Gun group’s webpage draws criticism for calling out rabbi who supported assault rifle ban

Ceasefire Oregon on Monday denounced a page on the Oregon Firearms Federation website that calls out to one of the main petitioners of a now defunct initiative to ban assault weapons in the state.

Under a reading title “Memorial page of Michael Z. Cahanahe names Rabbi Michael Cahana of the Beth Israel Reform Synagogue in Portland, along with graphic photos of the Holocaust. The post suggests that the murder of millions of Jews would not have happened if they had. been armed with such weapons.

“Cahana wants the state to have a monopoly on force. Apparently they don’t teach history in the Yeshivas anymore. So to you rabbi, we’ve seen this before,” the federation page says.

The federation, which bills itself as Oregon’s only no-compromise gun lobby, has opposed the initiative to ban assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. Ceasefire Oregon is advocating for and supporting gun control legislation.

“This is really what the Oregon Firearms Federation is all about, cruelty, hate and ignorance,” said Penny Okamoto, executive director of Ceasefire Oregon. “People need to be aware of this.”

Cahana, who is overseas, responded by email late Monday evening. He called the gun federation’s stance a “same kind of offensive ‘blame victim’ ideology that was adopted after Saturday’s massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

“As the child of a Holocaust survivor, I believe I know a lot more about the reality of the Holocaust than these hate providers,” wrote Cahana. “To suggest that the Holocaust could have been avoided if more people had guns is an insult to the memory of the six million Jews who died at the hands of the Nazi regime.”

Cahana, Rev. Alcena Boozer of St. Philip the Deacon Episcopal Church and Pastor Mark Knutson of the Augustana Lutheran Church tabled the initiative in the spring but withdrew it in late June.

Instead, Ceasefire Oregon and the “Lift Every Voice Oregon” Political Action Committee submitted legislative concepts for a ban on assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines for the 2019 legislative session, and are continuing. a similar initiative in 2020, Knutson mentioned.

Okamoto said she was aware the Firearms Federation posted something similar on her Facebook page months ago, but said she believed the group deleted it. She said she only recently learned that the page remains separate on the group’s website.

Kevin Starrett, executive director of the Oregon Firearms Federation, said he was keeping up with the times.

In an email, he wrote that he “highlights the horrific suffering of the Jews of Germany at the hands of the barbarians who first disarmed them and rendered them powerless.” He suggested the Portland rabbi “was determined to repeat it” with his petition. to ban assault weapons.

Starrett then reposted the page Monday on the Gun Federation’s Facebook page, referencing questions from The Oregonian / OregonLive asking for comment on this story.

“It highlights the horrors of what happens to people when the state disarms them and then considers them consumable,” he wrote. “This has been going on for months and we fully support it. We also support Trump’s comments on how armed people in the synagogue could have saved lives.”

President Donald J. Trump said the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday would have been different had there been an armed security guard there. A gunman opened fire inside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, a heavily Jewish neighborhood in Pittsburgh, killing 11 people and injuring several others, including police officers, while saying he wanted to “kill Jews”. He was armed with an AR-15 style assault rifle, a Glock, and two other handguns.

Pursuant to the initiative petition 43, the ban would have applied to certain semi-automatic rifles and pistols capable of containing removable magazines and other military-style elements, such as a folding butt or a grenade launcher. .

He also reportedly covered some semi-automatic shotguns. It included exemptions for military and law enforcement employees who are required to carry firearms and the retailers and manufacturers who supply these agencies.

Gun rights supporters successfully challenged the wording of the petition, saying it did not adequately describe the types of firearms prohibited by the extent or scope of its proposed registration requirements. . The Oregon Supreme Court ruled that the ballot title requires significant changes before the petition can be released.

Robert Horenstein, director of community relations for the Greater Portland Jewish Federation, called the gun federation page “disgusting.”

Judy Margles, director of the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education, condemned the page, calling it “an attack on human dignity in every way.”

“The vile imagination that produced this nightmarish page is devoid of human sympathy, hateful in its intentions, grotesque in its techniques and utterly reprehensible to any Oregonian who lives here in good faith,” said Margles. “This dishonest and deeply violent propaganda is fabricated under the worst possible conditions in bad faith, and therefore deserves condemnation in the strongest terms.”

Margles noted that the page insults Cahana by putting her rabbinical title in quotation marks.

“It contemptuously and dishonestly implies that Jewish educational institutions do not teach about their tragic past. It insults the millions of innocent people portrayed in the deplorable and disgusting photographs that turn into sadistic pornography intended to entice the viewer,” Margles said. “It appropriates the very term Holocaust itself for its own purposes, expropriating the slogan ‘never again’ – meant to commemorate 6,000,000 Jewish victims – and reworking it to apply to owners of ‘devices. ammunition supply ‘. “

Knutson said when he saw the Firearms Federation page on Cahana: “I was wondering ‘is this a marked man?’ ”

“It’s just ugly,” Knutson said Monday night, adding that state lawmakers who align with the gun federation should be held accountable.

–Maxine Bernstein

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