Politics Archive

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Thoughts on Gun Control - The Hitler Argument

Gun ControlI was talking to a coworker the other day, and the issue of gun control came up. I told him that I didn't have a very strong opinion on the matter, but that I find myself drifting towards wanting to see more restrictive regulations. His response was to bring up Hitler - Hitler took away the guns in Germany, and look what happened.

My coworker is obviously not the first person to make such an argument. If you do a Google image source for 'hitler gun control', you'll get lots of interesting results. Here are a couple examples, with the captions repeating part of the text for people still using text only browsers.

Hitler Gun Control Poster 1

"This year will go down in history. For the first time, a civilized nation has full gun registration. Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the future!" - source


Hitler Gun Control Poster 2

Remember this quote? "To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens" -Adolph Hitler - source


There are a several points to look at here which I've addressed below.


Are the quotes true?

Simply put, no. This article from The Straight Dope, Did Hitler ban gun ownership?, deals effectively with the first supposed quote, and this article from Snopes, To Conquer a Nation, takes care of the second. There's no record that Hitler said those quotes attributed to him, or anything close enough to consider those as even mangled versions of real quotes. They're completely fabricated.


Did Hitler institute strict gun control measures in Germany?

This gets a little more complicated, but basically, no. Very strict gun control laws were put in place in Germany following WWI and the Treaty of Versailles, long before Hitler came to power. In 1919 and 1920, the Weimar government passed the Regulations on Weapons Ownership and the Law on the Disarmament of the People that in effect banned private gun ownership. In 1928, the Law on Firearms and Ammunition was passed which greatly relaxed Germany's gun control laws. Private gun ownership was allowed, but it wasn't a complete deregulation. People were required to have permits to own guns, separate permits to carry guns, and still more permits for the various aspects of the gun industry.

Hitler's rise to power began with the Great Depression. In 1933, he was appointed as chancellor. Throughout that year, he consolidated power for himself. When the president died the following year, the powers of that office were combined with the chancellor, giving Hitler practically full control of the government.

In 1938, a new gun control law was passed in Germany, now under Hitler's regime, the German Weapons Act. So, how did this new law change gun policy in the country. Here's how Alex Seitz-Wald described it in an article in Salon, The Hitler gun control lie.

The 1938 law signed by Hitler that LaPierre mentions in his book basically does the opposite of what he [LaPierre] 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.

However, and this is a big however, the law did prohibit Jews and other oppressed minorities from owning firearms.

So, Hitler loosened up gun control for most German citizens, while extending his already existing policies of oppression of minorities to exclude them from owning firearms.


Did gun control make a difference for the Jews and other peoples oppressed by the Nazis?

Well, it certainly didn't help them, but it's questionable how much differently history would have turned out if the Jews had had firearms. For one thing, the gun restrictions were only one of the many policies oppressing the Jews. And several of those other policies had been put in place before the Jews were banned from owning firearms, so obviously guns weren't used to fight those initial stages. And when the Jewish people did begin to revolt forcibly, it's still questionable just how much more they could have achieved against trained troops if they had had guns. Germany had conquered entire nations and armies - how much hope would there have been for untrained civilians?

John Stewart had a segment on the Daily Show a few nights ago that addressed this very issue. I've embedded the video below. It's very entertaining, if you have the time to watch it.

To quote the most relevant portion (dashes used to indicate either Stewart trailing off or waiting for applause/laughter to die down):

Look, I wish- You can never with certainty know how history might have been different (unless, of course, you have a Delorean with a flux capacitor, but I don't think-). I wish arms used in the ghetto could stop Hitler, but my feeling was, France couldn't. And I'm pretty sure they had guns. Russia- Russia- Russia had kind of a lot of guns, and they couldn't stop Hitler, until you factored in the wind chill. It's an awful lot to put on an oppressed minority when it took the free world five to six years of all out total war to stop that mother #@$!*#. So let's stop arguing these what ifs.

