On Gun Registration, the NRA , Adolf Hitler, and Nazi Gun Laws: Exploding the Gun Culture Wars (A Call to Historians)

tags: guns, gun control, Hitler, Gun History, Gun Registration, Nazi Gun Laws

Bernard E. Harcourt is a professor at Columbia Law School.

. . . In much of the literature and argument, the references to Hitler and Nazi gun laws are often dressed in Second Amendment rhetoric. The message, in essence, is that the founders specifically crafted the Second Amendment to protect the Republic from dictators-and that Adolf Hitler proved the founders right. "Disarming political opponents was a categorical imperative of the Nazi regime," Halbrook explains. "The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution... was not recognized in the German Reich."16 Charlton Heston often drew similar connections between the Second Amendment and Nazi Germany. Heston's notorious speech on the Second Amendment, The Second Amendment: America's First Freedom, for instance, is laced with references to Hitler's Germany.

Not surprisingly, the Nazi-gun-registration argument has entered the public lexicon and is repeatedly rehearsed today on the opinion pages of newspapers across the country. Most of the time, the message is simple: gun registration will lead to confiscation, and confiscation to tyranny, as demonstrated in the German experience. Here are a few typical letters to the editor, the first from the pages of the Modesto Bee: "Guns were registered in Germany, and when Hitler took control, his people went from house to house demanding that each registered gun be given up.""s This, from the opinion pages of the Post-Standardof Syracuse, New York: "Throughout history, every country that has registered guns has always told its populace it is for the greater good and safety of all. Once the registration was complete, the confiscation began. Remember Hitler? How about Stalin? Saddam Hussein?”…

Sometimes the opinion commentary contains an infamous statement by Adolf Hitler himself, where he praises Germany's gun registration system in these chilling terms: “This year will go down in history! For the first time, a civilized nation has full gun registration! Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the future!” The quote has been published more than a hundred times in papers across the country. In fact, a Lexis search of the news library returns 115 references to Hitler's statement. The quote has generated its own cottage industry of referents. . . .

Now, much of the rhetoric is questionable as a historical matter. It turns out, for example, that Hitler's infamous quote, rehearsed in so many newspapers, is probably a fraud and was likely never uttered. The citation reference is a jumbled and incomprehensible mess that has never been properly identified or authenticated, and no one has been able to produce a document corresponding to the quote. It has been the subject of much research, all of it fruitless, and has now entered the annals of urban legends-in fact, it is an entry in the urban legends website. The webloggers seem to have this one right: "This quotation, however effective it may be as propaganda, is a fraud.” …

Read entire article at Fordham Law Review

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