One of Europe’s most prominent Jewish organizations is petitioning the European Union to pass new legislation that would permit Jewish community members to carry guns "for the essential protection of their communities," according to a letter obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
The European Jewish Association (EJA), which represents Jewish communities across Europe, says that gun license laws must be altered following a string of deadly attacks on Jews in France and other European countries, where anti-Semitism has been growing at an alarming rate.
The recent attacks, including one on a Kosher market that killed four, "have revealed the urgent need to stop talking and start acting" in a way that empowers Europe’s Jews, according to a letter sent Tuesday by EJA General Director Rabbi Menachem Margolin to EU leaders.
The EU, which has enacted very stringent gun control laws, should empower and train Jews to be proficient with guns in order to maintain their safety, according to Margolin.
"The Paris attacks, as well as the many challenges and threats which have been presented to the European Jewish community in recent years, have revealed the urgent need to stop talking and start acting," Margolin writes.
"We hereby ask that gun licensing laws are reviewed with immediate effect to allow designated people in the Jewish communities and institutions to own weapons for the essential protection of their communities, as well as receiving the necessary training to protect their members from potential terror attacks."
Margolin told the Free Beacon that he and the EJA have been warning for "a very long time" that anti-Semitism is growing in Europe and that it poses a direct threat to the continent’s Jewish population.
There has been a "dramatic increase of anti-Semitism in Europe," Margolin said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. "We demanded from the European governments some time ago that action should be taken [and] were not surprised to see the results in Paris."
Many Jews are living in fear and have shunned popular community outposts such as synagogues and kosher markets out of fear of an attack like that in Paris.
"Many people today are not coming to synagogue because of the issue and they’d be more comfortable if they knew people were trained to react in an emergency," Margolin said.
Attacks against Jews have been on the rise, as neo-Nazi parties and other anti-Semitic organizations gain a foothold in some European nations. However, the growth of anti-Semitism has not always been acknowledged by leaders.
"We need to recognize the warning signs of anti-Semitism, racism, and intolerance that once again threaten Europe and our European ideals," Margolin wrote in his letter to the EU.
The situation cannot continue as it is, Margolin insisted.
Jewish community representatives should be armed and on guard at Kosher markets and synagogues, he said.
"We realize that we also have to do something to take responsibility in case it takes too long" for authorities to put the proper defenses into place, Margolin explained.
This would include stationing armed Jewish community members at popular hubs.
Meanwhile, extremists who have travelled to countries such as Syria, where they train alongside the Islamic State and other terror groups, are now returning home to Europe, where they pose a direct threat to Jews, according to the letter
"The European Jewish Association has long and publicly warned European governments of the need to clamp down firmly on any and all acts of terror wherever and whenever they arise," the letter says. "As you know, the danger is that much greater as many Europeans travel abroad to be indoctrinated into radical Islam, before returning to their European homelands to use their militant training to devastating effect."
Any changes to the gun laws can be made in a safe and effective way, Margolin argues.
"Let there be no doubt, we are asking that all weapons will be issued for self-protection only, and to designated personnel that will undergo thorough investigation and training by local authorities," he wrote.
Margolin said that he is currently in negotiations with EU leaders to relax certain gun restrictions, though some remain hesitant to do so.
"Some people are afraid it might bring the situation to be uncontrolled," he said, noting that negotiations on the matter would include ways to ensure Jewish community members are properly trained to use weapons.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said that while guns could help Jews defend themselves against an individual attack, only authorities can protect them against a mass attack like those carried out in France.
"As to personally being armed, such a move could help when a Jewish person is threatened by thugs, but won't help if G-d forbid, Charlie-type terror attacks are launched," Cooper said.
"Bottom line: Only the Police and intelligence can protect France's Jews from terrorism," Cooper said, noting that it is expected French authorities will continue boosting defenses. "If the government doesn't, then there is no long range future for Jews there."
"In the meantime, additional steps by the community to train and defend Jews from hate attacks are appropriate, necessary, and prudent," Cooper said. "I pray that all these steps will help."