Fake news is very much of the moment right now.
But it has existed since biblical times. As we read a few weeks ago in parasha Shelach, Moses sent spies to reconnoiter the land of Israel and they returned with “fake news” about invincible giants. That condemned the Israelites to spend 40 years in the desert.
Medieval times brought the blood libel, and later came the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” both of which are still very much with us. We all are familiar with the words of the Nazi propaganda director Joseph Goebbels, who proclaimed, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
One of the greatest and most damaging lies being perpetuated right now is the interpretation of the second amendment to our Constitution, which claims that it authorizes personal use of guns and other weaponry. Only three weeks ago, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and the newly appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote that the framers of the Constitution “made a clear choice. They reserved to all Americans the right to bear arms for self defense… We should not stand idly by while a state denies its citizens that right…”
It is offensive that the two justices chose the phrase “stand idly by.” That’s the motto chosen by the gun control group headed by Rabbi Joel Mosbacher, the former leader of Beth Haverim Shir Shalom in Mahwah. It comes from Leviticus 19:16 and was intended to teach compassion, not murder.
It is more offensive that the term is used to support the “fake news” propagated by arms manufacturers and the NRA, which claims that meaning for the second amendment. In fact, that was never the case until the passage of the 1938 National Firearms act, which cut into the profits of the gun manufacturers. Their campaign of “fake news” was so efficient that even the proponents of gun control believe it.
Here is the truth, as stated in the “Federal Textbook on Citizenship: Rights of the People Book 2.” It’s a primer, printed in 1943, for public school students who were candidates for naturalization, printed by the U.S. printing office in 1943.
The booklet tells us (with italics added for emphasis): “The Second Amendment protects our right to carry arms in the National Guard. The National Guard keeps order and protects property within a State. In wartime it is part of the United States Army. The amendment does not say that everyone has the right to use guns.”
Sophie Heymann of Closter and her family escaped from Nazi Europe in 1938. She earned a B.A. at Hunter College and an MBA at NYU, partnered with her husband at Abeles and Heymann, Inc., and has been an active volunteer in Closter for more than 60 years, including eight years as mayor.