When Stephen Halbrook—a Second Amendment scholar, author and attorney who specializes in representing people and companies who deal with gun-related issues—was set to testify before Congress last week, he was subject to a very peculiar attack.
Halbrook was appearing as an expert to discuss the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act of 2017, a piece of legislation that would put into law various hunting and shooting-related conservation issues. The SHARE Act also includes federal pre-emption for the interstate transport of firearms, clarifying the portion of the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act of 1986 that recognizes the right to transport an unloaded, inaccessible firearm from one place to another, provided the firearm is legal in both places.
But prior to Halbrook's appearance before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Federal Lands, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL)—a left-leaning, “civil-rights group” that once called the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in McDonald v. City of Chicago a “disappointing setback,” even though this case extended Second Amendment rights so that the Second Amendment also restricts state and local governments—attacked Halbrook.
“I wish Mr. Greenblatt would read my book, as it makes no such claims.” — attorney and author Stephen Halbrook“We have long been concerned about facile comparisons of gun control legislation in America to policies upheld by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s national director. “The national debate over gun control is a divisive issue with many strong opinions. While there are legitimate arguments on both sides, the notion that Jews could have saved themselves from the Nazi onslaught is not one of them. It is historically inaccurate and deeply offensive to bring the Holocaust into this debate where it simply does not belong.”
If the ADL hoped to discredit Halbrook before his testimony they chose a strange way of doing so.
Halbrook is the author of Gun Control in the Third Reich, a book that chronicles how Jews were disarmed and then murdered on a mass scale by the Nazis.
When asked about the attack, Halbrook was matter of fact.
“I wish Mr. Greenblatt would read my book, as it makes no such claims,” Halbrook said. “The book is about the disarming of the political enemies of the Nazis and of the Jews, which is a legitimate historical topic. The fact that the Nazis carried out this disarming to prevent any kind of individual or collective resistance does not suggest that the dictatorship could have been overthrown or that the Holocaust would not have occurred. I certainly did not bring the Holocaust into any debate about current firearm law issues in the United States.”
When asked if he has had the opportunity to ask any such gun control activists if they’d have like to have been armed if they’d been Jewish and in Germany at that time, Halbrook said, “Not in those terms. But I would recall the heroism of the young Jewish men and women who armed themselves and sparked the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, temporarily stopping deportations and encouraging further resistance.”
Halbrook noted that when Hitler came to power in 1933, the police and Gestapo used the registration and licensing lists to identify gun owners who were not “politically reliable” and to disarm anyone they wished. They included Social Democrats and non-Nazis of every kind. Hitler’s 1938 gun law kept that same policy under the concept of persons who were a “danger to the state.” In the weeks before and during Kristallnacht, Jews were disarmed and threatened with 20 years in a concentration camp for gun possession.
But Halbrook didn’t bring this up, the ADL did—likely to distract from what would be said at the hearing.“To suggest that the Third Reich ‘loosened’ gun control laws,” said Halbrook, “would be equivalent to saying that it loosened free speech laws—you could say nice things about the Führer and you could have a gun, otherwise no speech and no gun.”
But Halbrook didn’t bring this up, the ADL did—likely to distract from what would be said at the hearing.
When Halbrook gave his testimony, he began by saying:
I appear here today as an attorney who has done extensive litigation in the federal courts on three of the much-needed reforms of H.R. 3668, the SHARE Act: (1) federal pre-emption for the interstate transport of firearms to allow law-abiding persons to travel to and from places where they lawfully possess firearms; (2) hearing protection for firearm owners that would remove sound suppressors from the National Firearms Act while punishing criminal possession and misuse in the Gun Control Act; and (3) reclassification of firearms based on lawful purpose instead of a slippery “sporting” criteria made up by government agencies.
When asked about “National Reciprocity” Halbrook said, “I’m not a statistician, but the Second Amendment recognizes the right of the people to keep and bear arms, and the American citizen is free to travel throughout the United States.”
Halbrook next explained that the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act of 1986 recognizes the right to transport an unloaded, inaccessible firearm from one place where lawful to another place where lawful, notwithstanding the law of a place in between.
“New York is probably the biggest violator of this law as applied to persons declaring firearms for transport in checked baggage at airports,” said Halbrook. “Second, no reason exists to believe that law-abiding gun owners will somehow not be law-abiding just because they are carrying in a state such as New Jersey.”
That’s the clear interpretation of our rights that the ADL, in this case, and many other groups that oppose our Second Amendment freedoms would like to talk away, smear and disparage.
As for Halbrook, he says he wasn’t surprised by the ADL’s spin. “Attacks on our rights have not and will never slow down,” he said.