And to put this in perspective of the the modern day U.S., our military is huge. According to the article, The FY 2009 Pentagon Spending Request - Global Military Spending, in 2008 the U.S. alone accounted for 48% of the world's military spending. And this article with slightly newer data, America's staggering defense budget, in charts, shows that in 2011, the U.S. spent more on its military than the next 13 nations put together. So even if the conspiracy theorists were right, and the U.S. were to all of a sudden become a horrible dictatorship, any rebels would be going up against a military the equivalent of practically every single other nation combined. And if it were a dictatorship like Hitler's, with massive popular support, their resistance would be pretty small, indeed.


Are there any analogs in American history for comparison?

America's not Germany. For one thing, we've always had guns. So, can we say that we've put our Second Amendment rights to good use to keep oppression and atrocities from happening in this country?

Well, one of the most obvious examples is slavery. This was a horrible, horrible practice, making human beings the property of other people. And obviously, the slaves themselves weren't allowed to have guns, but white American citizens still had their guns. The white citizens could have banded together, and stood up in opposition to this oppression of their fellow human beings. Granted, there were a few who did this, like John Brown, but they didn't have anywhere near the numbers to pose an actual threat to the institution. And in fact, when the Civil War finally broke out, the ones using their guns to fight against the U.S. government were the ones fighting to continue the oppression. It was the government that was on the side of freedom.

Another example involves the treatment of the American Indians. Ever since the European discovery of the new world, there were a series of American Indian Wars, with the Europeans fighting to take away land from the Indians, and the Indians fighting to defend their land. Now, the Indians were able to acquire guns and fight back against the U.S. But, just as with the few armed uprisings against slavery, they never had enough numbers to be effective against the U.S. As just one example of how tragic these incidents could be, an estimated 4000 Cherokees died during the Trail of Tears, nearly a quarter of their population. But again, there was no widespread support from American citizens to defend these people who were being oppressed.

Since this post was prompted by a discussion of politics surrounding WWII, let's look at another example from this country from that very time period - Japanese American Internment Camps These were nowhere near as horrible as Nazi Concentration Camps, but they still involved the removal of American citizens and residents from their homes, and their relocation to prison camps. And these camps were guarded. There are documented cases of guards shooting prisoners attempting to walk outside of the fences. But again, there was no widespread organized effort to stop the government from this oppression.

As one final example, not including as many people as the previous examples, but much more current, consider Guantanamo. Here is a situation where the U.S. has kidnapped citizens from other countries, placed them in a detention facility without a trial, and then declared that they will be held indefinitely. These are not prisoners of war in any conventional sense. In the 'War' on Terror, there's no opposing government that we can expect to some day sign a treaty with to end hostilities, at which point we'd release the detainees. These prisoners are suspects of crimes. To hold them without due process is shameful. But rather than widespread outrage at this miscarriage of justice, 70% of Americans approve of Obama keeping the prison open (source - Washington Post).

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There are legitimate debates to have concerning gun rights and gun control. But let's stop pretending that protecting ourselves against the government is one of them. There is no grand tradition of armed American citizens standing together in opposition to oppression. The peoples who have been wronged have been too few in number to effectively protect themselves, and the rest of the country has either looked the other way, or been part of the majority calling for their oppression in the first place.


As an additional note, let me stress that I'm not advocating armed insurrection to fight these problems. The Civil Rights Movement had its greatest successes through the use of non-violent means, like boycotting and civil disobedience. The most effective uprisings in the Arab Spring were protesters, not armed revolutionaries. Heck, just look at the Wikipedia entry on Nonviolent Resistance for a long list of examples.

