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Nazi gun control argument

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German Weapons Act of 18 March 1938 (RGBl. I p. 265)

The Nazi gun control argument is the claim that gun regulations in Nazi Germany helped facilitate the rise of the Nazis and the Holocaust.[1][2][3] Historians and fact-checkers have characterized the argument as dubious or false, and point out that Jews were under 1% of the population and that it would be unrealistic for such a small population to defend themselves even if they were armed.[2][3][4][5][6]

The argument is frequently employed by opponents of gun control in debates on United States gun politics, citing security against tyranny. Those against the argument most often call it an example of reductio ad Hitlerum.[7]



In early 1930s Germany, few citizens owned, or were entitled to own firearms[2] with the Weimar Republic having strict gun control laws.[8] When the Nazi party gained power, some aspects of gun regulation were loosened for Nazi party members only.[5]: 672  The laws were tightened in other ways, such as specifically banning ownership of guns by Jews. Nazi laws systematically disarmed so-called "unreliable" persons, especially Jews while relaxing restrictions for Nazi party members.[5]: 670, 676  The policies were later expanded to include the confiscation of arms in occupied countries.[9]: 533, 536 



According to gun rights activist and former National Rifle Association board member Neal Knox, the Nazi gun control hypothesis was first suggested in a 1992 book by Jay Simkin and Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (JPFO) founder Aaron S. Zelman. In it, they compared the German gun laws of 1928 and 1938 and the United States congressional hearings preceding the Gun Control Act of 1968.[10][11] Supporters of the Nazi gun control argument point to a request by U.S. senator Thomas J. Dodd to the Library of Congress for a translation of the 1938 Nazi law. Dodd was a prosecutor during the post-war Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals, and as a senator he sponsored gun control bills that led to creation of the 1968 law.

In a 2000 article, National Rifle Association (NRA) attorney Stephen Halbrook said he was presenting "the first scholarly analysis of the use of gun control laws and policies to establish the Hitler regime and to render political opponents and especially German Jews defenseless."[9]: 485  In the article, he cites an Adolf Hitler quote: "the most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms."[9]: 483 [12]: 403  Other gun rights advocates such as Halbrook, Zelman, and former NRA leader Wayne LaPierre have proposed that Nazi Party policies and laws were an enabling factor in the Holocaust, that prevented its victims from implementing an effective resistance.[5]: 653–5 [9]: 484 [13]: 87–8, 167–8  Associate professor of criminal justice M. Dyan McGuire wrote in her 2011 book: "It is frequently argued that these laws, which resulted in the confiscation of weapons not belonging to supporters of the Nazis, rendered the Jews and other disfavored groups like the Gypsies, homosexuals, Poles, and their potential allies defenseless and set the stage for the slaughter of the Holocaust that followed."[14][6]

The Nazi gun control argument has been used as a "security against tyranny" argument in U.S. gun politics.[15][16]

Legal scholar and historian Robert Cottrol has argued that other authoritarian regimes such as the Khmer Rouge could have been inhibited by more private gun ownership.[16]

A 2011 open letter from Dovid Bendory, who was the rabbinic director of JPFO, to then New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, asked: "Are you aware that the Nazis disarmed Jews prior to Kristallnacht and that those same Nazi gun laws are the foundation of the U.S. Gun Control Act of 1968?"[17][18]

In October 2015, U.S. Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said that Hitler's mass murder of Jews "would have been greatly diminished" if Germans had not been disarmed by the Nazis.[19]

In February 2018, U.S. Republican representative Don Young questioned, "How many Jews were put in the ovens because they were unarmed?"[20]



Fact-checkers have described this theory as "false" or "debunked".[21][22][23][1]

In a 2011 magazine piece, law professor Mark Nuckols says Nazi gun control hypotheses are part of a "shaky intellectual edifice" underlying "belief in widespread gun ownership as a defense against tyrannical government." He says the idea is "gaining traction with members of Congress as well as fringe conspiracy theorists."[4] In his 2011 book, fellow law professor Adam Winkler says: "This radical wing of the gun rights movement focuses less on the value of guns for self-defense against criminals than on their value for fighting tyranny."[15] He says the militia groups that grew in number across the U.S. after the early 1990s organized "to fight off what they saw as an increasingly tyrannical federal government and what they imagined was the inevitable invasion of the United States by the United Nations."[24] Winkler wrote that "[to] some on the fringe," the Brady Bill "was proof that the government was determined to deprive Americans of their constitutional rights."[25]

