Presidential hopeful Ben Carson chose Thursday, the most violent day of the week-long spate of terror attacks in Jerusalem, to make an argument connecting gun control and the Holocaust.
It is a long touted trope, which has been thoroughly repudiated by scholars, that Jews fell victim to the Nazis because they did not have proper means to protect themselves in World War II.
Nevermind that Germany’s strict gun laws date to 1919, were the result of the Treaty of Versailles, predated the rise of Hitler, and were actually loosened under Hitler’s reign. Nevermind that the largest known example of Nazi resistance, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, saw armed Jews try and ultimately fail to defend themselves and their families due to the unmatched numbers of the SS. Nevermind that Israel, the globe’s largest single population of Holocaust survivors, is a place where it is incredibly difficult to purchase a gun. Nevermind that the fate of European Jewry in the 1930s was arguably decided not by bullets, but by a largely silent civilian public.
“I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed,” Carson told Wolf Blitzer, a Jew, this afternoon. “I’m telling you there is a reason these dictatorial people take the guns first.”
Blitzer was questioning Carson about a section of the Republican surgeon’s new book, out this week, that states: “German Citizens were disarmed by their government in the late 1930s and by the mid 1940s Hitler’s regime had mercilessly slaughtered six million Jews and numerous others whom they considered inferior.”
Hitler comments at 6:50 mark
The interview came as the GOP candidate has been called to task for remarks he made following last week’s Oregon campus shooting–statements that many have characterized as insensitive–in which some argue Carson implied victims of the mass shooting did not do enough to protect themselves and others.
“Not only would I probably not cooperate with him [the shooter], I would not just stand there and let him shoot me. I would say, ‘Hey, guys, everybody attack him! He may shoot me but he can’t get us all.'”
On Sirius XM Radio yesterday, however, Carson painted a different image of himself than the hypothetical hero he purports to be.
“I have had a gun held on me when I was in a Popeye’s organization…Guy comes in, put the gun in my ribs. And I just said, ‘I believe that you want the guy behind the counter.'”
The Nazi gun control theory is a popular one among 2nd Amendment enthusiasts in the US and is commonly considered a strategy to win emotional support by appropriating the communal history of the Jews. In short, it is not the done thing.
Last week, Carson’s campaign manager Barry Bennett told ABC News that his candidate would at some point back off Holocaust comparisons, which the good doctor is obviously quite fond of: “It’s an example [Carson] has been using for years and to be honest with you he needs to find a better example because the problem is as soon as you say Hitler, nobody hears anything else you say.”
Perhaps if Carson does recede from Nazi analogies, he’ll have time to look up what the word Knesset means.