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My Previous Posts on Gun Control:

External Links:

Thursday, January 17, 2013

NRA President Unwittingly Supports Gun Ban

Gun ControlI've written previously about gun control in the entry, Thoughts on Gun Control. I looked at the stats I could find of people killed by gun violence, and concluded that there's just not enough evidence to support outright gun bans, but that I wasn't opposed to gun control laws. Since then, I've come across some articles that have given me reason to think more about the issue, but I still can't call myself informed enough to have a strong opinion. However, I do recognize that there's a problem with gun violence in this country. The gun homicide rate in the U.S. is 10-20 times higher than other industrialized nations, depending on how you define them (source - Politifact). Something needs to be done.

So the other day, I was listening to NPR, and Melissa Block was interviewing David Keene, president of the National Rifle Association. The interview can be found online at NRA Head: Registry Of Gun Owners Would Be Very Dangerous. She brought up several methods of gun control, and Keene dismissed them all as ineffective. Regarding restrictions on high capacity magazines, Keene said the following.

It sounds like a good idea. The fact is that it doesn't make very much difference. It takes anybody who's familiar with any of these firearms maybe a second to change the magazine. They're also very difficult to restrict. There are millions of them out there. They cost virtually nothing to produce. There are no serial numbers on them.

Here was Keene's response to background checks on ammunition sales.

So you know, when you talk about regulations, and when you talk about laws to get citizens to do one thing or the other, you have to ask yourself, what would that accomplish? Would that prevent this kind of shooting? And there's no reason to believe that it would, so why would you do it?

About 2/3 of the way through the interview, Keen said this.

Well, the fact of the matter is that unless you're talking about the confiscation and elimination of firearms, none of these things are going to make much difference. They haven't made much of a difference elsewhere, and they aren't going to make much difference here.

We live in a country that is so far out of line with the rest of the industrialized world in terms of gun violence, and the head of the premier gun organization in the country says that the only thing that can be done to reduce that violence is to eliminate all firearms in the country. What message does he want me to take away from that?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

War on Christmas 2012

Santa in the CrosshairsThe Christmas season is upon us, which means it's time for us Scrooges to ramp up the war. To tell the truth, after skimming through some of my older entries, I don't have anything new to add. The 'War on Christmas' is a bit silly, considering how Christmas has been treated in this country in the past. The Puritans even outlawed it's celebration (see the first link below). Personally, I'm going to decorate the house, put up a tree, give presents, and just about every other tradition associated with this time of year other than go to church.

Some of the Christmas entries I've written in the past are pretty good. I especially recommend the first three below for information content, and the fourth if you want to support a good cause.

My previous War on Christmas posts:

And of course, other people have created very interesting content in regards to Christmas and the 'war' upon it. Most of the links below are humorous, but the first is a serious look at the Salvation Army, and one more reason why I have trouble supporting that organization despite the good they do in other areas. Though as I wrote previously, if the only way you'd donate at all is by dropping pocket change into the Salvation Army's kettles, then do it. I don't donate to them personally, but I compensate by donating more to other charities.

Related Links to Other Sites:

And to continue with what is now a tradition on this blog, here is a YouTube video of Tim Minchin singing his Christmas song, White Wine in the Sun. And if you missed my previous entry, Buy White Wine in the Sun, Support Autism Society, then let me repeat that if you go and buy the song this month, the proceeds will go to supporting the National Autistic Society.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Good Commentary on the Fiscal Cliff

MoneyA while back, I wrote a blog entry, Debt Ceiling - Frustration With Politics, detailing my frustration with the way Democrats and Republicans were approaching the debt ceiling debate. Of course, the solution they reached then was to punt on the problem until the end of the year, which is now fast approaching. Last night on NPR, I heard a commentary from Robert Reich on this issue that made a lot of sense , 'Cliff' fix should include triggers. To quote Reich:

We've got two big economic challenges ahead: getting the economy back on track, and getting the budget deficit under control.

The problem is, the two require opposite strategies. We get the economy back on track by boosting demand through low taxes and continued government spending. We get the budget deficit under control by raising taxes and reducing government spending.

