A Salon.com article by Alex Seitz-Wald called “The Hitler Gun Control Lie” is making the rounds, purporting to challenge a myth Second Amendment enthusiasts spread that blames the Holocaust on Hitler’s policies of civilian disarmament. The thrust of the argument is that Hitler’s 1938 firearms law indeed ratcheted back restrictions from the Weimar era. But here is the most telling paragraph:
The law did prohibit Jews and other persecuted classes from owning guns, but this should not be an indictment of gun control in general. Does the fact that Nazis forced Jews into horrendous ghettos indict urban planning? Should we eliminate all police officers because the Nazis used police officers to oppress and kill the Jews? What about public works — Hitler loved public works projects? Of course not. These are merely implements that can be used for good or ill, much as gun advocates like to argue about guns themselves. If guns don’t kill people, then neither does gun control cause genocide (genocidal regimes cause genocide).
As a libertarian, I actually would argue that the violence of Hitler’s statism can be seen in such areas as his militarized police forces, and the totalitarian potential of a heavily policed society is one reason I’ve been so critical of America’s police.
Honing in on the gun rights issue, we see a most curious argument: Hitler was actually pro-gun rights—except for the minor issue of the Jews. We can get the same nuanced information from Wikipedia, which cites work by Stephen Halbrook and sums up Hitler’s gun control policy in this seemingly important area:
On November 11, 1938, the Minister of the Interior, Wilhelm Frick, passed Regulations Against Jews’ Possession of Weapons. This regulation effectively deprived all Jews of the right to possess firearms or other weapons.
Yes, Hitler did loosen some restrictions on firearms—except for the people he exterminated! The Seitz-Wald pieces relies heavily on a University of Chicago working paper by Bernard Harcourt, which includes this seemingly cursory dismissal of Hitler’s disarming of the Jews in the context of the Holocaust:
How to characterize their treatment of Jewish persons for purposes of gun control—banning the possession of dangerous weapons, including guns, in 1938, and subsequently exterminating Jewish persons—is, in truth, an absurd question. The Nazis sought to disarm and kill Jews, and their treatment of Jews is, for all intents and purposes, orthogonal to their gun-control tendencies.
Even if you don’t accept the standard “gun control = genocide” line coming from gun-rights advocates, this passage is just bizarre. If the question being debated is whether Hitler enacted gun control that enabled his murderous policies, it seems rather odd to me to concede that the “Nazis sought to disarm and kill Jews” yet assert in passing that genocide was “orthogonal to their gun-control tendencies.” Within a couple days of Kristalnacht, Hitler disarmed the very group he was most determined to eliminate. Even if this correlation is not causal, there is a relationship here. It is not random. It is not “orthogonal.”