My long journey to TZP

The enemies of gun rights have been awfully quiet lately. Maybe that’s ominous. Maybe that means they’re Up To Something. (Well, of course they’re up to something; we can only hope that when it arrives it’ll be something typically, laughably ineffective.)

The enemies of Jews have been far from quiet lately, but we have Y.B. ben Avraham and Sheila Stokes-Begley to deal with them.

Which I admit sometimes makes me question “What am I doing here?” How did a goy with no known connection to Jews and Judaism end up helping to found an organization that’s all about Jews and the civil right to own and use firearms?

So since it’s quiet, I hope you won’t mind me taking a little ramble into the past.

It all started with Aaron Zelman (as so many things around here do). Sometime in the late 1990s, when it was far from certain that we were ever going to prevail against the victim disarmers, Aaron asked me to write for his (now late, lamented) Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership. I immediately disqualified myself: “But I’m not Jewish.”

It didn’t take long to learn that Aaron’s view was much broader than I realized. Yes, as a Jew who grew up in gun-friendly Arizona and eventually became a gun dealer, Aaron conceived a special mission to join with Jews to educate other Jews about the life-saving, even culture-saving power of firearms. But it was more than that. It was a belief (later expressed in everything from books like Dial 911 and Die to the the video documentary Innocents Betrayed) that vulnerable groups and individuals everywhere have a need, a right, and even a mission to defend themselves and other vulnerable people.

No matter whether those vulnerable populations are (or were) tribal minorities, religious minorities, independent farmers in the collectivizing Soviet Union, educated people in Pol Pot’s crazy Cambodia, political targets of Mao’s insane utopianism … or Jews under attack anywhere and any time.

(Besides that, Aaron was the kind of uncompromising, tell-it-like-it-is cuss I could both identify with and respect. But that’s another issue.)


I grew up in a nominally Christian home. While my parents themselves weren’t very religious, religion was a tool handy for rearing (so they hoped) obedient children. Ours was a hard religion. “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” not “Jesus loves the little children.” “Honor thy father and thy mother,” not “Love one another as I have loved you.” It was a religion of lakes of fire and eternal punishments and all the “good” people being suddenly raptured out, leaving brats (like you-know-who) parentless and alone in a hostile world if they didn’t watch their little steps and BEHAVE.

It was also — I’m sure you won’t be surprised — a religion in which Jews were “Jesus killers” and generally all-round bad people. I vividly recall my father sitting at the head of the dinner table, grousing about how those “K—s run the world.”

I didn’t actually know any Jews at the time (though I’m sure some of my schoolmates were Jewish and it was just a subject that never came up). By the time I knowingly met my first Jew, at 14, I was mildly surprised to learn they didn’t have fangs and drink the blood of infants. What do you know; regular people just like me.

But by then I was also figuring out that quite a lot of what I’d been raised with was, shall we say, exaggerated toward then negative.

As I matured, I increasingly questioned authority and identified with Outsiders, whoever and wherever they might be. And I learned the importance of self defense — not only physical defense, but also defense of the best that’s within us all — defense of the heart, mind, spirit, and intellect. I learned that ideas matter and that defending the right to think and act free of oppression is of the utmost importance, to individuals and to the fate of humanity.


Recently, a new book about Hitler has come out. Black Earth by Timothy Snyder explores Hitler’s views on — of all things — nature. Snyder’s thesis is (or so I’ve seen it summed up in reviews and interviews) that Hitler believed that nature — proper nature — was inherently, necessarily savage. It was only right that the animals with the sharpest claws, and the humans with the biggest guns, and the “races” with the biggest armaments and best strategies should dominate the weak, the “unfit.” It was a savage, circular, self-reinforcing worldview. A mad worldview. But no doubt envisioning himself as the toughest beast in for global forest, he loved it. And it drove his determination to rid the world of Jews.

Snyder says:

[W]hat Hitler does is he inverts; he reverses the whole way we think about ethics, and for that matter the whole way we think about science. What Hitler says is that abstract thought — whether it’s normative or whether it’s scientific — is inherently Jewish. There is in fact no way of thinking about the world, says Hitler, which allows us to see human beings as human beings. Any idea which allows us to see each other as human beings—whether it’s a social contract; whether it’s a legal contract; whether it’s working-class solidarity; whether it’s Christianity—all these ideas come from Jews. And so for people to be people, for people to return to their essence, for them to represent their race, as Hitler sees things, you have to strip away all those ideas. And the only way to strip away all those ideas is to eradicate the Jews. And if you eradicate the Jews, then the world snaps back into what Hitler sees as its primeval, correct state: Races struggles against each other, kill each other, starve each other to death, and try and take land.

In other words, Hitler hated Jews because, educated and cultured above the average “race,” Jews were attempting to raise all of humanity above nature’s savagery — through ideas, through rational thought, through art and literature and science.

This is an oversimplification. If you want to know more, here’s an article by Snyder and an interview with him.


Aaron used to love to regale me with information about the accomplishments of Jews, “We’re only X% of the population, but we make up XX% of all Nobel Prize winners. And XX% of stand-up comedians!”

Me, I’m a talentless dummy by comparison.

But I appreciate a people who want life to be something other than solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” And I weep at the tragedy that Jews have so often been targeted for hatred precisely because of the greatness within their culture — a greatness we’ve all benefited from.

So here I am, far from being either Jewish or expert in matters Jewish. Maybe I even come across to some as being silly for presuming to be here at TZP. But, thanks to Aaron (who’ll remain in my pantheon of heroes until the day I die), here I am.


6 thoughts on “My long journey to TZP”

  1. Just a wonderful walk down memory lane; thanks Claire. I bought everything I could find of Aaron’s writings at the old JPFO…. to me everything is priceless, and it’s difficult to think all is now fumes of memories.

    I, too, am not Jewish, but I do have to question why so many ‘real’ Jewish aren’t as supportive as us non -Jews ….stand up and stop letting folks ‘categorize’ with ALL this or that. Just gets so frustrating sometimes….but Aaron Zelman never did!
    That was the beauty of the man’s soul!

  2. Yes, there’s also an interesting brief interview with him by Dan Baum in his amusing road trip gun book Gun Guys, if I remember title correctly.

  3. Wonderful piece Claire. Been following you since your first revelation of the JPFO debacle and I’ve gone back and read much of your material from backwoods home. Thank you for your efforts there and with TZP. If you want to come over to the J side, we’ll take you. “Mine shall be a house of prayer for all people.” Isaiah 56:7

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