A popular argument for gun control opponents since the issue flared to fever pitch in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre has been that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler outlawed guns, and that any attempt by Congress/ President Barack Obama to do the same is akin to the dictator’s World War II policy.
This argument has become so central to many pro-gun arguments that the Google search term itself has seen tremendous search volume. As the Washington Examiner points out, web user interest in the history of Hitler and gun control has spiked since Democrats began demanding more restrictions on high capacity magazines and semi-automatic weapons, most notably the resurrected assault weapons ban crafted by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
In December the keywords “Hitler gun control” spiked to a 100 rating … the rating given to Google’s peak search volume, as the Washington Examiner notes.
The wild combination of “Hitler” and all things “Gun Control” (“Obama,” “Feinstein,” “Democrats” fall into this latter category) came to a head when the conservative Drudge Report website posted this image in response to Vice President Joe Biden — who is leading the president’s gun control panel — announcing that the administration was considering executive orders on the matter … cutting out Congress on the issue:
But is this a sound argument in the gun control debate? Can all things gun control really be considered Nazi-esque and inline with Hitler’s views?
No — the argument makes no sense. Hitler did have a gun control policy (and one that read almost like the Feinstein bill does today), but that policy was an extension of post-World War I gun control measures set on Germany by the Allies to keep Germany from militarizing itself.
The regulation was in response to the Treaty of Versailles, and the German Weimar government passed the legislation (not the Nazis). Article 169 of the Treaty of Versailles stated, "Within two months from the coming into force of the present Treaty, German arms, munitions, and war material, including anti-aircraft material, existing in Germany in excess of the quantities allowed, must be surrendered to the Governments of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers to be destroyed or rendered useless."
This regulation sounds like any American pro-gun advocate’s worst nightmare — the surrender of all firearms and ammo! Wowza. In the current gun debate, the closest thing that comes to this gun control policy is an Iowa lawmaker who is calling for gun confiscation. The proposed Feinstein assault weapons ban itself doesn’t call for confiscation, and would in fact allow owners of any banned guns to keep their weapons when/ if the bill goes into effect. A Connecticut lawmaker is calling for background checks to buy ammo, but this is in no way in the “confiscation” vein.
Keep in mind now that we’re not even talking about Hitler yet: The 1919 measure was passed immediately after Germany lost World War I and well before Hitler came to power in 1933.
Hitler, then, came into power when this regulation was in effect … so, yes, Hitler, by default, did have a gun control policy — but only because it was forced on Germany.
Remember how the Hitler Youth were trained to march not with rifles but with shovels? This was a result of the Treaty of Versailles, not a Hitler policy.
Hitler did have his own gun control policy, an extension of the 1919 regulation. Funny enough, it sounds a lot like the boiler plate gun control legislation that is on the books across the United States — and, even funnier enough, the Hitler gun control policy sounds like something any American would generally support … but even more so is what pro-gun advocates are pushing for: deregulation.
That’s right: Hitler and pro-gun advocates want the same thing.
The 1938 German Weapons Act, the precursor of the current weapons law in Germany, superseded a 1928 law. As under the 1928 law, citizens were required to have a permit to carry a firearm and a separate permit to acquire a firearm. Furthermore, the law restricted ownership of firearms to "...persons whose trustworthiness is not in question and who can show a need for a (gun) permit." Under the new law, gun restriction laws applied only to handguns, not to long guns or ammunition. Writes Prof. Bernard Harcourt of the University of Chicago, "The 1938 revisions completely deregulated the acquisition and transfer of rifles and shotguns, as well as ammunition.”
The groups of people who were exempt from the acquisition permit requirement expanded. Holders of annual hunting permits, government workers, and NSDAP party members were no longer subject to gun ownership restrictions. Prior to the 1938 law, only officials of the central government, the states, and employees of the German Reichsbahn Railways were exempted. The age at which persons could own guns was lowered from 20 to 18. The firearms carry permit was valid for three years instead of one year. Under both the 1928 and 1938 acts, gun manufacturers and dealers were required to maintain records with information about who purchased guns and the guns' serial numbers. These records were to be delivered to a police authority for inspection at the end of each year.
Of course, in typical Hitler style, Jews were forbidden from the manufacturing or dealing of firearms and ammunition.
In 1945, after the Nazis surrendered, Allied forces commanding Germany completely disarmed the country. Private ownership of firearms in Germany was not allowed until after 1956.
Modern Germany has comparatively stricter gun laws than the U.S., laws that were the result of a chain of school shootings in Erfurt, Emsdetten and Winnenden. They led to a public debate, in which blame was attributed to various elements of youth culture and society, including violent computer games, television programs, rock music, and private gun ownership (sounds familiar).
So, are pro-gun proponents in the United States right to compare gun control efforts to Hitler? No. The reality is that their views more align with Hitler policies (except that anti-Jewish part!) of de-regulation.
This of course, isn't to say, that Americans are in anyway like Nazis, only to add some flesh to the conversation sparked by Drudge Report and other pro-gun proponents.