The chair of the Michigan Republican party refused to withdraw a comparison of proposed gun control laws to the treatment of Jewish people in Nazi Germany, despite outcry across the political spectrum.
Kristina Karamo, a far-right election denier who took charge of the Michigan GOP in February, said she would not be “intimidated or bullied” for equating state efforts to introduce safe gun storage regulations and universal background checks to actions by the Nazi regime which murdered approximately 6 million Jewish people and hundreds of thousands from other groups.
The furore began on Wednesday, when the Michigan Republican party tweeted a photo of rings in a box. Text across the image read: “Before they collected all these wedding rings … they collected all the guns.”
Under the image, the Michigan GOP wrote: “History has shown us that the first thing a government does when it wants total control over its people is to disarm them. President [Ronald] Reagan once stated, ‘If we lose freedom here, there is nowhere else to escape to. This is the last stand on Earth.’ #2A [second amendment] #GOP.”
The stance was criticized by organizations including the Republican Jewish Coalition.
“This tweet … is absolutely inappropriate and offensive and should be taken down immediately,” Matt Brooks, chief executive of the RJC, wrote on Twitter.
The Anti-Defamation League said: “Using the Holocaust as a way to score cheap political points in the debate over gun control is unacceptable and trivializes the memory of millions murdered by the Nazis.”
StopAntisemitism, a non-profit, tweeted: “This is horrific – do not utilize the trauma of those murdered in the Holocaust to push a political issue. Please remove and apologize.”
Elissa Slotkin, a Democratic congresswoman running for Senate in Michigan, said Republicans should delete the tweet and apologize.
“Comparing gun safety measures to the mass extermination of 6 million people is hateful and ignorant and it comes from party leaders who are out of ideas and catering to the fringe of the fringe,” Slotkin said.
Karamo was undeterred, however, telling reporters: “I stand by that statement. I will not be intimidated or bullied for speaking the truth.”
Karamo also said she was “troubled that so many now want to make it taboo to look to history”.
In a message to the Washington Post, Karamo said: “Speaking about the horrors of the Holocaust is no more offensive than speaking about the horrors of the trans-Atlantic slave trade that impacted my ancestors.”
The Michigan GOP also reiterated its stance that introducing relatively mild gun control laws would be analogous to the establishment of concentration camps and systematic slaughter.
“Considering the history of governments abusing their citizens,” the party tweeted, “the only thing vile is that the Michigan Democratic party is incrementally seeking to disarm citizens. Our #2A rights shall not be infringed! Disarmed Citizens = Government Tyranny[.] #Defend2A.”
On 16 March, the Michigan senate passed an 11-bill gun safety package. The measures are expected to be approved by the house and signed into law by Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic governor.
The legislation would require anyone purchasing a rifle or shotgun to undergo a background check, currently only required for handgun purchases, and to register any firearm purchase, the Associated Press reported.
The bill would also implement safe storage laws, which would create “penalties for storing or leaving a firearm where it may be accessed by a minor”.
The measures follow two school mass shootings in Michigan in 15 months, including a shooting at Michigan State University in which three students were killed and five wounded.
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