Because mainstream scholars argue that gun laws in Germany were already strict prior to Hitler,[2][5][3][26] gun-control advocates may view the hypothesis as a form of reductio ad Hitlerum.[7] In a 2004 issue of the Fordham Law Review, legal scholar Bernard Harcourt said Halbrook "perhaps rightly" could say that he made the first scholarly analysis of his Nazi-gun-registration subject, but as a gun-rights litigator, not as a historian.[5]: 669–670  Harcourt called on historians for more research and serious scholarship on Nazi gun laws. "Apparently," Harcourt wrote, "the historians have paid scant attention to the history of firearms regulation in the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich."[5]: 679–680  According to Harcourt, "Nazis were intent on killing Jewish persons and used the gun laws and regulations to further the genocide,"[5]: 676  but the disarming and killing of Jews was unconnected with Nazi gun control policy, and it is "absurd to even try to characterize this as either pro- or anti-gun control." If he had to choose, Harcourt said, the Nazi regime was pro-gun compared with the Weimar Republic that preceded it.[5]: 671, 677  He says that gun rights advocates disagree about the relationship between Nazi gun control and the Holocaust, with many distancing themselves from the idea. Political scientist Robert Spitzer said (in the same law review as Harcourt, who stated the same thing) the quality of Halbrook's historical research is poor.[3] In reference to Halbrook's hypothesis that gun control leads to authoritarian regimes, Spitzer says that "actual cases of nation-building and regime change, including but not limited to Germany, if anything support the opposite position."[26]: 728 

Regarding the "Nazi gun control theory", anthropologist Abigail Kohn wrote in her 2004 book:[2]

Such counterfactual arguments are problematic because they reinvent the past to imagine a possible future. In fact, Jews were not well-armed and were not able to adequately defend themselves against Nazi aggression. Thus, reimagining a past in which they were and did does not provide a legitimate basis for arguments about what might have followed.

In the encyclopedic 2012 book, Guns in American Society, Holocaust scholar Michael Bryant says Halbrook, LaPierre, Zelman, Dave Kopel, and others' "use of history has selected factual inaccuracies, and their methodology can be questioned."[3]

In January 2013, Anti-Defamation League (ADL) director Abraham Foxman said in a press release: "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."[27] Later that year, Jewish groups and Jersey City, New Jersey mayor Steven Fulop criticized the NRA for comparing gun control supporters to Nazi Germany.[28] The Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ released a statement saying: "Access to guns and the systematic murder of six million Jews have no basis for comparison in the United States or in New Jersey. The Holocaust has no place in this discussion and it is offensive to link this tragedy to such a debate."[28]

