Ben Carson’s Gun Propaganda

How did the Nazis come to power in Germany?

According to Ben Carson and other gun advocates, it was because the German people had no guns. To quote: “I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed. There’s a reason these dictatorial people take the guns first.” Carson is not the first to equate gun control advocates with Nazis, nor the first to thereby demonstrate both a total lack of historical knowledge but also the right wing habit of projecting their own defects onto their liberal opposites.

In a nutshell, the Nazis did not come to power at the point of a gun—they had the support of millions of Germans and the acquiescence of many others, and they were welcomed into Austria (the Anschluss). Opposition to the Nazis within Germany and Austria, while courageous, was neither widespread nor effective. Hitler was seen generally as a great leader who was restoring German pride and regaining its rightful place in the world—much as Putin is seen today by many Russians.

In his book A More Perfect Union, Carson wrote that “Through a combination of removing guns and disseminating deceitful propaganda, the Nazis were able to carry out their evil intentions with relatively little resistance.” It is true that Nazi propaganda was effective—but it is also true that propaganda has its effects only on people looking to justify their prejudices. The gun advocates’ claims that unrestricted access to guns, and worse, that more people carrying guns in daily life (teachers and students on campuses, for example) will magically reduce gun deaths, are propaganda statements that appeal to those who already are looking for any excuse for opposing gun control laws—laws which, by the way, are not meant to confiscate people’s guns but to prevent gun sales to criminals and the seriously mentally ill and to limit the presence of guns in daily life (such as college classrooms). The fantasy that an armed populace will prevent a government from turning tyrannous is disproven by the fact that Americans are in little danger of being shot by the Feds but greatly in danger of being shot by their neighbors.

Additional thoughts: A number of replies to Carson’s comment have been published in the media, basically saying much the same thing as I have above, but all of them have left out one of the most important points: that almost all of the 6 million or so Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust were Eastern European: Poland, Ukraine, etc. Carson and others who use the same argument to focus on German Jews within Germany and Austria miss this fact–see Snyder’s “Bloodlands”. Also, for rich and comfortable Americans to compare their relatively minor frustrations and disappoints to the mortal suffering of Jews under Nazism shows an insensitivity and lack of moral imagination that staggers the mind.

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