.facebook.com/TheGunWriter or www.Twitter.com/

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About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.