See also



  1. ^ a b "Shot down: the myths distorting the US gun debate". Channel 4 News. February 12, 2013. Archived from the original on February 1, 2019. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e Kohn, Abigail (2004). Shooters: Myths and Realities of America's Gun Cultures. Oxford University Press. p. 187. ISBN 0-19-515051-1. Archived from the original on May 14, 2020. Retrieved June 24, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e Bryant, Michael S. (May 4, 2012). "Holocaust Imagery and Gun Control". In Carter, Gregg Lee (ed.). Guns in American Society: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics, Culture and the Law. Vol. 2 (2nd ed.). Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. pp. 411–415. ISBN 9780313386701. OCLC 833189121. Archived from the original on July 1, 2014. Retrieved March 21, 2014.
  4. ^ a b Nuckols, Mark (January 31, 2013). "Why the 'Citizen Militia' Theory Is the Worst Pro-Gun Argument Ever". The Atlantic. The Atlantic Monthly Group. Archived from the original on August 22, 2015. Retrieved August 19, 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Harcourt, Bernard E. (2004). "On Gun Registration, the NRA, Adolf Hitler, and Nazi Gun Laws: Exploding the Gun Culture Wars (A Call to Historians)". Fordham Law Review. 73 (2): 653–680. Archived from the original on June 11, 2014. Retrieved April 26, 2014.
  6. ^ a b Steinweis, Alan (October 14, 2015). "Ben Carson Is Wrong on Guns and the Holocaust". The New York Times. Archived from the original on October 17, 2015. Retrieved March 15, 2016.
  7. ^ a b McMorris-Santoro, Evan (January 9, 2013). "Opponents Play The Hitler Card On Gun Control, Supporters Say It's Not Gonna Work This Time". Talking Points Memo. Archived from the original on May 18, 2015. Retrieved April 21, 2015.
  8. ^ Alex Seitz-Wald (January 11, 2013). "The Hitler gun control lie". salon.com. Archived from the original on January 19, 2013. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
  9. ^ a b c d Halbrook, Stephen P. (2000). "Nazi Firearms Law and the Disarming of the German Jews" (PDF). Arizona Journal of International and Comparative Law. 17 (3): 483–535. Archived (PDF) from the original on December 1, 2019. Retrieved March 24, 2014.
  10. ^ Knox, Neal (2009). The Gun Rights War: Dispatches from the Front Lines 1966 - 2000. Phoenix, Arizona: MacFarlane. p. 286. ISBN 9780976863304. Archived from the original on April 18, 2018. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
  11. ^ Winkler 2011, p. 339.
  12. ^ Trevor-Roper, Hugh R. (2008). Hitler's Table Talk 1941-44: His Private Conversations (new ed.). Enigma Books. p. 321. ISBN 978-1936274932. Archived from the original on April 3, 2016. Retrieved April 21, 2015.
  13. ^ LaPierre, Wayne (1994). Guns, Crime, and Freedom. Washington, D.C.: Regnery. ISBN 9780895264770. OCLC 246629786.
  14. ^ McGuire, M. Dyan (2011). "Gun Control Laws". In Chambliss, William (ed.). Courts, Law, and Justice. SAGE. p. 119. ISBN 978-1412978576. Archived from the original on July 5, 2014. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
  15. ^ a b Winkler 2011, p. 83.
  16. ^ a b Cottrol, Robert (November 7, 1999). "The Last Line of Defense". Los Angeles Times (opinion). Archived from the original on January 4, 2014. Retrieved April 22, 2014.
  17. ^ Coscarelli, Joe (March 9, 2011). "Jewish Firearms Group Compares Bloomberg Gun Control to Genocide, Nazis". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on April 27, 2015. Retrieved August 22, 2016.
  18. ^ "Rabbi Defends Comparison of Gun Owners to Holocaust Victims" (Press release). Chicago: Fox 32 News. May 3, 2011. Archived from the original on February 27, 2014. Retrieved August 22, 2016.{{cite press release}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  19. ^ Williams, Vanessa (October 8, 2015). "Carson suggests that gun rights might have changed history for Jews in WWII". Washington Post. Archived from the original on May 27, 2016. Retrieved August 21, 2016.
  20. ^ Savransky, Rebecca (February 28, 2018). "Rep. Don Young suggests armed Jews could have prevented the Holocaust". Washington Post. Archived from the original on February 28, 2018. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
  21. ^ "Fact-checking Ben Carson's claim that gun control laws allowed the Nazis to carry out Holocaust". @politifact. Archived from the original on February 1, 2019. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
  22. ^ "Florida lawmaker mangles Nazi gun control history". @politifact. Archived from the original on February 1, 2019. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
  23. ^ "Facebook post claiming guns could have prevented the Holocaust met with backlash". The Washington Post. 2018. Archived from the original on February 1, 2019. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
  24. ^ Winkler 2011, p. 84.
  25. ^ Winkler 2011, p. 85.
  26. ^ a b Spitzer, Robert J. (2004). "Don't Know Much About History, Politics, or Theory: A Comment". Fordham Law Review. 73 (2): 721–730. Archived from the original on March 22, 2014. Retrieved March 24, 2014.
  27. ^ "ADL Says Nazi Analogies Have No Place In Gun Control Debate" (Press release). New York: Anti-Defamation League. January 24, 2013. Archived from the original on April 6, 2016. Retrieved August 22, 2016.
  28. ^ a b Giambusso, David (December 17, 2013). "Jewish groups, Jersey City Mayor Fulop slam NRA for Holocaust comments". Star-Ledger. Archived from the original on May 22, 2015. Retrieved April 19, 2015.



Further reading


Works that argue that gun control serves as a necessary, though not sufficient condition, for Genocide

Works that criticize Nazi gun control arguments