More on the Myth of Hitler’s Gun Ban (Part 1)


Thanks to a routine gun massacre at a school, a plug of this blog by Randi Rhodes, and the routine level of rabidly hateful insanity spewing out of the Second Amendment crowd, my previous post on The Myth of Hitler’s Gun Ban, written more than a year ago, has suddenly been catapulted through the stratosphere, at least by my readership’s usual standards: more than 32,000 hits in one day alone. And I’m pleased to see that, for the most part, the new comments have been civil, informed, and sometimes thought-provoking. This even applies to many individuals who chose to challenge my research.

And then there are the others: the gun fanatics who resent being deprived of one of their pet myths, and come out with hardware blazing in an effort to hold onto it. Some have accused me of being “misleading”, though they haven’t been able to tell me exactly how I’ve misled. Some have suggested that I’m an admirer of Hitler myself; or that I want to take away their guns like he didn’t; or that I’m anti-Semitic for pointing out that the Jews were unable to resist Nazi oppression.

For some of these folks, it’s very, very important to believe that Hitler banned guns, because their window on the universe looks something like this: (1) President Obama is trying to ban guns; (2) Hitler banned guns; (3) therefore Obama is Hitler reincarnate; (4) therefore we need to prepare for the day when he’ll come banging our door down and dragging us off to a FEMA concentration camp, where we’ll be either converted to Islam, or will be tortured and killed; (5) thus, we must stockpile as many weapons as possible and coincidentally stack up some healthy profits for Lord LaPierre and company.

“The first thing a tyrant does”, they often say, “is take away people’s guns”.  Whereupon they point to a string of historical dictators who supposedly did just that, and proclaim that President Obama belongs in that nefarious procession himself. They’re quite mistaken on every count (for one thing, tyrants seldom attach as much significance to “gun control” as gun nuts do), but as one gathers from their frequent attempts to politicize the gun debate to the nth degree, it doesn’t matter whether you have the right facts, so long as you have the right ideology.

I recommend reading the comments on the original post, but the following is an attempt to address objections, shed some additional light, and summarize and reiterate some salient points:

Salient Point # 1. Hitler did NOT ban guns. Did not, did not, did not.

No amount of devious spin can alter that fact. Sorry. Get over it, already.  Even GunCite (a pro-gun website that, unlike other pro-gun websites, generally does some solid research) acknowledges as much. The Nazis inherited a system of firearm registration and regulation that was already quite strict, though it also did not, by any means, amount to a gun ban. And the gun law they passed in 1938 actually loosened those existing regulations considerably.  Regulations were still stringent. But to call it a “gun ban”, is… well, misleading at the very least.

Okay, I admit it: I may have goofed. In debunking the popular Hitler gun “quote” (you know, the one beginning “This year will go down in history”), I noted that he did say this:

“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.”

From which I deduced:

So it’s fair to conclude that he believed “gun control” had its uses.

Okay, but a great deal depends on what you  mean by “gun control”.  I may have goofed by cutting Der Fuhrer off too soon. Just a couple of sentences later, he added this:

“So let’s not have any native militia or native police. German troops alone will bear the sole responsibility for the maintenance of law and order throughout the occupied Russian territories, and a system of military strong-points must be evolved to cover the entire occupied country.”

This suggests that his real concern about “conquered peoples” having arms was really about them having organized armed forces, not merely armed citizens. And he was referring specifically to governing the conquered “Eastern peoples” (i.e., Russians) rather than Germans.

The Nazis loved their guns. They loved guns almost as much as today’s American Gun Worshiping Cult that compares Obama to Hitler. They loved guns so much, they taught children to march and drill with them, starting as early as five years of age. The nursery rhymes these children heard encouraged them to play with guns. Does that sound like something Nazis wanted to outlaw?

While I’m hesitant to consult white supremacist organizations on anything, it’s interesting to note that the National Alliance, which has a certain amount of reverence for both firearms and fascism/white nationalism, has this commentary ,which lays out some of the specifics of the 1938 law. It’s excerpted from a book that includes the complete text of the law, both in English translation and in the original German.  For what it’s worth, the commentary concludes with the declaration that it was not Hitler, but his enemies, who advocated for “gun control”. Quite the reverse of the claim made by gun enthusiasts who (presumably) do not admire Hitler.

