The Myth Of Nazi Gun Control

gun control moto poster picture 9There exist many myths within the world of firearms enthusiasts. I have covered this topic before, but today we’ll delve a little deeper into one of the most pervasive myths out there: that the Holocaust occurred because the Nazi’s disarmed the population of Germany, leaving them defenseless. I’ve chosen to address this myth because of how utterly ubiquitous it is.

To assist me in debunking this myth, lets turn to a new article from Salon. They first point out just how pervasive this myth really is:

The NRAFox NewsFox News (again)Alex Jonesemail chainsJoe “the Plumber” WurzelbacherGun Owners of America, etc., all agree that gun control was critical to Hitler’s rise to power. Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (“America’s most aggressive defender of firearms ownership”) is built almost exclusively around this notion, popularizingposters of Hitler giving the Nazi salute next to the text: “All in favor of ‘gun control’ raise your right hand.”

In his 1994 book, NRA head Wayne LaPierre dwelled on the Hitler meme at length, writing: “In Germany, Jewish extermination began with the Nazi Weapon Law of 1938, signed by Adolf Hitler.”

Listen to any right-wing radio show the day after a mass shooting and this is what you’ll hear. In their minds, the one and only thing preventing the second coming of imaginary Hitler is their collection of small arms. It is, of course, not even close to true:

University of Chicago law professor Bernard Harcourt explored this myth in depth in a 2004 article published in the Fordham Law Review. As it turns out, the Weimar Republic, the German government that immediately preceded Hitler’s, actually had tougher gun laws than the Nazi regime. After its defeat in World War I, and agreeing to the harsh surrender terms laid out in the Treaty of Versailles, the German legislature in 1919 passed a law that effectively banned all private firearm possession, leading the government to confiscate guns already in circulation. In 1928, the Reichstag relaxed the regulation a bit, but put in place a strict registration regime that required citizens to acquire separate permits to own guns, sell them or carry them.

The 1938 law signed by Hitler that LaPierre mentions in his book basically does the opposite of what he says it did. “The 1938 revisions completely deregulated the acquisition and transfer of rifles and shotguns, as well as ammunition,” Harcourt wrote. Meanwhile, many more categories of people, including Nazi party members, were exempted from gun ownership regulations altogether, while the legal age of purchase was lowered from 20 to 18, and permit lengths were extended from one year to three years.

The law did prohibit Jews and other persecuted classes from owning guns, but this should not be an indictment of gun control in general. Does the fact that Nazis forced Jews into horrendous ghettos indict urban planning? Should we eliminate all police officers because the Nazis used police officers to oppress and kill the Jews? What about public works — Hitler loved public works projects? Of course not. These are merely implements that can be used for good or ill, much as gun advocates like to argue about guns themselves. If guns don’t kill people, then neither does gun control cause genocide (genocidal regimes cause genocide).

What the gun crowd fails to ever address within their line of reasoning is the fact they are planning to kill soldiers, police officers, and federal agents by using this argument. I don’t mean to say that they see it that way in their minds, or that they have a sinister plan to actively kill US servicemen. I simply do not think they ever see their argument through to its logical conclusion. Who do they think, in the event imaginary Hitler comes to power, will be coming to confiscate their guns? Soldiers, police officers, and federal agents.

In their minds, they are planning on defending their liberty from stock movie bad guys; Nazi storm troopers or the bad guy from Raiders of the Lost Ark. They never picture firing at 18 year old soldiers wearing the American flag. They never picture themselves as the insurgents, but that’s what the reality would be. My question to those gun enthusiasts who plan to defend themselves from the impending Nacny Pelosi-led tyrannical government is: Do you in fact realize you are preparing to kill our soldiers?

The CEO of Tactical Repsonse, James Yeager is ready to, “start killing people,” who come to confiscate his guns. Who, in your imaginary world, you think those people are going be?

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14 Responses to The Myth Of Nazi Gun Control

  1. Mithras says:

    Sir- while this article is a bit older it has both truth and an omission.

    Wilhelm Frick who was the Reichminister of the Interior in 1938 promulgated laws which stripped Jews, and specifically Jews, from owning firearms (as well as knifes and billy clubs). While it is true that the National Socialists greatly relaxed firearm laws, they did so ONLY for those that they approved of. You did address it as a blurb in that “The law did prohibit Jews and other persecuted classes from owning guns, but this should not be an indictment of gun control in general.” however, the callousness of the statement kind of rankles considering I had relatives who died under Nazi rule in Poland.

    That is the point that most firearm ownership advocates are trying to make- that to round up a people (like FDR did with Americans of Japanese descent), disarming them is a good first step to active measures (it would of course be preceded by several years of propaganda dehumanizing the targeted population such as the current tactic of referring to all Muslims as “terrorists” or “Islamists” when in reality extremists make up only about 2% of Muslims worldwide).

    Yes, I do realize that there are a lot of “quotes” out there that are patently false, like the “world will follow our lead into the future” one attributed to Hitler, however German Law in the late 1930’s on the restrictions placed on Jewish ownership of weapons in National Socialist Germany is freely available for review.

