Dr. Ben Carson said that Hitler’s murder of Jews “would have been greatly diminished” if they had been armed. That, to the Washington Post‘s Vanessa Williams, is a scandal. It is, however, what many Jews often tell each other.
Recently, for example, I joined a handgun class run by a non-profit group called the Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors. The group holds regular firearms classes as part of its “Jews Can Shoot” program. As I wrote at the time:
Doris began our day at the shooting range with an impassioned lecture about why Jews in particular needed to be ready. “In Europe, the pessimists left. The optimists went to Auschwitz,” she said.
Handouts distributed with the course recalled how the Nazis used gun control laws and gun registration to identify and disarm Jews and others who might have resisted the regime.
While that is not likely to happen in America, Doris said, the lesson of history is that Jews must be prepared.
Of course, there are plenty of liberal American Jews who see things differently–who place their hope in gun control laws, administered by a benevolent federal government in a constitutional republic. In their minds, the real threat is from white supremacist extremists, or Islamic terrorists.
They are probably right–but I have less confidence in this government, which cannot even say the words “Islamic terrorism,” than they do.
Regardless, what Dr. Carson said is not in the least way controversial. It is a matter of historic fact. And many, many people have cited it in the same way as the Republican presidential contender. As Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote in his dissent in Silver v. Lockyer, 328 F. 3d 567 (2003):
All too many of the other great tragedies of history–Stalin’s atrocities, the killing fields of Cambodia, the Holocaust, to name but a few–were perpetrated by armed troops against unarmed populations. Many could well have been avoided or mitigated, had the perpetrators known their intended victims were equipped with a rifle and twenty bullets apiece, as the Militia Act required here. See Kleinfeld Dissent at 578-579. If a few hundred Jewish fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto could hold off the Wehrmacht for almost a month with only a handful of weapons, six million Jews armed with rifles could not so easily have been herded into cattle cars.
My excellent colleagues have forgotten these bitter lessons of history. The prospect of tyranny may not grab the headlines the way vivid stories of gun crime routinely do. But few saw the Third Reich coming until it was too late. The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed–where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once.
These are familiar arguments, but the Post treats them as scandalous gaffes whose only possible explanation is that they are of a piece with his other, presumably objectionable, views. “Carson’s views on abortion, homosexuality, guns and Muslims are in line with those of the GOP’s conservative wing,” Williams writes.
Instead of exposing Dr. Carson as an extremist, the Post has only exposed its own bias. Carson’s views are well within the American mainstream–and the Israeli one, for that matter. As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Congress in March: “For the first time in 100 generations, we, the Jewish people, can defend ourselves.”
With guns, of course–and more.
The first paragraph has been changed to substitute the word “they” for “Germans,” which is a more accurate rendition of Dr. Carson’s argument.