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Friday, August 5, 2005 | return to: news & features


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Top gun: Jewish woman, a Bay Area native, heads NRA

by joe eskenazi, staff writer

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Just as there are no atheists in the foxholes, there are no gun control advocates locked in their apartments with a large, menacing burglar attempting to batter his way in.

That was Sandra Froman's experience nearly two decades ago. Her shouting, banging on the wall and even cranking the stereo to 11 didn't scare off the would-be intruder, but he eventually proved inept enough at his chosen profession that he abandoned his effort to enter her domicile.

Still, the minutes of sheer terror left an impression on the San Mateo-born and raised Froman, and it would prove to be a life-altering moment.

"The next day, I went to the gun store. I didn't even know where the gun store was — I had to look in the Yellow Pages. I was determined to protect myself," said Froman, who became the National Rifle Association's first Jewish (and second female) president earlier this year.

Froman knew as much about guns as she did about crop rotation in Djibouti, so the gun store clerk suggested she take a safety course. In time, she became quite proficient with her Colt .45 1911 model semi-automatic handgun. Yet when she told a fellow lawyer at her firm she was going to the range to pop some holes in a target that weekend, he looked at her bug-eyed and voiced his opinion: "You're dangerous."

"So, the next time I was at a range, I asked why some people would react that way about guns. I was pretty naïve about politics. And the person at the range said if I wanted to learn about gun control, I should join the NRA," said Froman, at the time a lawyer living and practicing in Tucson, Ariz.

And, while the popular perception of the NRA might entail imagery of Charlton Heston brandishing a firearm and shouting " I have only five words for you — from my cold, dead hands!" Froman said there's plenty the public would be surprised to learn about the gun lobby.

For one, says Froman, she's not the only Jew. She estimates seven or eight of her fellow NRA board members (out of 76) are Jews. And it's not a solely Republican organization, either. Several Democratic members of Congress are prominent NRA members.

In the 20-odd years since a prowler inspired her to join the firearm-possessing community, Froman hasn't had another close call. But there have been times when she was glad to have a pistol in her pocket (Arizona has a liberal concealed weapon law, due in part to Froman's efforts).

There was a time when her car broke down in the middle of nowhere, and Froman was forced to make a call from a phone booth — literally the only light around for miles. When the same truck drove by for a second time, she would have been much more worried if she hadn't been armed.

Froman's second story involves her car breaking down yet again. She was forced to hitch a ride late at night, and was reassured by her concealed weapon once again.

When asked how the driver might have felt if he knew the stranger he allowed into his truck was carrying a gun, she noted that many Arizonans carry weapons and she "didn't show it or anything."

When it comes to gun control, Froman said she agrees with the Brady Center and other "anti-gun groups" in restricting firearm ownership among "criminals and the mentally defective."

And she points out that in order to buy a machine gun, one must undergo a laborious procedure including a background check and fingerprinting, but doesn't believe this kind of stringent procedure should be extended to semi-automatic weapons — many handguns are semi-automatic, she notes.

"We don't believe there's any need for that. And we also don't believe the Second Amendment would allow imposing those kind of restrictions. Semi-automatics are everywhere. People use them for hunting and competition," she said.

And for those who would crack down on the readily available military-style weapons that Froman and others collect, she claims that the vast majority of guns seized from criminals by police are piddly-dink .22 caliber handguns and bolt-action rifles — weapons so small and primitive even the Hatfields and McCoys would be embarrassed to brandish them at one another.

"If a criminal needs a firearm to commit a crime, he'll try to find the most easily available and least expensive firearm. He's not going to save up for a really cool gun," she said.

Many gun advocates dryly note that an armed society is a polite society. But Froman feels society doesn't need to be armed to be polite. Criminals just have to think anyone could have a gun — even the middle-aged Jewish lawyer ambling down a Tucson avenue.

"If you're a criminal, you want to prey upon victims who are not likely to resist.," she said.

"You're not going to the gun range to rob somebody. [In Arizona] we have a concealed weapon permit. A criminal could think, 'Here's a lady walking down the street. She could have a gun. Heck, she could be president of the NRA!'"


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