Gun Laws and the Holocaust

by Justin Hinckley, LPNC 2A Issues Coordinator

Read this article, and then check out Justin's site, Port City Firearms. Support your fellow Libertarians and protect yourself at the same time!

"The Nazis loosened gun laws right before the Holocaust"

This is a refrain I've encountered from the anti-gun crowd a few times. Mostly uttered by the slightly more experienced, but no more informed, types it seems this phrase has mostly arisen as a debate tactic. The assumption being the pro-gun person debating with them is not familiar enough with Nazi gun laws to deny the “citation.” So far no one I have seen utter such nonsense is actually able to cite the law they're supposedly referencing. In this article we will go over the gun laws of the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich to arm you with the facts to debunk the above quote. Luckily, there is a succinct book written by Stephen Halbrook, Gun Control in the Third Reich: Disarming the Jews and "Enemies of the State", which is where all dates and details are taken from for this article.

First, we should acknowledge that, like most misinformation, there is a grain of truth to the idea that the Nazis loosened gun laws before the Holocaust. This notion is so vague as to be useless but let's talk details. The gun law I assume most people refer to when they cite loosened gun laws would be the 1938 German Weapons Act. This law was designed to aid the suffering German firearms manufacturing industry and to loosen regulations for Nazi Party members and regime officials. One specific loosened regulation was that a license was no longer required to acquire shotguns or rifles. In these very narrow manners, Nazi gun laws could be said to be loosened.

Licenses to obtain a handgun still existed for non-party members, permits to carry a firearm were still required and could be denied by local police for any reason, and police still maintained a registration of every firearms transaction and owner. Perhaps most egregious in the new law was the prohibition of Jews from holding ownership stake in any companies dealing in the trade or manufacture of guns and the prohibition of Gypsies from being issued permits to carry.

In order to understand the hollowness of this “loosening,” we should look at the myriad activity from German authorities both before and after the passing of the 1938 law. For instance, in 1935, Werner Best, chief legal advisor of the Gestapo, issued a decree titled “Issuance of Weapons Permits to Jews,” which resulted in the countrywide denial of issuing new gun permits to Jews. The day after Kristallnacht, Nov 10, 1938, Heinrich Himmler, leader of the SS, declared possession of a firearm by a Jew to be a crime punishable by up to 20 years in a Concentration Camp. The following day, Interior Minister Heinrich Frick issued the “Regulation Against Jews’ Possession of Weapons” which prohibited acquisition, possession, and carrying of firearms and ammunition by Jews.

With all of this groundwork laid, it was a small but catastrophic step to begin the disarming of the Jewish population in earnest. This began with a series of declarations by local police throughout Germany requiring Jews to surrender weapons in the weeks prior to Kristallnacht. Confiscations at people’s homes and at police stations began immediately after the declarations. This is perhaps the climax of the evidence which disproves the spirit of the “loosened access to firearms” which continued seizures and arrests into, during, and after Kristallnacht, sometimes considered the start of the Holocaust. By the end of 1938, the German Jewish population was essentially entirely disarmed after years of piecemeal confiscations ending in the pogroms which seized en masse the remaining Jewish arms.

Some may attempt to distract from the reality of registration, confiscation, disarmament, detention, and finally extermination by claiming the gun control laws did not cause the Holocaust or that the Jews never had enough arms to put up significant resistance to the Wehrmacht. Do not be distracted by such attempts, as the primary concern with the reference to Nazi gun control is to demonstrate that registration has led to confiscation, which has followed further atrocity. Diving down the rabbit hole of what-if surrounding ownership rates, effective resistance, or whether all gun registration leads to confiscation and atrocity is pointless and often frustrating since those realities do not exist and cannot be proven or disproven. What is vital to point out is that, irrespective of whether registration leads inexorably to atrocity, what we know for sure beyond any doubt is that this atrocity was preceded by registration and confiscation.

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  • Rob Yates
    published this page in 2A Talk 2024-02-29 12:40:23 -0500
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