Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson's controversial comment -- that the number of people killed in the Holocaust “would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed” -- echoes an old conservative media talking point that has long been condemned as “historically inaccurate.”
Carson Suggested That Gun Rights Might Have Prevented The Holocaust
Ben Carson: The Outcome Of The Holocaust Would Have Been Different “If The People Had Been Armed.” During an October 8 interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Ben Carson was asked to explain statements about gun control he made in his recently-released book, A More Perfect Union: What We the People Can Do to Reclaim Out Constitutional Liberties. In the book and during the interview, Carson used the Holocaust “as a cautionary tale against curbing citizens' gun rights,” claiming the number of victims killed “would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed,” according to The Washington Post:
Ben Carson said Thursday that Adolf Hitler's mass murder of Jews “would have been greatly diminished” if German citizens had not been disarmed by the Nazi regime.
The comment, which came during an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, was similar to arguments Carson made following last week's mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., in which he defended the Second Amendment and suggested that the victims should have fought the gunman.
His comments about gun control in Nazi Germany are explored in his just-released book, “A More Perfect Union: What We the People Can Do to Reclaim Our Constitutional Liberties,” in which he expands on his political views.
He said Nazi Germany was one of the regimes that he used as a cautionary tale against curbing citizens' gun rights.
“But just clarify, if there had been no gun control laws in Europe at that time, would 6 million Jews have been slaughtered?” Blitzer asked.
“I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed,” Carson said.
Blitzer pushed a bit more: “Because they had a powerful military machine, as you know, the Nazis.”
“I understand that,” Carson said. “I'm telling you that there is a reason that these dictatorial people take the guns first.” [The Washington Post, 10/8/15]
Carson Later Doubled-Down On Tying Holocaust To Gun Control. Carson doubled-down on his assertion that gun control efforts contributed to the Holocaust during an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC's Good Morning America. Responding to the Anti-Defamation League, which called Carson's comments “historically inaccurate,” Carson claimed that criticism of his comments were “total foolishness.” As Politico reported:
Ben Carson pushed back against criticism from the Anti-Defamation League on Friday that his remark that the Holocaust would have been less deadly had German Jews been armed was “historically inaccurate.”
“Ben Carson has a right to his views on gun control, but the notion that Hitler's gun-control policy contributed to the Holocaust is historically inaccurate,” ADL national director Jonathan Greenblatt said, according to ABC News. “The small number of personal firearms available to Germany's Jews in 1938 could in no way have stopped the totalitarian power of the Nazi German state.”
Carson, speaking with George Stephanopoulos ABC's “Good Morning America,” called the response “total foolishness.”
“I'd be happy to discuss that in depth with anybody. But it is well known that in many places where tyranny has taken over, they first disarmed the people. There's a reason that they disarm people. They don't just do it arbitrarily,” he said. [Politico, 10/9/15]
Carson's Statement Echoes Conservative Media Talking Point Tying Gun Control Efforts To The Holocaust
Fox's Andrew Napolitano: “If The Jews In The Warsaw Ghetto” Had More Guns, “More Persons Would Have Survived The Holocaust.” In a January 2013 opinion piece for FoxNews.com, network senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano argued against gun control efforts by claiming that had “the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto” had more guns, “some of Poland might have stayed free and more persons would have survived the Holocaust”:
The historical reality of the Second Amendment's protection of the right to keep and bear arms is not that it protects the right to shoot deer. It protects the right to shoot tyrants, and it protects the right to shoot at them effectively, thus, with the same instruments they would use upon us. If the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto had had the firepower and ammunition that the Nazis did, some of Poland might have stayed free and more persons would have survived the Holocaust. [Foxnews.com, 1/10/13]
John Rocker: “The Holocaust Would Have Never Taken Place Had The Jewish Citizenry ... Had The Right To Bear Arms.” Writing for conservative website World Net Daily in January 2013, John Rocker argued that Obama's gun control efforts were similar to acts by Hitler, China' Mao Zedong, and Russia's Josef Stalin, claiming that people can agree on “the undeniable fact that the Holocaust would have never taken place had the Jewish citizenry of Hitler's Germany had the right to bear arms and defended themselves with those arms”:
Mr. Obama wants to severely neuter the Second Amendment and disarm the law-abiding citizens of this nation, a similar act of tyrants throughout the 20th century such as Stalin, Mao and Hitler. Absolute certainties are a rare thing in this life, but one I think can be collectively agreed upon is the undeniable fact that the Holocaust would have never taken place had the Jewish citizenry of Hitler's Germany had the right to bear arms and defended themselves with those arms. [World Net Daily, 1/14/13]
NRA's Wayne LaPierre Connected Gun Control To The Holocaust In His 1994 Book. As Alex Seitz-Wald explained for Salon, NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre “dwelled on” tying Hitler to gun control “at length” in his 1994 book:
In his 1994 book, NRA head Wayne LaPierre dwelled on the Hitler meme at length, writing: “In Germany, Jewish extermination began with the Nazi Weapon Law of 1938, signed by Adolf Hitler.”
And it makes a certain amount of intuitive sense: If you're going to impose a brutal authoritarian regime on your populace, better to disarm them first so they can't fight back.
Unfortunately for LaPierre et al., the notion that Hitler confiscated everyone's guns is mostly bogus. And the ancillary claim that Jews could have stopped the Holocaust with more guns doesn't make any sense at all if you think about it for more than a minute. [Salon, 1/11/13]
Conservative Media Figures Have Previously Been Condemned For Promoting “Incredibly Insensitive” And “Historically Inaccurate” Claim That More Guns Could Have Prevented The Holocaust
The Anti-Defamation League Called Such Comments “Historically Inaccurate,” And “Incredibly Insensitive.” When the argument was made in 2013 that more guns could have prevented the Holocaust, the Anti-Defamation League called such comments “historically inaccurate,” “incredibly insensitive,” and pushed back on the claim, noting, “in no way could armed people have stopped the totalitarian power of the Nazi State”:
The Anti-Defamation League “has always strenuously objected to the use of Nazi analogies to advance any kind of political debate, including the gun control debate,” said Deborah Lauter, the group's civil rights director. “We believe it's historically inaccurate and incredibly insensitive, particularly to Holocaust survivors and their families.”
Beyond that, she said, it's just a false comparison.
“In no way could armed people have stopped the totalitarian power of the Nazi state,” she said, noting that some European Jews had access to a small number of firearms. “There could be symbolic resistance, as we saw in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, but it would not have stopped the Nazis.” [Huffington Post, 2/7/13]