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obama + gun control ≠ hitler

January 31, 2013

Apparently it seems that some people are still going around suggesting that the Obama administration’s recent (and relatively modest) gun control proposals in the wake of several mass shootings is equivalent to what Hitler did in Nazi Germany, ergo Obama is just like Hitler.

The facts, however, are a bit different and more complicated than that. While Nazi Germany did have comparatively strict gun laws, Hitler actually relaxed some of the gun control restrictions that were put into place by the previous Weimar government, which at one point actually banned all private firearm possession after Germany’s defeat in WWI (the Treaty of Versailles itself actually required Germany to place tough restrictions on the manufacture of ‘military weapons’ like machine guns and rifles).

So while it’s true that gun ownership in Nazi Germany was restricted and heavily regulated, Hitler can’t be entirely blamed for that — it was something that preceded his rise to power in 1933 when he was appointed Chancellor — and his stance on gun control was actually more liberal than the previous government’s. As Bernard Harcourt, Professor of Law at the University of Chicago, notes in his 2004 paper, “On Gun Registration, the NRA, Adolf Hitler, and Nazi Gun Laws: Exploding the Gun Culture Wars“:

The history of gun control in Germany from the post-World War I period to the inception of World War II seems to be a history of declining, rather than increasing, gun control. […] The 1928 law [enacted by the Weimar government relaxing certain restrictions on its 1919 ban] required a license for the acquisition or transfer of any firearm. It applied to all “firearms and ammunition,” which included any and all “weapons from which a bullet or a load of pellets may be driven through a barrel, by means of the development of an explosive gas or air pressure”—in other words, rifles, shotguns, handguns, etc. The 1938 law, in contrast [enacted by Hitler], applied only to “handguns.” In effect, the 1938 revision completely deregulated the acquisition and transfer of rifles and shotguns, as well as ammunition. (23-5)

Beyond this, Harcourt details a number of other ways in which gun laws were slightly but noticeably relaxed by the 1938 law enacted by Hitler compared to the 1928 law enacted by the Weimar government, the primary exception being when it came to Jews, who were placed with more restrictions and forced to disarm under various pretexts, from the ‘trustworthiness’ requirements of the originally 1928 legislation to more direct means specifically targeting Jews in an effort to oppress and eventually exterminate them.

I’m not a fan of Obama or gun control as I don’t think it’ll do much to stop gun violence; but equating Obama with Hitler on this basis is completely fallacious and beyond hyperbole, in my opinion. People who do obviously don’t know their history. For the last time, Obama is not fucking Hitler, OK?

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