The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Ammo Company Fudges Facts and Taste to Sell Its Wares

By Leah Nelson on November 29, 2011 - 5:05 pm, Posted in Extremist Commerce, Extremist Propaganda

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.

  • Dave

    Hmmm…

    Disarm the folks you oppose, then rearm the ones you’ll need to help you oppose them.

    Also, your article is nearly exclusively about the Germans. Did you forget all the other governments that have chosen to disarm then “delete” the people they oppose.

  • Sam Molloy

    I’m no expert, Ramp Strike, but I tend to agree. Portugal supposedly decriminalized all drugs, and, the story goes, the same people did them and the same people did not do them.
    Re: The Third Reich: According to a 1940 US intel report that was published here in book form, the military personnel were the only ones allowed firearms. They were treated as the “elite”. Recruits from one area were kept together, they had regular train passes home, nobody did pushups over doggie doo, and even homosexuals were transferred quietly, as ” German men are so beautiful it is occasionally inevitable” .

  • http://www.twitter.com/AronL, Aron

    Ramp Strike,

    I appreciate your asking about this for me. And I’m very glad to hear you have such an enlightened view on the War on Drugs.

    Take care,

    Aron

  • Ramp strike

    Corrections isn’t my field, and I had a cursory chat with a person far more knowledgable than I today who did tell me that there were more drug offenders in some prisons than others, but that funding was such that the goal is to reduce the number of non-violent offenders so that the prison population would drop and focus on incarcerating violent and habitual offenders while making community based services available to the less dangerous offenders.

    The issue with drugs is that while an individual user may not be a problem, he or she is surrounded by a constellation of violence in the drug trade, from production to distribution to sales. My personal opinion is to pretty much decriminalize most all drugs and focus scarce cop dollars on violent crime, traffic safety and quality of life issues, while the drug using community goes through a decade of social Darwinism. It.ll be ugly for a while, but ideally drug related crime might, I repeat, might drop.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AronL, Aron

    Ramp Strike,

    You bring up a very good point. Many people appear to forget the enormous power of the USCMJ. It is, if anything, even stricter than the Federal Criminal Code. And the various Judge Advocates General take their jobs very, very seriously.

    As to your reference to the AB and MS13, I am curious. Are you saying that non-violent offenders would not be locked in the same wards? As an LEO, I trust you know a great deal more about this than I do :)

    And I’m genuinely interested to hear your answer.

    Thanks!

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Doremus, the gun laws under Hitler were more liberal than those in Germany today. Regardless of your friend’s experience, Germany had many hunting and shooting clubs.
    The government had such control over the populace that they had little to fear from an uprising. The 20th July 1944 plot attests to this.

    As for guns in socialist countries, all of what I said is backed up by tons of historical evidence. The revolution in Petrograd was saved by the distribution of arms to ordinary citizens.

  • Ramp strike

    Look up the prison demographics for the state you live in, then look at the offenders who get straight probation. You won’t find many nondangerous, nonviolent offenders sharing showers with the Aryan brotherhood or MS13. But ultimately, you are right, we put too many people in prison. So how many do you want released into your community? It is a quandary.

    My Lai and Abu Ghraib are great examples of military misconduct. They are also great examples of what happens when illegal orders are illegally followed: the military drops the full weight of the UCMJ on the miscreant and it’s off to the “disciplinary barracks.”

  • Doremus

    I smell an awful lot of revisionist history floating around here, and the question is, whose?

    I have a friend who is a Wehrmacht veteran. One of his many stories of the 1930s involves taking his own collection of guns and disposing of them secretly, because a relative in the SS warned him he would likely be killed if he was caught in possession of them.

    Unless this man who lived it has decided to adopt “mythology,” his story hardly suggests that gun control became more liberalized and relaxed under Adolph Hitler. It seems more likely that Hitler decided to “enforce existing laws” (a refrain of our own fascists) and “put some teeth” into them.

