From the Hall: Gun control-Holocaust comparison riles some

DOVER — One of Delaware’s most outspoken lawmakers is in some hot water after he stated gun control could lead to tyranny and a Holocaust-like event in Delaware.

On Tuesday, one day after International Holocaust Remembrance Day, both chambers passed a resolution marking the occasion, which coincides with the liberation of the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp. Holocaust survivor and current Delaware resident Ann Jaffe also spoke before legislators, sharing her bone-chilling story as a child in Nazi-occupied Poland.

After she finished relaying her experience, several senators stood to thank her and share their thoughts on the Holocaust or stories about family members who lived through it. Among those who spoke was Sen. Dave Lawson, a Marydel Republican, who warned the chamber about the dangers of gun control. The Polish partisans Ms. Jaffe described as helping save her family were only able to do so because they were armed, he said, describing gun restrictions as one of the potential precursors to genocide.

“The Holocaust, we can’t even imagine, can’t begin to imagine, and for we in this chamber to think that this can’t happen here, that is absolutely a fool’s errand. It can,” he said, the chamber silent as a tomb.

“When we continue to take away the rights, we continue to work on disarming our population, our legally owned firearms, taking away and continue to encroach on that … We continue this path that we’re taking, please don’t forget that everything that Hitler did was legal.

“Murdering those people was legal. Disarming those people was legal. Do we want to follow that same path? Because I’m telling you, from where I sit, it’s not that far away.”

Dave Lawson

After he concluded, one person sitting in the gallery began to clap, prompting Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long to interrupt. While no one commented on it on the Senate floor, it didn’t take long for criticism to begin pouring in.

Rep. Debra Heffernan, a Bellefonte Democrat, in a statement said she was “beyond horrified and appalled” and called for him to apologize.

“Sen. Lawson took that horrifying recounting of surviving a genocide, and while Ms. Jaffe was still in the chamber, tried to turn her somber words into a Second Amendment argument,” Rep. Heffernan, who is Jewish, said in part. “As elected officials, our words matter. Our words carry weight, and we have to be conscious of that at all times. The Holocaust is still a deeply painful topic for millions of Jews worldwide, regardless of whether they were alive during it.”

Democratic Party Chairman Erik Raser-Schramm in a statement said the remarks “suggest either a primitive understanding of the horrific forces that led to the Nazi slaughter of 6 million Jews, or a sinister motive to pervert history to fit his hard-line narrative on gun.” Attorney General Kathy Jennings, a Democrat, also joined the chorus calling for Sen. Lawson to apologize.

He has not done so.

The senator made or shared several Facebook posts on Thursday and Friday urging Americans to remember the Holocaust, learn from the past and stand by their convictions.

Although the argument is a relatively common trope among opponents of gun control, it is mostly rejected by historians and scholars. In a 2015 op-ed in The New York Times, University of Vermont professor Alan E. Steinweis, who specializes in the Third Reich and the Holocaust, described the claim as “strangely ahistorical, a classic instance of injecting an issue that is important in our place and time into a historical situation where it was not seen as important.”

While the Nazis did pass laws forbidding Jews from having guns a few years after they gained power, far more important to the Holocaust is the historical context: Germany was in a near-ruined state as a result of its defeat in World War I and the collapse of the German empire, and anti-Semitism had long been prevalent in much of Europe.

Some armed Jews did attempt an uprising against the Nazis in Warsaw, Poland, in 1943, although their rebellion was largely crushed, Dr. Steinweis wrote.

Claims gun control facilitated the Holocaust “not only trivialize the predicament in which Jews found themselves in Germany and elsewhere in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s. They also trivialize the serious, prolonged and admirable efforts undertaken by many Germans to work through the causes of their country’s catastrophic mistakes of that period,” he wrote.

Despite that, several people made similar claims to Sen. Lawson one week before during a committee hearing for a gun control bill, and some Delawareans voiced their support for his Tuesday defense of gun rights.

Sen. Lawson is no stranger to speaking his mind and has stirred up controversy for comments before: In 2017, he walked out of the Senate chamber during a reading of a Muslim prayer by an imam.

“We heard from the Quran that advocates for our very demise and that’s brought into this chamber as a prayer to open this session. I take great exception to that,” he said. “I fought for this country not to be damned by someone that comes in here and prays to their god for our demise. I think that’s despicable.”

That also prompted widespread criticism, and hundreds attended a rally in support of Delaware’s Muslim community a few weeks later.

Ending ‘corporate welfare’

Legislation that seeks to put a halt on financial incentives to businesses, sometimes derided by opponents as corporate “giveaways” or “welfare,” was filed Tuesday.

The bill, which lists just four sponsors, all Democrats, is part of a national effort. Measures have also been introduced in Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, New Hampshire, New York and West Virginia.

Under the legislation, participating states would be barred from offering “a company-specific subsidy to an entity whose headquarters, manufacturing facility, office space, or other real estate development is located or is considering to be located in any other member state.”

“Giving companies state tax money in return for promises of jobs is terrible public policy. It merely feeds into the rat race that encourages companies to squeeze states for more and more tax dollars, rather than to spend those tax dollars for things like roads and schools which benefit everyone in our state,” Rep. Paul Baumbach, a Newark Democrat who is the bill’s lead sponsor, said in a statement.

“However, a state cannot unilaterally leave the rat race, since ‘everyone else is doing it.’ This legislation enables Delaware to join a club, so we won’t have to spend Delaware tax dollars to raid companies from states in the club, but also to free Delaware from states in that club from raiding Delaware companies.”

Gov. John Carney opposes the concept, believing it would tie the chief executive’s hands and hurt the state’s economy.

“I’m pretty pragmatic about it. I want to compete,” he said Thursday. “And if compete means that we’ve got to kind of have incentives because other states are having incentives, then I’m willing to (do that). If tomorrow everybody says no incentives, well OK, that might be a different story, but that’s not going to happen.”

Ins and outs: Scheduling, dogs and a basketball superstar

With the first three weeks of session in the books, lawmakers now head into the annual Joint Finance Committee break. JFC begins meeting Tuesday and is scheduled to spend the next four weeks hearing from state agencies and members of the public as the 12-member body examines Gov. Carney’s recommended budget.

The Joint Committee on Capital Improvement will meet the first week in March. The full General Assembly returns March 17.

Gov. Carney’s budget proposal was officially revealed Thursday, but it was accidentally uploaded to the legislative website the night before. However, someone quickly caught the mistake, so while the bill itself remained posted, clicking the link to see the full text simply led to a blank page.

If you happened to be in Legislative Hall Thursday, you may have caught an unusual sight: A 95-pound ball of energy, also known as Teddy Bear, playing fetch in the hallway.

Oh, Teddy is a Yellow Labrador Retriever, by the way.

Teddy, who belongs to Sen. Trey Paradee, regularly accompanies his master to Legislative Hall, where he spends much of the day lounging in Sen. Paradee’s office. Because the Senate was voting on a bill involving canines Thursday, Sen. Paradee brought his very good boy into the chamber, much to the delight of some onlookers.

Afterward, he conducted a brief interview in the hallway. For the benefit of a TV camera, the senator played a brief game of fetch with Teddy, chuckling about the sight of the dog struggling to get traction on the tile floor as he ran after a chew toy.

Hopefully no senators are afraid of dogs.

Finally, NBA legend Kobe Bryant, who died at age 41 in a helicopter crash Sunday along with eight other individuals, was honored with a moment of silence by the House Tuesday. Bryant has no obvious direct Delaware connection, although he attended high school just outside Philadelphia and is one of the most popular basketball players of all time.