Salient Point # 2: Yes, the Jews were barred from gun ownership. So what?

They were barred from a lot of things. Like voting, owning businesses, working in professions, attending schools, patronizing cinemas or theatres, and visiting public parks or “Aryan” areas. Jews were not considered citizens in Nazi Germany (and in a very real sense they weren’t even considered human), and gun ownership was one of the perks of citizenship. The fact that the gun culture considers the Jews’ lack of guns of more consequence than their lack of far more basic civic rights says a great deal more about the gun culture than it does about the Nazis or the Jews. And even when they get it right about what the German gun laws did or didn’t do, they misrepresent the significance and consequences of those laws.

And we say laws in the plural because there were indeed more than one. We’ve been discussing primarily the German Weapons Act of 1938, passed in March of that year, which as we’ve noted before, significantly deregulated firearms. It also prohibited Jews from manufacturing and selling them; one gets the impression that the intent was to prevent Jews, whom the Nazis regarded as subhuman, from handling the sacred implements of power that they later would touch with their own hands. Even so, note that this law itself did not expressly ban Jews from owning guns.

It wasn’t until November of that year that a different law, The Regulations Against Jews’ Possession Of Weapons, did what its name suggested. That’s right: even though they’d subjected the Jews to just about every form of degradation and brutal oppression possible, it took the Nazis  five years before they actually got around to barring Jews from owning guns. Gives you some indication just what an all-consuming priority it was, doesn’t it? Furthermore, this law was passed only after Kristallnacht, which might have given Jews an incentive to retaliate violently.

“Aha”, says the gun fanatic, “so obviously the Nazis were concerned about the threat of an armed populace”. Well sure, to some degree; but let’s not blow it out of proportion. Just because they wanted to prevent a few of their own from getting killed or wounded in the line of duty didn’t mean they gave any credibility to the Tea Party wet dream of a small contingent of armed citizens overthrowing their government. As one of my readers so astutely observed, if they’d encountered armed resistance at the first two houses they came knocking at, then at the third house they would have stopped knocking and just started shooting.

In a statement issued by the Anti-Defamation League, national director Abraham Foxman, a survivor of the Holocaust (you know, the one that didn’t really happen), said:

“The idea that supporters of gun control are doing something akin to what Hitler’s Germany did to strip citizens of guns in the run-up to the Second World War is historically inaccurate and offensive, especially to Holocaust survivors and their families.”

The ADL statement also says:

“the small number of personal firearms in the hands of the small number of Germany’s Jews (about 214,000) remaining in Germany in 1938 could in no way have stopped the totalitarian power of the Nazi German state.”

But hey, just because someone was there and actually lived through it doesn’t mean they can match the expertise on the subject exhibited by Glenn Beck or Ann Coulter, does it? Incidentally, the ADL has politely urged people to refrain from using Hitler as a political scarecrow. Do you really think anyone’s gonna listen?

(More to come on this, alas.)


  1. Excellent follow-up. I eagerly await the continuation.

    The problem, of course, is that the belief that Hitler banned guns to prevent the German people from overthrowing him is an article of faith among the gun-rights crowd, and faith always trumps facts. For example, as a Christian I believe that Jesus rose from the dead. No amount of evidence or facts proving that a human corpse cannot spontaneously resuscitate will convince me otherwise.

    The same is true of the gun-rights crowd. They believe that tyrants ban and confiscate guns to keep themselves in power; no amount of evidence and facts proving otherwise will convince them they are wrong.

    Of course, this article of faith is merely an offshoot of a more important one: that the Second Amendment was created to keep the Government in line by threat of a general citizen insurrection if it tries to turn tyrannical. James Madison himself could come down from Heaven and speak to the NRA, telling them that wasn’t the intention of himself or his fellow Congressmen, and gun-rights people will still argue that that was the purpose of the 2nd Am all along.

    After all, they have faith that it is, because their ideology tells them so. Nothing like a nice circular argument to keep a mind firmly closed and locked.

    • Too true. At least with regard to the belief in the resurrection, you acknowledge that it flies in the face of the evidence. I don’t think the gunsters are willing even to go anywhere near that far.

