Ben Carson’s claim about gun control and the Holocaust is flat wrong

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tags: gun control, election 2016, Ben Carson



Alan E. Steinweis is a professor of history and Holocaust studies at the University of Vermont. He is the author of three books, including, most recently, “Kristallnacht 1938.”

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To anyone who studies Nazi Germany and the Holocaust for a living, as I do, Ben Carson’s statements about gun control are difficult to fathom. “I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed,” the Republican presidential candidate said in a recent interview.

Mr. Carson’s argument, which he made in his new book “A More Perfect Union” and was asked to defend last week, is strangely ahistorical, a classic instance of injecting an issue that is important in our place and time into a historical situation where it was not seen as important. I can think of no serious work of scholarship on the Nazi dictatorship or on the causes of the Holocaust in which Nazi gun control measures feature as a significant factor. Neither does gun control figure in the collective historical memory of any group that was targeted by the Nazi regime, be they Jews, Gypsies, the disabled, gay people or Poles. It is simply a nonissue.

Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany in January 1933, but it was only in March 1938 that the Third Reich promulgated its Waffengesetz, or weapons law, which required police permission for ownership of a handgun. Other firearms were left unregulated. If, as Mr. Carson maintains, the Nazi regime made it a priority to disarm the German population, then why did it wait more than five years to issue such a law, and why did it limit licensure to handguns? Mr. Carson also fails to mention that the democratic Weimar Republic, which had preceded the Nazi regime, had passed its own gun law, which in some respects had been more restrictive than the later Nazi version.




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