  • Sam Molloy

    Rampstrike, I’m sure the Po Po are also fed up with burglers and violent criminals running loose. If the prisons are unnecessarily overcrowded it’s due to simple drug offenders getting jail time in lieu of treatment and small time nonpayers of fines, taxes and child support being locked up instead of garnished into the woods. Debtors’ prisons were an aristocratic tradition that was supposed to be made illegal when this country was started.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    “As for gun owners resisting the US military, it’s mainly ludicrous because the US military is extremely unlikely to contain enough weak-willed individuals who would carry out blatantly illegal orders, no matter who they came from. POTUS could order the Marine sentry stationed at his helipad to strangle FLOTUS as she deplaned, and it isn’t going to happen.”

    Right, like when the American soldiers at Mai Lai refused to carry out the illegal orders they received, right? I think you underestimate the power of authority.

  • RampStrike

    Absolutely, sort of. Our “Catch & Release” legal system has one of the highest per-capita incarceration rates in the world, along with a commensurately high budget, while ironically, crime in general, including violent crime, has been on a steady descent over the last decade. At the same time, gun laws have been relaxing, and more states now permit citizens to carry concealed weapons than at any time in the last 200 years. Throw in the sunsetting of the Assault Weapon Ban of the 80′s, and you have to wonder how anyone could seriously consider the 2nd Amendment to be at risk. That dog just don’t hunt.

    I carry a gun constantly, because 1: I’m a cop, and because 2: there is a possibility that on my own time I or someone else may be exposed to violence that needs to be dynamically stopped. That possibility is incredibly remote, but I’d rather be prepared than not. I fully support anyone doing so, preferably with a background check and training.

    As for gun owners resisting the US military, it’s mainly ludicrous because the US military is extremely unlikely to contain enough weak-willed individuals who would carry out blatantly illegal orders, no matter who they came from. POTUS could order the Marine sentry stationed at his helipad to strangle FLOTUS as she deplaned, and it isn’t going to happen.

    Abnormal cases like the guns seized during Katrina are always held up as examples of an imminent government take-away of guns, but the claimants always seem to ignore the fact that the self-same government stopped it’s own actions, through the balance of powers and the utilization of the judiciary to control the actions of the executive.

  • Sam Molloy

    There are two distinctly different issues here. The idea that armed citizens could oppose the US military is, as Ruslan suggests, ludicrous. The right to carry defensive weapons, ideally with some training, against known convicted criminals allowed to roam free by a catch-and-release legal system, however, has merit.

  • Trace Williams

    Could you talk in a few more circles?

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    And Jeff, a few things need to be pointed out here. It is true that when Jews were forced into ghettoes they were not actively being exterminated(this began with Operation Barbarossa in 1941, authorized by the “Commissar Order”), but that doesn’t mean Jews weren’t dying in the ghettos due to starvation and the extremely overcrowded conditions. In addition to this, Nazi authorities could round up Jews for various work duties and had free reign to shoot them for virtually any reason.

    Second, you act as if the possession of private firearms would have somehow given the Jews the ability to resist Hitler, but this shows an extreme lack of insight in WWII history. As the war carried on, Eastern Europe was rife with partisan groups which were armed to the teeth, yet most of them were unable to defeat the Nazis on their own. In fact, the only country which managed to liberate itself was Albania, which had been practically abandoned. Everywhere else either the Red Army intervened or in the case of Greece, the British arrived(and disarmed and murdered the Communist partisans who had virtually liberated the country as the Germans were abandoning it).

    If these partisans, many of whom had prior military training, could not resist the Nazis enough to throw them out on their own, what makes you think untrained civilians with handguns, bolt action rifles, and shotguns could do so?

    Using the Holocaust to sell fear of gun control is ridiculous and disrespectful. ESPECIALLY considering that the Obama administration has yet to propose any gun control legislation and has actually signed into law bills allowing citizens to carry guns in National Parks and I believe on trains.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Go ahead and pit your 2nd Amendment rights against the US military some day. Nice knowing you.

  • Ian

    Gheen,

    “You left wing loons do realize that America’s 2nd Amendment rights and protections are the reason our citizens have never suffered under a genocidal dictator right?”

    I think some American Indians may dispute that.