He went on to discuss the problems of a large deficit, but also the dangers of austerity and plunging back into another recession. He had a proposed solution, that if not quite realistic, wasn't bad. Go read the article to see what he had to say.

Updated 2012-11-15: Rewrote introductory paragraph.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Response to Article on U.N. Arms Trade Treaty

UN Flag LogoOnce again, I got an e-mail forward that I couldn't help but respond to. This one simply copy-and-pasted an article from Conservative Daily, RE: Election Is Over And The U.N. No Longer Quiet - correction. For those interested, my response is below. I've edited the links a bit to make them more blog friendly (i.e. giving descriptions instead of just the URL).

To give a flavor of the article, here are the two opening paragraphs.

Obama is back in business with the U.N. as they work on implementing the Small Arms Treaty that will eliminate our Second Amendment rights.

The U.N. laid low until after the presidential election because any news about Obama supporting an international gun treaty would have hurt his re-election chances. So, just as he tried to sweep Benghazi under the rug, and just like he asked contractors to ignore the WARN Act and hold off on giving layoff notices until after November 6th, he supposedly pressured United Nations committee members to keep quiet about the Small Arms Treaty until voting was over.

The article went on to discuss all of the dangers of the treaty, and how horrible Obama and the U.N. are. Here's one more paragraph as an example of the language used.

When Obama took office, he reversed the policy of the United States and began treaty negotiations with the U.N. Now that he doesn't have to worry about re-election, he is going to ram through his agenda. Taking away the rights of American gun owners and weakening America is part of that agenda. Governments will become more powerful and well armed, and citizens will see their right to own firearms disappear. It is Barack Obama's dream; the dream of a large state to take care of weakened masses

This article's a little over the top (well, more than a little after skimming through it again). Whether or not you agree with Obama's policies, I think everybody but the conspiracy nuts can agree that his intentions are good. He doesn't want to destroy America or hurt our citizens. He just has policy ideas that conservatives don't think will reach the goals he wants (for example, that the Affordable Care Act might not lower health care costs like he would like), or that conservatives don't necessarily agree with (e.g. that it's the government's responsibility to provide a strong social safety net for the less fortunate). But to claim that "weakening America is part of that [Obama's] agenda" or that "It is Barack Obama's dream; the dream of a large state to take care of weakened masses" is ludicrous.

Second, I couldn't find any mention of a U.N. Small Arms Treaty except on far right websites with articles similar to this one. I could only find an Arms Trade Treaty. That may seem like a small point, but it's indicative of sloppy research. It makes you wonder how well informed their opinions are when they can't even get the name of the treaty right. And seeing as how all the mentions I could find of a U.N. Small Arms Treaty come from far right groups, it makes you wonder if there's an echo chamber effect in what they're writing. i.e. Did the writers of this article ever go outside of far right groups to do research on the treaty, or are they merely repeating claims without looking into their veracity?

Assuming this is referring to the Arms Trade Treaty, there do appear to be legitimate concerns. The treaty is intended primarily to regulate international trade of firearms and help ensure that they don't get into the hands of human rights abusers, but the devil's in the details and we have to be sure that it's final implementation doesn't violate U.S. law. The Obama administration has already demanded provisions to keep this treaty from infringing on American's Second Amendment rights. Here are two relevant statements from the resolution:

  • Reaffirming the inherent right of all States to individual or collective self defence in accordance with Article 51 of the Charter...
  • Acknowledging also the right of States to regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership, including through national constitutional protections on private ownership, exclusively within their territory...

And even assuming that the State Department allowed the final version of the treaty to somehow infringe upon our rights, and further that it ever managed to get passed by the Senate, there's still the Supreme Court to protect our rights. The Reid v. Covert case set the precedent that the Constitution supersedes any international agreements.

Here are a few sources for more information on the treaty and the U.S. position on it, as well as a link to information about the Reid v. Covert case.


Image Source: United Nations

Updated 2012-12-06 - Added excerpts from article to give examples of the type of language used.

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