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Republican Party leaders finally called out Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene — a supporter of QAnon and the big lie about the 2020 election — after she compared health measures requiring facemasks, to Jews in the Holocaust forced to wear Stars of David. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the parallel “appalling,” while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called it “absolutely outrageous and reprehensible.” They and other GOP leaders have given no indication, however, that they will sanction Greene.
But the freshman congresswoman is hardly the only figure in the nation to have manipulated the Holocaust. The National Rifle Association, or at least its modern leaders led by its now embattled CEO, Wayne LaPierre, have long searched for “proof” that gun control is nothing more than a slippery slope to genocide. And in recent years, the NRA has manipulated the Holocaust to claim they finally found it, funding research that has allegedly discovered a new link between gun control and the Holocaust that generations of scholars have yet to find.
In 2013, the Anti-Defamation League said “Nazi Analogies Have No Place In Gun Control Debate” after a half dozen commentators including Sean Hannity and Judge Andrew Napolitano of Fox News out of the blue all raised the matter of gun control and the Holocaust.
“If the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto had had the firepower and the ammunition that the Nazis did, some of Poland might have stayed free and more persons would have survived the Holocaust,” claimed Napolitano.
It’s as if they were all laying the groundwork for the book, “Gun Control in The Third Reich: Disarming the Jews and ‘Enemies of the State,’” published later that year by the Independent Institute, a small think-tank in Oakland. Research for this book was partly funded by the NRA. Its author, Stephen P. Halbrook, is the nation’s best-known pro-gun lawyer. Several years before, during the watershed gun rights case Heller vs. District of Columbia that established that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep arms, Halbrook filed a successful amicus brief on behalf of 250 members of the House of Representatives, 55 senators, and the president of the Senate, then-Vice President Dick Cheney.
Halbrook’s thesis about gun control and the Holocaust is novel at best. Most Holocaust scholars, like Alan E. Steinweis, director of Holocaust studies at the University of Vermont, say that the idea that gun control was a factor in the Holocaust is “simply a nonissue.” But Halbrook claims that prior gun control laws during the Weimer Republic, or Germany’s democratic years before Hitler took power, were used to seize firearms from Jews, enough to have helped enable the Holocaust.
Never mind the weak evidence, the NRA’s house organ crowed about the book’s supposed breakthrough.
“Based on newly discovered secret documents from German archives, diaries and newspapers of the time,” the book “presents the definitive, yet hidden history of how the Nazi regime made use of gun control to disarm and repress its enemies and consolidate power,” read the NRA’s American Rifleman in the most glowing review. “While voluminous scholarship has documented the Third Reich and the Holocaust, this is the first thorough examination of the laws restricting firearm ownership that rendered Hitler’s political opponents, as well as the Jews, defenseless.”
The very same language is repeated by the Independent Institute in its website’s blurb for the book. The Washington Times also reviewed it, but notably hedged the book’s claim that gun control was a significant factor in the Holocaust. “There is no way to prove it,” Robert VerBruggen wrote of the book’s thesis, sidestepping whether the book’s evidence is sound, only noting that it provided an “extensive history” of the matter.
Halbrook even buried near the back of his book that he never found the evidence to prove his case. “Police reports listing weapons seized from Jews have been difficult to locate,” he wrote. He added that “such records may have been destroyed during the war,” which is hard to believe, as records of nearly every aspect of the Holocaust survived.
This thesis resonates more loudly today than many may realize. Taken at face value, it suggests that gun control laws like those the Democrats are trying to pass now could one day be used to confiscate arms, just like the Nazis allegedly did. If this same thesis fails to hold up, however, the best evidence gun rights advocates would have left to stop gun control would be the 1984 Hollywood movie “Red Dawn,” where Communist invaders use prior gun control lists to seize guns as they take over. But that, of course, is fiction.
Leaders of both parties have rightly spoken out against Rep. Greene’s disturbing comparison. But no one should get a pass for spinning the Holocaust to advance gun rights, either.
Smyth is the author of “The NRA: The Unauthorized History,”