  2. Leah says:

    This is really late and off-topic, but I had to say something. I ended up here when random curiosity had me googling the Nazi gun control thing. When I scrolled down to the comments I was expecting some major vitriol, this being such a touchy subject. But I found polite disagreements, measured discussions about possible problems or clarifications – it was like stumbling into some sort of alternate universe! Whatever magic you’re working here, please keep it up. The Internet needs it.

    PS Of course now I have to read everything else contained down this rabbit hole…

  3. Pingback: Gun Owners Don’t Realize They Agree With Obama | Reason and Politics

  4. FLPatriot says:

    Well written post and it gives a lot to think about. I do feel you failed to refute the “NAZI gun grabbers” argument though. What you did accomplish is to show that the country of Germany (Weimer Republic and then Nazi led) did keep weapons out of the hands of the general public. Sure the NAZI party under Hitler did relax gun control laws to their supports because they would need their help to control the rest of the population. This goes to the point of the 2nd amendment crowd who believe everyone should have the same equal right to bear arms so that a minority political party can’t control the majority through force.

    As a retired Army veteran I can say that the discussion came up several times with my Company commander about what would happen if we where ordered to disarm and detain civilians, and I can also tell you that most of us agreed we would refuse that order. One of the things that makes American different than the rest of the world is that our military is sufficiently separated from our federal government. It would take a lot of work before the majority of our military would agree to fire upon American citizens, and I thank God for that. Do remember though that our country was founded by insurgents or were committing treason against their government. I pray that we never get to that point again in this country, but I do believe that it is the Constitution that will keep us from that point as long as it is adhered to by our government.

    “Treason Is A Matter Of Dates.” – Walter Russell Mead

    Thank you for your time and I look forward to reading more of your thoughts on American politics and other general issues.

    • Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. My hope in this article was to add some nuance to the Nazi gun control history. I was a huge gun enthusiast growing up (I still like guns now but i do support more control) and heard this argument many times that equates gun control to Nazi fascism. The myth is: the first thing Hitler did was disarm the citizens so they would be defenseless. Maybe I’ll edit this article so I can be a bit more specific in the myth I am addressing.

      My hope was to show that it was nothing quite so simple and that the more restrictive gun laws were passed prior to the Nazis. I hope I accomplished at least that much.

      Thanks again for stopping by.

      • FLPatriot says:

        I look forward to reading and commenting here more in the future, you express your thoughts very intelligently and that is refreshing to see these days.

        I don’t think you need to edit the article, you do a sufficient job of debunking “the first thing Hitler did was disarm the citizens so they would be defenseless”. My comment is pointing to the more generally accepted idea that a tyrannical government disarms the opposition population to set it self up to control them through force.

        Keep up the good work.

  5. I think your thinking is a little clouded here. You seem to be belittling the argument that one day government may become so powerful that civilians will have to use military force against it. You don’t actually address that argument, you just say it should be taken as wrong because it sounds so unlikely.

    I think a lot of people understand that if that were to happen they would be insurgents. If there’s some implied suggestion that pro-gun advocates hate the concept of insurgency because they supported our troops in the Iraq war, it’s not grounded in reality.

    I’ve seen a lot of good articles on here, and don’t take this personally, but this one demonstrates some sloppy thinking. I expected better 😦

    • Sorry you feel that way. Do you think it would have been better to address this Nazi myth in one post, then the issue of fighting a tyrannical government in another?

      I did try to do two things at once in this piece. I think I did address the Nazi thing pretty well. I also tried to show that if you are preparing to fight the government you are literally planning to kill our soldiers. Is that where I lost you?

      • I think it would have been best to split them up. The Nazi thing was well done, I agree.

        “I also tried to show that if you are preparing to fight the government you are literally planning to kill our soldiers.” To a degree yes, for two reasons.

        1 – From my perspective, most people who advance the anti-tyranny argument are okay with that, expecting soldiers to defect or stay loyal to the government and thus be accessories to its designs. It’s almost a non-point because the anti-tyrrany lobby is willing to do that.

        2 – You haven’t really torn down the anti-tyrrany argument. Your point is couched more in connotation than fact. If you want to disable the argument, you must provide a compelling counter-argument, which I didn’t see.

      • Ah, I see. Yes, I didn’t address the validity of that argument. I tried to ask the provocative question which line of thinking sweeps under the rug: that they are planning to kill our soldiers.

        I understand your criticism. It was my intent to show the ramifications of that argument, not to dispute it directly. Perhaps because the first part refutes an argument while the second does not, the logic doesn’t flow very well. Do you think that is an issue as well?

      • I think that could be it, yes.

      • Well you know I value your opinions and appreciate the feedback. To be perfectly honest, I was feeling like this piece was a bit off, but I couldn’t figure out what the matter was. I think you are correct in your criticism.

        I don’t think these kind of polemics suits me very well. Maybe I should just stick to less hyperbolic forms of argument. I don’t think I accomplished very much with this post.

        Thanks again for keeping me honest.

      • In regards to fighting tyrannical governments, I’d argue that in the event of a real crisis, wielding firearms against a military that has stealth helicopters, napalm, drones, etc would hardly be effective. This isn’t exactly the 18th century anymore where a ragtag group of minutemen can fight a battle against the most heavily funded military in the world.

      • Thanks for the comment! As you said, wars aren’t fought with small arms anymore.

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