It still is. The recent presidential campaign indicates this. One of the chief underlying issues of the campaign was the difference in political perspective on civilian firearms ownership by Democrat Party nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton, the loser, and Republican Party nominee Donald J. Trump, the winner and President-elect.
Clinton generally supported extension of federal controls on the acquisition of firearms by civilians. Trump opposed this and even advocated a lessening of such controls.
This issue is greatly significant to about 100 million Americans who own about 300 million rifles, shotguns, and handguns.
One of the factors involved in this debate is an historical factor.
Proponents of government gun control maintain that such regulation is necessary so that government can protect the innocent from nefarious gun-bearing individuals.
Opponents of government gun control argue that the imposition of such regulation on the public renders the citizenry supine and defenseless before a nefarious government.
Gun controllers say this is a ridiculous argument.
Right to keep and bear arms advocates cite numerous examples from different countries showing that gun registration often precedes gun confiscation followed by totalitarian dictatorship and government mass murder of civilians.
This occurs even when a government with no evidence of a desire to disarm the populace enacts strict gun control and is succeeded by a government which uses that strict gun control law to disarm the people.
Among the countries in which gun registration in the 20th century has preceded general citizen disarmament and subsequent genocide are Ottoman Turkey, the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and Occupied Europe, China (Nationalist and Communist), Guatemala, Uganda, Cambodia (Khmer Rouge), and Rwanda.
With regard to the historical aspect of the gun control debate, the case of gun control in Nazi Germany plays a salient role.
Right to keep and bear arms supporters often cite the Nazi case as a good reason for opposing gun control.
Gun control supporters, on the other hand, try to pooh-pooh that argument, maintaining that it is overblown, insignificant or inaccurate.
It is right here where Stephen P. Halbrook’s book, Gun Control in the Third Reich: Disarming the Jews and “Enemies of the State,” is so important.
With painstaking research, incisive analysis, and clear presentation, attorney Halbrook, a constitutional scholar, shows conclusively that pre-Nazi gun control policies facilitated the Hitler gang’s disarmament of non-Nazi people in Germany, their subjection, and, in certain cases, their genocide.
In the years after World War One, there was much civil unrest in Germany, many acts of gang violence in what was known as the Weimar Republic.
In language eerily similar to that of many “do-gooders” in the United States today, German politicians in the late teens and 1920s wrung their hands over the need for gun control to protect the people, even though some of them expressed concern about the possible detrimental use to which such control could be put by a subsequent government.
However, as Halbrook relates, “the Weimar leaders acted on the illusion that power would be exercised for the common good. They did not anticipate losing power and a new regime’s seizing power and using the Weimar laws to repress the citizenry at large. The 1928 Firearms Law would be one of many such laws.”
This Law on Firearms and Ammunition in Halbrook’s words “required a license to manufacture, assemble, or repair firearms and ammunition or even to reload cartridges. A license was also required to sell firearms as a trade. Trade in firearms was prohibited at annual fairs, shooting competitions, and other events.
“Acquisition of a firearm or ammunition required a Waffen-oder Munitions-eswerbsschein (license to obtain a weapon or ammunition) from the police. The requirement applied to both commercial sales and private transfers…
“Although these provisions meant that firearms already possessed would not require a license or registration, anyone who needed more ammunition than they already had would require an acquisition license for it. Because the police would thereby have records on ammunition purchasers, the absence of a firearms registration requirement was somewhat illusory.”
Local police headquarters maintained the gun records.
When the Nazis came to power, all they had to do to find out who had firearms was search police records. When they wanted to disarm people or groups of people, the basic records were easily available.
In 1938, when the Nazis were well entrenched in power, the government enacted a new Weapons Law. Halbrook indicated it “combined many elements of the 1928 law with National Socialist innovations. A license was required to manufacture, assemble, or repair firearms and ammunition and even to reload cartridges. ‘A license shall not be granted if the applicant, or the persons intended to become the commercial or technical managers of the trade, or any one of them, is a Jew.’ Firms with licenses under the 1928 law had to comply with this provision within a year, or the license would be revoked.”
The major features of the 1928 law were retained by the Nazis. All they had to do to strengthen their control over firearms ownership was expand on the lists of persons prohibited from possessing arms and then confiscate guns from those persons known because of their compliance with existing law.
Generally speaking, you could not get or keep a gun or ammunition if you were not approved by the Nazi regime. The gun laws, as developed and enforced by the Nazi dictatorship, facilitated the disarmament of the German citizenry.
Halbrook’s book contains accounts of how the disarmament program was implemented in specific cases. It even includes several pages of photographs depicting the Nazi disarmament program in operation.
“As the Weimar-Nazi experience demonstrated,” Halbrook noted, “a well-meaning liberal republic enacted repressive firearm prohibitions that would be highly useful to a dictatorship. That dictatorship could consolidate its power by massive search-and -seizure operations against political opponents under the hysterical ruse that such persons were ‘Communist’ firearm owners. It could enact its own new Firearms Law, disarming anyone the police deemed ‘dangerous’ and exempting members of the party that controlled the state…This dictatorship could disarm the people of the nation it governed and then disarm those of every nation it conquered, facilitating genocide…
“Is there a larger lesson to be learned from the lesson of the liberal Weimar Republic’s decreeing firearms registration and the Nazi regime’s using the records to disarm ‘enemies of the state’ and the Jews? Although such actions do not foretell what will happen, they demonstrate what can happen.”
So that it does not happen here, voters must distrust gun control proponents, work to prevent them from being elected to political office, or against them when they are in political office.
Indeed, November 8, election day of the 2016 presidential campaign will have proven a pivotal moment in American history.
John M. Snyder, called “the dean of Washington gun lobbyists” by the Washington Post and New York Times, for 50 years has defended American gun rights as an NRA editor, director of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and Second Amendment Foundation, and founder/director of www.GunRightsPolicies.org. He is founder/manager of Telum Associates, LL.C, founder/chairman of the St. Gabriel Possenti Society, Inc., and serves on the boards of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and the American Federation of Police & Concerned Citizens. Author of the book Gun Saint, he received his AB and MA from Georgetown University. Mr. Snyder is a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis of the conservative-online-journalism center at the Washington-based Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research.