Yesterday, I responded to conservatives’ legal argument that the Second Amendment, which the Supreme Court has read to sort of create a right for individuals to own some firearms for the sole purpose of self-defense in the home, would make reasonable gun safety legislation–background checks, assault weapons bans, registration, buy backs, etc.–unconstitutional. Today, I would like to respond to the oft-repeated, yet profoundly offensive argument that because Hitler used gun control to oppress, persecute, and ultimately destroy Europe’s Jews, legislative steps toward gun safety are attempts by the State to pacify the populace and take away all our rights.
Hitler never said this meme. He lessoned gun controls by the previous leaders. He allowed more guns, to Nazis but denied them to jews/blacks pic.twitter.com/wEgsDZ5T3r
— Michelle Hairston (@hairmich42) October 3, 2017
Never mind that this argument was first peddled by Holocaust deniers decades ago. Never mind that it pops up after every gun massacre in this country on right-wing, fake news, incendiary websites. As a family friend once told me, just because someone denies the Holocaust doesn’t mean that they’re wrong about everything. (Let that statement sink in, by the way.). But, in this case, this argument is misleading and an insult to history, Jews, and all the Nazis’ victims.
Here’s the argument: The best way to take total control of a population is to monopolize power, force, and weaponry. So, to ensure that the Jews couldn’t fight back, Hitler took away their guns. In his 1994 book, the mouthpiece of the National Rifle Association (NRA), Wayne LaPierre, talked about this story quite a bit, writing: “In Germany, Jewish extermination began with the Nazi Weapon Law of 1938, signed by Adolf Hitler.” FOX News commentators, Joe “The Plumber”, and even an organization called Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (“America’s most aggressive defender of firearms ownership”) spread the Hitler-guns-Jews story.
Except it’s all a lie.
In the aftermath of World War I, the Weimar Republic passed a law in 1919 that basically banned all private gun ownership, which makes Weimar tougher on guns among the population than Hitler ever was. Hitler’s 1938 law, far from being a gun control measure, almost completely deregulated the use, possession, and sale of firearms, including ammunition. And anyone who was a member of the Nazi Party could buy, sell, use, possess, tinker with, and whatever else they could think of doing with guns. The one thing conservatives get right is that the 1938 law, as part of Hitler’s campaign to institutionalize discrimination and persecution of Jews, did prohibit Jews from owning guns. But far from using gun confiscation as a means of oppressing the populace, Hitler used mass gun ownership among the privileged — Aryans — to oppress minorities — Jews, gypsies, and gays. Hitler’s Aryan population used the guns Hitler let it have to trash Jewish-owned businesses, to rough up Jewish people on the street, and to engage in what were called pogroms in Russia.
This rings true today. In America, guns are often a tool that white, heterosexual males use to oppress others. Statistics show that most mass shooters also have a history of domestic violence. And white men are far more able to exercise their gun rights in this country than black men, some of whom are shot for having legal firearms. Queer persons are on the receiving end of gun violence at far higher rates than almost every other minority group, and those rates are increasing as we hear more about the deaths of transgender individuals every year.
The Hitler gun control myth is not just an insult to reality, it’s an insult to his victims. The notion that the Jews, whether in the Warsaw ghetto uprising or long before, could have used the rifles and handguns that were in the legitimate and black markets for guns to stop the SS from herding them like cattle to their deaths, is offensive. Hitler deployed military-trained units to destroy Europe’s Jews; handguns and rifles would not have made a dent. To suggest that it would have implies that the Jews had a path to resist the Nazis’ Final Solution. They didn’t. Nor would the Warsaw ghetto uprising have had a different result. Those resistors had guns, and still only managed to kill 20 Germans. More than 13,000 Jews were killed by Hitler’s forces by the end of the uprising, with the rest carted off to death camps.
This story, that Hitler’s taking away of gun from the Jews is a lesson against reasonable gun safety legislation, is peddled by everyone from Holocaust deniers as well as Jews themselves, not to mention by Republicans in Congress. It is, however, a canard, a misdirection away from the fact that Republicans in Congress are bought and paid for by the NRA and are comfortable with a lot of white Christians having guns. Notably, so was Hitler.