Eventually, any conversation about gun control in America ends with someone, somewhere opposed to new gun regulations comparing the proponents to Adolf Hitler.
In the post-Newtown push for new gun laws, that day was Wednesday. Accusing gun control supporters of easing the country one step closer to fascism is a time-honored tradition in American politics and one of the tools the gun rights crowd uses to warn Americans away from talking about gun control in the first place. But with the country still reeling from the shooting deaths of 20 elementary school students, supporters of new gun control laws say the tactic is not going to work this time.
On Wednesday, the Drudge Report splashed an image of Hitler and Josef Stalin over a link to Vice President Biden’s contention that the White House may consider using its executive power if Congress proves unable to act.
Biden’s statement is old news, as is the suggestion from Drudge that President Obama is intending to act in the manner of histories most notorious dictators. Bumper stickers like this one have been kicking around the anti-gun control community since well before the “from my cold, dead hands” era.
The White House declined to comment on the Drudge image, or the general comparison to Hitler’s regime that have popped up in anti-gun control corners since Obama began his push for new legislation. Most politicians who have talked openly about gun control have had the Hitler quotes thrown at them, and there’s a lot of reporting suggesting the most oft-repeated of these Hitler quotes are not in fact Hitler quotes. As for the underlying theory, that gun control hastened Hitler to power and helped facilitate the Holocaust — and that there’s a lesson in that for America — Tablet’s Michael Moynihan took a long look at that question last month.
“America isn’t Nazi Germany, and it cheapens the experience of Holocaust victims to suggest otherwise,” he concluded. “By all means, let the debate on gun control roil, but for once, let’s leave Hitler out of it.”
Now that weeks have passed since Newtown, the gun rights community that was briefly silent following the tragedy is back to full volume, pushing politicians not to give into the calls for new gun control. The Hitler comparison will doubtless be a part of that process.
But gun control activists say their opponents have missed the mark with the Hitler stuff, and they’re going to find that post-Newtown, the public has no stomach for it.
“I don’t think pro-gun activists get it. I think that when they’re throwing around Hitler and Stalin, people are thinking about the children who were massacred in that classroom and wondering, ‘what the hell are you talking about?’” said Ladd Everitt, spokesperson for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. “I don’t think mentally stable individuals think like these folks. I think they are focused on six and seven year-old kids who were massacred by a lunatic who should never have gotten anywhere near those guns and wondering what in the world are they talking about.”
There’s evidence Everitt is onto something. So far, the general public has not reacted well to bluster — Hitler-focused or otherwise — from the gun rights community following Newtown. Everitt cited reactions to the viral video of radio host Alex Jones, who’s often criticized by mainstream conservatives and is a big pusher of the gun-control-equals-Hitler theory. Jones appeared on with CNN’s Piers Morgan and made the same claim he’s made times before. Everitt said it was proof the public isn’t warming to conspiracy theories related to gun control.
But it’s not just guys like Jones (who are on the fringes in the best of times) who may be turning off the public to the anti-gun control message. The Democratic firm Public Policy Polling found public support for the National Rifle Assocation dropped 10 points after Wayne LaPierre, vice president for the NRA, took to the mics and gave his widely-criticized post-Newtown press conference.