The Michigan Republican Party on Wednesday compared gun laws proposed in the state legislature to restrictions imposed in Nazi Germany, in a social media post that drew bipartisan condemnation.
“#History has shown us that the first thing a government does when it wants total control over its people is to disarm them,” the Michigan GOP wrote in a post to its official Twitter account Wednesday morning. “President Reagan once stated, ‘if we lose #freedom here, there is nowhere else to escape to. This is the last stand on Earth.’ #2A #GOP”
The post included a 1945 photo of a soldier inspecting a bin of thousands of wedding bands that Nazis had taken from Jews murdered in the Holocaust, with these words superimposed on the image: “BEFORE THEY COLLECTED ALL THESE WEDDING RINGS . . . THEY COLLECTED ALL THE GUNS.”
Almost immediately, several Democratic and Republican officials and advocacy groups criticized the post, called for it to be taken down and demanded that the state GOP apologize. As of late Wednesday afternoon, the post remained public.
“This is HORRIFIC – do not utilize the trauma of those murdered in the Holocaust to push a political issue,” the nonpartisan, nonprofit group Stop Antisemitism tweeted in reply. “Please remove and apologize.”
“Comparing gun safety measures to the mass extermination of 6 million people is hateful & ignorant, and it comes from party leaders who are out of ideas & catering to the fringe of the fringe,” Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), who is running for U.S. Senate, tweeted. “Delete it, apologize, and figure out what kind of party you want to be.”
The gun measures introduced by Michigan Democrats center on universal background checks, safe-storage laws and extreme-risk protection orders, also known as “red-flag laws,” which prevent a person who is deemed a threat to themselves or others from possessing a gun. The measures are likely to pass, given that Michigan voters flipped the legislature in November, giving Democrats complete control of state government for the first time in 40 years.
Several Republicans also slammed the tweet comparing gun-control legislation to one of history’s greatest atrocities as offensive and vile. GOP strategist Douglas Heye called on the Michigan GOP to “fire the person/people who created and approved of this, then never do this again.”
But the state party has doubled down on it instead, calling the criticism “bogus authoritarian frenzy over the legitimate comparison.” Kristina Karamo, a far-right election denier who was elected chair of the Michigan GOP last month, tweeted that the party stood by its statement and that the Second Amendment “was put in place to protect us from aspiring tyrants.”
“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,” Karamo wrote in a text message to The Washington Post, when asked whether the party had privately offered an apology to any Jewish leaders or groups that had asked for one.
A defiant Karamo ignored the criticism at a news conference Wednesday afternoon, telling reporters: “I stand by that statement. I will not be intimidated or bullied for speaking the truth.” She added that she was “troubled that so many now want to make it taboo to look to history.”
Former Michigan Republican congressman Dave Trott called the post “embarrassing and despicable,” saying it underscored why he now identifies as an independent voter.
“This is a prime example as to why I left the party – or the party left me,” said Trott, who endorsed Joe Biden in 2020 because he felt President Donald Trump was “unfit to serve.”
Trott told The Post that he had supported gun legislation when in Congress but felt others in his party were pressured to adhere strictly to the National Rifle Association’s wishes. Trott has endorsed the gun measures moving through the state legislature, citing the fatal shooting at southeast Michigan’s Oxford High School in 2021 and another at Michigan State University in February.
“To do nothing is just insulting,” Trott said. “If anyone who is motivated by that post would read the 11 bills, they would find it’s very clear they’re not coming for your guns. The bills are very well thought-out and are an effort to try and reduce the number of mass shootings.”
Jeff Timmer, who formerly served as executive director of the Michigan GOP but who now also identifies as an independent voter, said he no longer feels the people leading the state GOP “speak the same language” as he does.
When he saw the Michigan GOP’s tweet Wednesday morning, Timmer said, he was not surprised, though he might have considered it shocking or abnormal just a few years ago.
“I think it’s wrong to chalk this up to ignorance or stupidity. This is deliberate. They’re choosing to do this knowing full well the reaction that they’re getting,” he said. “They feast on chaos, they feast on fear, they feast on anger, and they feast on mean.”
Timmer also said that the Michigan GOP did not represent a fringe of the party but rather was a “harbinger” of what was to come for the Republican Party nationwide.
“There’s the gentry class of Republicans who are still in denial about the fact that Kristina Karamo and tweets like this represent what the voters of the Republican Party want to see,” he said.
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The Washington Post’s Mariana Alfaro, Colby Itkowitz and Patrick Marley contributed to this report.