The Republican Party of Michigan is facing bipartisan backlash after social media posts connecting new proposed gun legislation to Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, reported The Detroit News on Wednesday.
"Democrats are advancing bills in the state Legislature this month to expand background check requirements for firearm purchases and to mandate the safe storage of guns in homes where children are present," said the report. "The package of proposed laws also would allow for 'extreme risk' protection orders, permitting a court to temporarily remove weapons from someone's home if they are deemed a threat to themselves or others."
These measures come after a series of high-profile shootings in Michigan, including a 2021 massacre at Oxford High School by a 15-year-old whose parents bought him a gun despite mental health episodes, and a shooting last month on the campus of Michigan State University.
One GOP tweet in question showed a 1945 photograph of a bin of wedding rings the Nazis stole from prisoners murdered in the death camps, with the caption, "Before they collected all these wedding rings ... They collected all the guns." It was accompanied by the text, "#History has shown us that the first thing a government does when it wants total control over its people is to disarm them."
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The false narrative that the Nazis enacted their reign of terror through gun control has cropped up routinely. In reality, it was the pre-Nazi Weimar Republic that imposed tough limits on civilian gun ownership in Germany. The Nazis actually relaxed those gun laws in 1938 to make it easier for German citizens to own guns, as part of a broader campaign to militarize their society.
One of the earliest origins of the myth of gun control as a Nazi strategy appears to have been in 1983, when gun-rights activists in Chicago sought to defeat a handgun ban by putting up posters depicting Hitler endorsing gun control in Skokie, a heavily Jewish suburb that was home to a large community of Holocaust survivors.
The post drew immediate condemnation from Michigan officials in both parties.
"Haven't the victims of the Holocaust suffered enough than to be shamefully exploited in death by this vile post? Anti-semitism thrives when these grotesque distortions of history diminish it," said state Sen. Jeremy Moss, a Jewish Democrat. "This tweet by @MIGOP is absolutely inappropriate and offensive and should be taken down immediately," tweeted Republican Jewish Coalition CEO Matt Brooks. "It's operating out of ignorance. And that's one of the great threats to our democracy today," said former Congressman Dave Trott, a Republican who supports the new gun safety legislation.
Kristina Karamo, the newly elected Michigan GOP chairwoman known for a history of QAnon conspiracy theories and election denial, refused to retract the post.
"My ancestors were enslaved and my great-great grandfather was lynched by a white mob in front of his entire family," stated Karamo. "We will not be silent as the Democratic Party, the party who fought to enslave Black Americans, and currently fights to murder unborn children, attempt (sic) to disarm us."