January 26, 2013 6:39 AM

Hitler took the guns! Stalin took the guns! Castro took the guns! Except when they didn't.

Hitler took the guns Stalin took the guns, Mao took the guns, Fidel Castro took the guns, Hugo Chavez took the guns, and I’m here to tell you, 1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms! It doesn’t matter how many lemmings you get out there in the street begging for them to have their guns taken. We will not relinquish them. Do you understand?

One of the aspects of the gun control debate I consistently marvel at is that Hitler, Stalin, and other tyrants confiscated guns from their subjects, making resistance virtually impossible. That certainly sounds like a terrible, horrible thing (just ask Alex Jones- he’ll be happy to tell you). There’s just one little problem: it never happened. Hitler didn’t confiscate weapons from Germans, but there’s no reason gun nuts should let the truth get in the way of a good story, right?

The propaganda that “Hitler took the guns!!” has been spread in one form or another by, among others:

All these folks and more agree that Hitler was able to solidify the iron grip of his murderous regime in part because of tough Nazi gun control laws. Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership raison d’etre is built on that premise. JPFO even sells posters of Hitler with the text, “All in favor of ‘gun control’ raise your right hand.”

Too bad for them that their argument is based on something that never occurred.

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.”

And it makes a certain amount of intuitive sense: If you’re going to impose a brutal authoritarian regime on your populace, better to disarm them first so they can’t fight back.

Unfortunately for LaPierre et al., the notion that Hitler confiscated everyone’s guns is mostly bogus. And the ancillary claim that Jews could have stopped the Holocaust with more guns doesn’t make any sense at all if you think about it for more than a minute.

The truth, unfortunately for the gun nuts, is somewhat different, and they all have their history dangerously wrong. It turns out that the Weimar Republic, which preceded Hitler’s Nazi Regime, actually had tougher gun laws than the Nazis.

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 German Weapons Act signed by Hitler actually did the opposite of what LaPierre and others argue that it did. The law actually relaxed restrictions on weapons ownership, with the exception of handguns.

(If you do a google search for “1938 German Weapons Act,” you get a little bit of historical truth and a whole lot of breathless propaganda and wildly incorrect history.)

Hitler allowed Germans greatly expanded weapons ownership because he ruled by popular fiat. He knew that he had little to fear from everyday Germans, and those groups whom he felt might be threats were proscribed from owning firearms. Hitler actually did discuss confiscating guns in 1942, but he was referring to understandably confiscating the firearms of the people whom Germany had conquered. No conquering power will stay in power for long if they allow those they vanquished to keep and maintain weapons that could help them fight back.

The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to permit the conquered Eastern peoples to have arms. History teaches that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by doing so. Indeed I would go so far as to say that the underdog is a sine qua non for the overthrow of any sovereignty. So let’s not have any native militia or police. German troops alone will bear the sole responsibility for the maintenance of law and order.

In truth, Adolf Hitler didn’t “take the guns,” to borrow a phrase from Alex Jones. While I understand the need for gun nuts to look for something- anything- to hang their devotion to their weaponry on, would it be too much to ask that they get their history correct? If they’re so obviously and sloppily wrong about this aspect of history, how are we to take anything they have to say seriously?

Hitler may have done some truly monstrous things during his reign, but contrary to what the gun nuts claim, confiscating the weapons of law-abiding German citizens wasn’t among them. Attempts to conflate Hitler’s alleged actions with the policies and intentions of Barack Obama are as silly and wrong as they are ignorant and offensive.

By the way, neither Stalin, Mao, or Castro “took the guns,” but that’s another story or another time.

Pro tip: If you’re going to use history to support your argument, it’s generally a good idea to be certain you get your history right. You can thank me later.

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This page contains a single entry by Jack Cluth published on January 26, 2013 6:39 AM.

Responsible gun ownership? Depends on how you define "responsible." was the previous entry in this blog.

"First we'll kill all the lawyers...." and how about we start in New Jersey? is the next entry in this blog.

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