Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition! When it comes to finding bargains for its subscribers, the team at WorldNetDaily, Joseph Farah’s conspiracy-mongering online publication, is never at a loss. Yesterday, in an E-mail titled “Gun Control Imminent – Stock Up Now!” they offered up a real sweetheart: “Burnin Hot Deals” from USA Ammo (motto: “Ammunition with Attitude”), which is offering a free Hat, T-Shirt, & DVD with every gift card purchase.
The ammo supplier has some useful information for those who’ve been putting off their gun purchases.
“USAAmmo.com believes tyranny is knocking down the doors of American cities daily,” the ad confides. “The recent Occupy Wall Street protests and liberal attempts at gun control are eerily reminiscent to [sic] the rise of Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot and Idi Amin. Barack Obama and Erick [sic] Holder, gun control advocates, are secretly conspiring to strip American Citizens of the right to bear arms.”
To the right of this text lies a black-and white photo of starving concentration camp survivors lying side-by-side on wooden bunks. It is labeled “Victims of Gun Control,” and links to a YouTube video titled “Stop Gun Control.”
Uploaded by “teamUSAammo,” this 4-minute acme of tastelessness begins with black-and-white stills of victims of genocides and state-sponsored mass murders from Armenia, the Soviet Union, China, Germany, Cambodia, Guatemala and Uganda, backed by a mournful a cappella rendering of a World War II-era Yiddish song (translated into English) about Jews being dragged to the Nazi death camp at Treblinka.
Two minutes in, the music switches to a riff-laden metal anthem, which backs brightly colored images of sniper rifles, bullets, and other items on offer at USAAmmo.com.
“More than 60-million defenseless citizens have been subjected to genocide and tyrannical governments. Governments render their citizens defenseless with GUN CONTROL!” it screams in giant black letters. “Liberty is perpetuated by armed citizens. An armed citizen can defend himself against threat and foe. The defenseless are subject to enslavement, imprisonment and annihilation.”
The ad ends with a plug for a US Ammo gift certificate, pictured against a background of gracefully falling bullets and the warning: “Get them something they’ll love BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!!”
The idea that Hitler was a gun control fanatic has been floating around for decades and pops up all over the far-right universe. Arguably, the man who did the most to popularize it was the late Aaron Zelman, founder of a Wisconsin-based nonprofit called Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (JPFO), which touts itself as “America’s Most Aggressive Defender of Firearms Ownership.”
Zelman’s most outrageous claim, outlined at length in his 1993 book ‘Gun Control’: Gateway to Tyranny, was that the 1968 Gun Control Act was explicitly based on Hitler’s gun laws. Summing things up a 2009 interview with The New American, a magazine published by the far-right conspiracist John Birch Society, he said: “The author of the federal Gun Control Act, Senator Thomas Dodd, was an attorney with the U.S. Justice Department at Nuremburg. He obtained the Reichsgesetzblatt, which is the German equivalent of our Federal Register. He was able to use the German gun-control laws after giving them to the Library of Congress to translate for him. They did indeed translate the laws for him, and that was the model, the basis, for the 1968 Gun Control Act in America.”
Zelman died in 2010, but his legacy lives on. USA Ammo’s YouTube commercial, for instance, is obviously based on JPFO’s “Genocide Chart,” which purports to show that the state-sanctioned mass murders and genocides in Ottoman Turkey, the USSR, Nazi Germany, China (under both Chiang Kai-Shek and Mao), Guatemala, Uganda, Cambodia, and Rwanda were all caused by variations on gun control laws. Touted on the JPFO website as “The Mother of All Stats,” the chart concludes that tens of millions died as a result of gun control, not least among them the victims of Hitler’s reign.
Obviously, this is lunacy. But is there even a kernel of truth to the idea that Hitler’s gun control laws somehow allowed the Holocaust to happen?
The answer is more nuanced than a simple “no.” In 1938, one day after Kristallnacht (a state-sanctioned pogrom that led to the burning of synagogues, destruction of Jewish businesses and property, and is generally considered to have been the beginning of a new phase of anti-Jewish violence), the German government issued a decree banning Jews from “acquiring, possessing, and carrying firearms and ammunition, as well as truncheons or stabbing weapons,” and requiring those who owned such weapons to turn them in to authorities. The punishment was imprisonment.
Indisputably, then, the Nazis opposed ownership of guns by Jews. But – as hardly needs to be said – Nazis opposed Jews in general, and laws designed to disenfranchise and drive them out of Germany were implemented long before 1938, when the genocide began in earnest.
Moreover, gun control in Germany did not begin under the Nazis. In fact, except for bans on gun ownership by Jews and other perceived enemies, experts generally agree that the Third Reich’s gun laws were overall more relaxed than those enacted under its predecessor government, the Weimar Republic.
Bernard Harcourt, a political science professor at the University of Chicago, traced the evolution of German guns laws between 1919 and 1938 in an excellent 2004 working paper, “On Gun Registration, the NRA, Adolf Hitler, and Nazi Gun Laws: Exploding the Gun Culture Wars.” Harcourt notes that the Weimar Republic, reflecting the Treaty of Versailles’ “draconian” restrictions on weapons possession, banned gun ownership outright in 1919. Its gun laws were relaxed in 1928, but continued to require that all weapons be registered. The 1938 weapons law enacted under Hitler “represented a further liberalization of gun control regulations” [emphasis added] – deregulating the acquisition and sales of guns and ammunition, exempting entire groups from the permit requirement, lowering the age at which it was legal to own a gun from 20 to 18, and extending the validity of permits from one to three years.
“[W]ith regard to disarming the Jews, there is no dispute that the Nazis did disarm the Jews aggressively,” Harcourt concluded. But “Hitler intended to liberalize gun control laws in Germany for ‘trustworthy’ German citizens, while disarming ‘unreliable’ persons, especially opponents of National Socialism and Jews, [so] [i]t is absurd to even try to characterize this as either pro-or anti-gun control. But if forced to, it seems fair to conclude – at least preliminarily – that the Nazis were in favor of less gun control than the Weimar Republic for the ‘trustworthy’ German citizen – while disarming and engaging in a genocide of the Jewish population.”
Such realities haven’t stopped pro-gun heavyweights from playing the Hitler card. Larry Pratt, a gun rights absolutist whose Gun Owners of America (GOA) has been described as “eight lanes to the right” of the National Rifle Association, has happily endorsed the meme. Incredibly, Pratt – who was famously ejected from his position as co-chairman of Pat Buchanan’s 1996 presidential campaign for associating with professional racists and anti-Semites like the late Christian Identity minister Peter J. Peters – was pals with Zelman, appearing with him on the conspiracist Alex Jones’ Internet TV show, endorsing his books, and collaborating with him and other antigovernment “Patriots” on various projects. On the more moderate end of things, Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, has lamented the failure to address the role of gun control in the Holocaust, as has Dave Kopel, a pro-gun columnist and head of the Second Amendment Project.
Though the idea that Hitler was a gun control fanatic fits with the antigovernment Patriot agenda to recast him as a “leftist” and slot him neatly into place as an inspiration for a secret plot – possibly involving President Obama – to incarcerate ordinary Americans and implement a New World Order controlled by bankers and “elites,” the facts simply don’t fit. The Holocaust didn’t happen because Jews didn’t have guns. Jews (and others considered “enemies” of the Nazi state) didn’t have guns – or any civil or human rights – because the Nazis were systematically implementing a program aimed at exterminating them entirely.