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The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning a gun-control law is being criticized by several Jewish groups. In a 5-4 decision announced Thursday, the court struck down the District of Columbia’s ban on owning handguns for self-defense, which was the strictest gun-control law in the country. Several organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress and the National Council of Jewish Women, issued statements criticizing the decision. The three organizations, along with the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, had signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief in the District of Columbia v. Heller case. “The culture of guns and violence is pervasive among extremists,” said Glen S. Lewy, the ADL’s national chair, and Abraham Foxman, its national director, in a joint statement. “This decision places our communities — and the law enforcement officers that protect them — at greater risk of violence.” Even while criticizing the decision, Jeffrey Sinensky, the AJC’s general counsel, said that while the court had determined that U.S. citizens have a private right to own and keep handguns for hunting and self-defense, its decision “does not impair the ability of local and state governments to pass sensible and effective gun control laws which protect citizens.” The NCJW struck a more alarming note, with its president, Nancy Ratzan, warning that the decision “overturns the basis for two centuries of government regulation of firearms” and could spark challenges. At least one Jewish group — Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership — praised the decision.

“The decision clearly and unambiguously establishes the strong and fundamental nature of the individual right to keep and bear arms,” the group announced on its Web site. It also stressed the court’s insistence that “its decision should not be read to cast doubt on such laws as longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons or the mentally ill, or in such sensitive places as schools or government buildings and the like.”

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