    In any event, there are many lands with no gun control who have not had genocides. At the other end of the spectrum, neither Somalia nor Afghanistan are know for their strict gun control or their long history of peace in modern times.

  • RampStrike

    “William Gheen said,

    on December 1st, 2011 at 10:05 am

    You left wing loons do realize that America’s 2nd Amendment rights and protections are the reason our citizens have never suffered under a genocidal dictator right?”

    Huh? I thought we never suffered under a genocidal dictators was due to the Constitution, popular representation and the balance of power between the three branches of government, not just one Amendment to the original Constitution. I just can’t picture Calvin Coolidge somehow managing to seize sole and total control of the government and driving the public into serfdom.

    I own more guns than I can count, but this idea of them being “protection from tyranny” and for watering the tree of liberty with the blood of despots is ludicrous.

    If that IS the case, where were your types when American citizens of Asian ancestry were being detained in camps during WW2? Shouldn’t they have been able to rise up against their oppressors and fight their way to freedom?

  • http://www.twitter.com/AronL, Aron

    Also, I apologize for the rambling nature of my last post. I didn’t have time to go back and edit it for coherence.

    Aron

  • http://www.twitter.com/AronL, Aron

    Hey William and Jeff,

    There were plenty of guns for everyone in Rwanda, circa 1994. And they definitely prevented the Hutu from attempting to wipe out the Tutsi. Right?

    WRONG.

    Oh, wait. They’re just Africans. So they aren’t really people, anyway.

    (Also, I am almost certain that the vast majority of the firearms used in the Rwandan Civil War would be much less readily available here in the US. It’s not quite possible to trade a few scoops of rice for a select-fire Kalashninov in America, is it? Oh, wait. I forgot the 1968 Gun Control Act was written by Nazis. So it doesn’t really count. Nor does the National Firearms Act of 1934. Because it simply puts a limitation on the styles of weapons available for purchase.)

    Please feel free to respond. I would love to debate the eminent (snicker, snicker) William Gheen over the Second Amendment.

  • Leslie

    Why is it that the more guns people buy the more they say that the government is trying to take them away. If that was the case why hasn’t it happened yet? The irony is that the bullies who own guns say they need them for self-defense but really just want to coerce other people into buying firearms.

  • Jeff

    Come On. I am not generally a proponent of the gun rights group but your article does a disservice to intelligent debate. The tie in between the gun control opponents and the Nazi’s is clear. The Nazis sought to disarm the Jews before taking drastic steps which have since been called the holocaust. If Hitler had merely forced the Jews into Ghettos We wouldn’t be talking about a holocaust. It wasn’t until he took the steps to exterminate them that we speak of the holocaust. Now it may be that the registration; separation and isolation were steps in the process. But the point of the argument by the gun rights groups is that so was the disarming. To obfuscate the issue by speaking about easing gun rights to those who were not the object of the government’s aggression is misleading.

  • William Gheen

    You left wing loons do realize that America’s 2nd Amendment rights and protections are the reason our citizens have never suffered under a genocidal dictator right? By attacking folks like this, you literally are shooting yourselves in the foot politically. Without many of these freedom and patriot groups you could have another more efficient genocidal maniac like Stalin and Hitler.

  • Ian

    I had heard so much about the Hitler/gun control meme that I always assumed it was true.

    Great article.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    “Opposing gun control goes back to the American Revolution, when the “shot heard round the world” was fired in an engagement where the British were attempting to confiscate the arms of American Colonists.”

    They were trying to disarm a militia and had been informed they were in possession of several cannons, it’s a bit different. If the US government ever decided to crack down on its citizens(well, it already is in the case of the Occupy movement), the military would happily do the job and old Bubba with his Mini-14 and Gadsen flag would get seriously treaded on.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Ironically Hitler’s government regulations on guns were less restricted than those of post-war Germany, the Bolsheviks and various other Communist movements relied on militias and distribution of arms to civilians(like in Petrograd during the Civil War), and many Communist regimes relied on town militias in some cases till the very end. As for Pol Pot, who knows? But he definitely gave guns to a lot of people who shouldn’t have had them.

