05 December 2009

More Gun Control and Genocide

One tactic of propaganda is to still up the emotions with black and white arguments and dire scenarios. Gun Control will bring about tyranny and possibly genocide. On the other hand, we have a couple of instances from history. There is a bogus quote out there attributed to Hitler which is pretty obviously false. Why?

Gun Control existed in Britain long before Nazi Germany did. In 1870 (19 years before Hitler was born) a licence was introduced for anyone who wanted to carry a gun outside their home, but there were no restrictions on keeping a firearm indoors. More restrictions came into force with the 1903 Pistols Act which denied ownership to anyone who was "drunken or insane". It also required a licence for firearms with a barrel shorter than nine inches: that pretty much covered handguns. The 1920 Firearms Act introduced a registration system and allowed local police forces to deny a licence to anyone who was "unfitted to be trusted with a firearm". The 1920s Firearms act was due to fears of working class unrest as was occurring in Germany. Again, this would place 1920 Britain as "the first civilised nation that has full gun registration" to paraphrase and also correct a bogus quote, placing British Gun Control at least 12 years ahead of Nazi Germany: if Nazi gun control truly existed.

In fact, the Nazi Party as we knew it was just formed when Britain had its system of gun registration!

On the other hand, Gun control was not initiated at the behest or on behalf of the Nazis. German gun control was designed to keep them, or others of the same kind (e.g., Communists), from executing a revolution against the lawful government. In the strictest sense, the law succeeded since the Nazis did not stage an armed coup, they were elected in 1932. The Third Reich did not need gun control in 1938 or at any time thereafter to maintain their power. The success of Nazi programs in restoring the economy and dispelling socio-political chaos along with the misappropriation of justice by the apparatus of terror assured the compliance of the German people. Arguing otherwise assumes a resistance to Nazi rule that did not exist. Further, supposing the existance of an armed resistance also requires the acceptance that the German people would have rallied to the rebellion. This argument requires a total suspension of disbelief given everything we know about 1930s Germany.

Several conclusions become clear if you read the 1938 Nazi gun laws closely and compare them to earlier 1928 Weimar gun legislation as a straightforward exercise of statutory interpretation. First, with regard to possession and carrying of firearms, the Nazi regime relaxed the gun laws that were in place in Germany at the time the Nazis seized power. Second, the Nazi gun laws of 1938 specifically banned Jewish persons from obtaining a license to manufacture firearms or ammunition. Third, approximately eight months after enacting the 1938 Nazi gun laws, Hitler imposed regulations prohibiting Jewish persons from possessing any dangerous weapons, including firearms. The Nazis aspired to a certain relaxation of gun registration laws for the "law-abiding German citizen" - for those who were not, in their minds, "enemies of the National Socialist state," in other words, Jews, Communists, and other undesirables".

We know that armed rebellions in the Jewish Ghettos were crushed by the better armed German forces. The Jews who did survive did as the Bielskis did and hid in the forests, or were dispersed as they were in Bulgaria.

On the other hand, there was unarmed resistance to Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts at Cable Street in the East End of London, which had a large Jewish population. The anti-facist demonstrators fought with sticks, rocks, chair legs and other improvised weapons, but not guns. Rubbish, rotten vegetables and the contents of chamber pots were thrown at the police by women in houses along the street. After a series of running battles, Mosley agreed to abandon the march to prevent bloodshed.

So, even though the was gun control in England, it wasn't the presence or lack of arms that prevented a genocide, but the fact that popular opinion rose up to fight the facists.

The simple lessons about the efficacy of gun control is blotted out by the events in Germany and Britain at the first half of this century. It is all too easy to forget the seductive allure that fascism presented to all the West, bogged down in economic and social morass. What must be remembered is that the Nazis were master manipulators of popular emotion and sentiment, and were disdainful of people thinking for themselves. There is the danger to which we should pay great heed. Not fanciful stories about Nazi's seizing guns or that possession of guns would have prevented anything.