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Nazi merchandise causes no Führer at gun shows

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Participants in America’s gun culture have a contradictory nature.

Publicly, they express loathing for Nazism as it symbolizes everything America opposes. But once the gun crowd is behind semi-closed doors, the swastikas are put on full display. They can’t decide whether they are repulsed by the Third Reich’s fascist tendencies or drawn to its quest for ideological purity and its military character.

You’d be hard pressed to attend a gun show in this country without seeing someone hawking Third Reich tchotchke. And I’m not the only one who’s noticed this disturbing trend.

“[W]henever I have been to a gun show, there are always displays of Nazi paraphernalia,” Bernard E. Harcourt wrote for the Fordham Law Review in 2004. “The fringe pro-Nazi element in this country has far more ties to the pro-gun community than it does to the anti-gun community, and you are far more likely to see a swastika at a gun show or a pro-gun rally than you are at the anti-gun Million Mom March on the Washington Mall.”

I encountered this when I attended a gun show in Clayton last summer. Among the rows of rifles, handguns, shotguns and knives was a booth set up to sell Nazi items.

But the crown jewel was a framed photograph of Adolph Hitler. The worst part was that this individual knew there was a market at the gun show for selling crap like this.

My question was, what do you do with your framed photograph of Hitler once you become its proud owner? Do you display it on the piano, above the fireplace on the mantle or on the bookshelf next to family portraits?

This does not suggest that all gun enthusiasts are Nazi sympathizers. But there is a sub-culture among the firearm faithful that is eerily attracted to the mystique of the Third Reich.

This dual affiliation with Nazi Germany — repelled by the Nazis’ disdain for democracy yet lured by their devotion to military order — is perplexing.

Gun rights advocates frequently claim the Holocaust may not have occurred if the Nazis hadn’t confiscated guns from the Jews, which is laughable. A small minority wherever they lived in Europe, Jewish people weren’t slaughtered by the Nazis because they didn’t have guns to fight them. They died in such tragic numbers because Germany had a well-trained, well-equipped military.

Think of it this way: 6 million Jews perished in the Holocaust, while 13 million armed Russian troops were killed by the Germans. The Nazi war machine was formidable and deadly.

The small pockets of Jewish people had no chance. While the armed resistance mounted during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was admirable, the statistics tell the story of what odds the Jewish rebels faced.

“In reality, only about 20 Germans were killed, while some 13,000 Jews were massacred,” wrote Alex Seitz-Wald for Salon.com a year ago. “The remaining 50,000 who survived were promptly sent off to concentration camps.”

It’s nice that gun owners are concerned about Jewish people. Not so concerned, mind you, that they’d stop selling Nazi paraphernalia at their gun shows just in case some Jews stopped by and were appalled at such a scene. But concerned enough to use the Holocaust to advance their own agenda.

The appeal that this segment of gun culture warriors has toward Nazism can be better understood by examining the attitudes expressed by the broader population of firearm enthusiasts toward racial minorities. A study released a few months ago found a connection between racist attitudes among white Americans and a greater desire to possess guns.

“Symbolic racism was related to having a gun in the home and opposition to gun control policies in U.S. whites,” according to the study published in the research journal PLOS ONE. “The findings help explain U.S. whites’ paradoxical attitudes towards gun ownership and gun control. Such attitudes may adversely influence U.S. gun control policy debates and decisions.”

This makes sense since many gun owners have armed themselves to the teeth while harboring delusions of a pending race war. It’s ironic that gun rights activists strongly advocated strict regulations on firearms when black people began arming themselves in the 1960s for protection against police brutality. I don’t believe Black Panther paraphernalia would be as warmly received at gun shows as Nazi knickknacks are among attendees — just imagine putting framed photographs of Huey Newton and Bobby Seale on sale at one of these events!

So the gun control debate is strongly influenced by people more likely to hold hostile views toward racial minorities, a condition that distorts their notions of what dangers lurk outside. And legislators kowtow to this warped mentality to perpetuate a public safety catastrophe.

No wonder Hitler is so popular in this circle. Who else but a maniacal genius could orchestrate the ultimate theater of the absurd?

Jerry Moore is the editorial page editor for the Watertown Daily Times. Readers may call him at 315-661-2369 or send emails to jmoore@wdt.net.

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