  • Jon

    @Donna In almost any state except California private citizens are allowed to have as high of capacity magazines as they desire, and private citizens are absolutely free to sell their firearms with or without licences, except with fully automatic weapons.

    I’ve got one thing to say other than that. Was Hitler stupid? He may have been insane, but he was overall very smart, except when he tried to play the part of a military commander. There was a reason for everything he did. He could quite easily see that if the Jews were armed, they would put up a fierce resistance when the Nazis came to round them up.

    While I don’t think that the government is going to start throwing American citizens in prison camps simply for their political views any time in the near future, it is important to keep Americans armed simply as a deterrent to any enemies of the Constitution. Opposing gun control goes back to the American Revolution, when the “shot heard round the world” was fired in an engagement where the British were attempting to confiscate the arms of American Colonists.

  • Leah Nelson

    @Jane Schiff,

    Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership would probably agree with that lawyer. Its website prominently features a “documentary” called “No Guns for Negroes,” whose page links to an article titled “The Racist Roots of Gun Control,” by pro-gun writer Clayton E Cramer, whose argument rests on upside-down logic similar to that used by JPFO regarding Jews’ access to firearms in Nazi Germany.

    Noting that, historically, blacks’ access to guns was restricted through explicitly racist (and now defunct) laws, Cramer concludes that all gun control laws have racist roots. But of course, the right to bear arms was hardly the only constitutional right blacks in America were once denied under explicitly racist laws. Cramer points out this exact fallacy himself, but then proceeds to pretend it doesn’t count.

    He writes: “Gun control advocates today are not so foolish as to openly promote racist laws, and so the question might be asked what relevance the racist past of gun control laws has. One concern is that the motivations for disarming blacks in the past are really not so different from the motivations for disarming law-abiding citizens today. In the last century, the official rhetoric in support of such laws was that ‘they’ were too violent, too untrustworthy, to be allowed weapons. Today, the same elitist rhetoric regards law-abiding Americans in the same way, as child-like creatures in need of guidance from the government. In the last century, while never openly admitted, one of the goals of disarming blacks was to make them more willing to accept various forms of economic oppression, including the sharecropping system, in which free blacks were reduced to an economic state not dramatically superior to the conditions of slavery.”

    But, he continues, “Today, the forces that push for gun control seem to be heavily (though not exclusively) allied with political factions that are committed to dramatic increases in taxation on the middle class. While it would be hyperbole to compare higher taxes on the middle class to the suffering and deprivation of sharecropping or slavery, the analogy of disarming those whom you wish to economically disadvantage, has a certain worrisome validity to it.”

    No, it doesn’t. There is no “worrisome validity” to Cramer’s argument whatsoever – unless you believe, as many members of the antigovernment “Patriot” movement do, that the federal government is secretly plotting to recast innocent, law-abiding white Americans as “the new Al Qaeda” (as Alex Jones put it earlier this year), take their guns, and enslave them.

    Of course, that hasn’t stopped Cramer’s idea from spreading – but then, the far-right antigovernment crowd has amply demonstrated its willingness to suspend disbelief and ignore long-form birth certificates, photographic evidence, and anything else that might serve to debunk its conspiracy theories.

  • Donna Sims

    The right wing militia guy in my neighborhood, Bill Looman/Oath Keeper and North Georgia Militia III% member, is selling guns and ammo on his own little gun site. He’s advertising guns with 30 round magazines which are, as far as I know, illegal for a private citizen. I don’t think he even has a license to sell this kind of stuff. These people are gun crazy and arming themselves to the teeth against the government and all “liberals”. Is it really legal for just anyone to be selling assault weapons and ammunition over the interent in bulk?

  • Jane Schiff

    Leah,in the mid 1990′s, I had a bizarre conversation with an atheist with a superficially Christian background who was a gun owner advocate, a white attorney in private practice who insisted in believing that gun control is intended to remove power specifically from African Americans. I believe that his recreational pursuit of all things “guns & ammo” clouded his thinking as evidenced by his belief about gun control.

  • Gregory

    A wingnut and his money are soon parted. There seems to be something about those with authoritarian mindsets that makes them susceptible to scams like this.