      • Probably not, but I’m an unusual person; I doubt there are any gun-rights people quite like me. I am a rationalist and an empiricist who is also a transcendentalist and an existentialist. I prefer logic and reasoning but accept that there are many things that can only be accepted on faith. I oppose abortion but support a woman’s right to choose without interference. I am a creationist who accepts that evolution is a scientific fact. I firmly believe in the existence of unalienable rights, but believe that personal responsibility requires that reasonable restrictions be applied to the exercise of those rights.

        So I have no difficulty believing in an article of Christian faith which defies reality as we currently understand it.

        To clarify, however, I believe the resurrection was a miracle, thus placing it outside of reality. The gun rights claim that the 2nd Am is a right of insurrection against tyranny defies established historical fact. There can be no ‘miracles’ in such a case.

  2. “Reductio ad Hitlerum” will almost always lose the argument and is best to be avoided. It’s a reason for Godwin’s Law.

    “I hear you breath oxygen. You know who else breathed oxygen? Hitler.”

    Yes, every argument invoking Hitler sounds that stupid.

    • Actually trying to pass off Mike Godwin’s “Law” as a formal logical fallacy is fundamentally misguided.
      There are plenty of discussions where drawing comparisons to Hitler and the Nazi Party is perfectly appropriate.
      As anyone who has ever argued with Mike Godwin knows, it only takes a few minutes before you start thinking “This must be what debating Josef Goebbels was like”
      Godwin argues like a nazi, always has. He made up a rule that if you called him a nazi he won. That’s all.

  3. A truly massive propaganda effort based on the idea discussed in this blog is the website for “Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership”:

    They claim that the Gun Control Act of 1968 is based, almost word-for-word, on the Nazi Weapons Law of 1938:

    This forms the basis of the most of their anti-gun control campaign. They even have a bumper sticker that claims that gun control made the Holocaust possible:

    Among other things, they also claim that supporters of gun control have “psychological problems”:

    Though the article is careful to say that gun control advocates are not mentally ill, other parts of the website are less scrupulous. Nonetheless, the basis of her argument is that advocates of gun control see themselves as victims, and in their rage try to punish people whom they perceive are not victims.

    From the article:

    If I were to summarize this article in three sentences, they would be:

    [1] People who identify themselves as “victims” harbor excessive amounts of rage at other people, whom they perceive as “not victims.”

    [2] In order psychologically to deal with this rage, these “victims” utilize defense mechanisms that enable them to harm others in socially acceptable ways, without accepting responsibility or suffering guilt, and without having to give up their status as “victims.”

    [3] Gun owners are frequently the targets of professional victims because gun owners are willing and able to prevent their own victimization.


    Personally, I see it the other way around: gun-rights advocates, with their “victim disarmament” rhetoric, have a pathological fear of becoming victims, and so cling to guns as their “salvation”.

    In which case, this article is simply an exercise in what it purports to condemn.

    • This article, of course, hinges largely on the straw man that “gun control” is tantamount to a gun ban. It’s especially amusing to see the accusation about “rewriting history” on the Second Amendment after the linguistic contortions performed by Scalia in Heller vs. DC.

    • What sources need to be cited? Guns were taken completely out of Jewish hands in 1938, according to this article. Mass killing didn’t happen until the early 40’s

  4. I really appreciate your attempts at eliminating any misrepresentation facts, quotes, references and logical fallacies in this important subject. Fools have always amused themselves and some thousands of them make a living preventing reasonable public consensus from forming.

    Its pretty obvious from the assassination in June of ’42 of Adolph Hitler’s wonder boy SS Obergruppenfuher Reinhard Heydrich, that even a small group of patriots with prior training or even self starters with a little ingenuity can make life interesting for an occupying force. Hitler’s reference to gun control in the occupied East might in part have reflected this awareness.

    On the other hand our 2nd Amendment was also anticipating the retrogression of the United States Government into an even more intolerable tyranny than existed before the war for independence and was prescribing a prior check against it. As Jefferson commented, every generation must be prepared to reestablish its freedoms in subsequent wars of independence. To require registration of their arms would have been as unthinkable as the registration of their books or lists of their friends.

    The sentiment of binding down the government with chains as though it were a dangerous criminal awaiting trial was common early on, even among the Hamiltonian types.As predicted by the Anti-Federalists at the time, the paper chain of the Constitution proved ineffective and a false hope.

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