“To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens” – Adolf Hitler (or maybe not), 1933 (or maybe not)
If you’re interested in the “gun control debate” (especially in the USA) then no doubt you will have come across this quote at some point. It’s used to persuade people that gun control is a bad thing. The track to tighter controls will end at Nazi Central, and we don’t want that, do we? And so those in favour of guns-for-all, more guns in schools and guns just about everywhere invoke the words of one of the world’s most evil men. The argument goes that if people are allowed to keep firearms in their homes, an armed coup (by government or some other armed group) is made less likely, because the citizenry will rise up as one and defeat the nasty people. And every day will be the first day of Spring, and so on and so forth. Hitler succeeded because no-one had any guns to stop him.
They know their history like Mr Creosote knew his salads, i.e not very well. Here’s why:
(1) The quote
There is no evidence that Hitler ever uttered those words, though it’s reasonable to assume that he agreed with the sentiment. But that’s different, isn’t it? Don’t “quote” someone unless they actually said those words. Quotes are what people actually said, not what Brian from down the pub reckons someone probably said and even if he didn’t then it’s what he thought and he probably, in his final bunker moments, wished he’d said it. It’s a bit too important a quote to treat it as if you are a hack from The Sun making stuff up as you go along because proper journalism is too much like hard work. Quotes are what people said, not what you wish they’d said.
(2) Believing Hitler
Leaving aside the above, let’s just pretend that Hitler did actually utter those words. So, if I’m not mistaken, people are using the words of one of the most twisted and evil men there’s ever been to prove that their opinion is more valid than the opposing opinion? Doesn’t that strike you as a bit odd? Are there no other great words from the advocates of wider gun ownership that can be quoted? Do they have to resort to quoting a man responsible for the deaths of millions in order to bolster the point? Has it occurred to them that the man was a little bit strange, a bit of an oddball, and that he did have a tendency to make stuff up? Could he have been making this up? Even if he was being genuine, does the idea that he said this really reinforce the argument? I don’t recall “Yeah, Hitler said it, so I guess it’s true” cropping-up too much in History seminars I attended, but I could be wrong.
Again, we’ll suspend disbelief for a bit and pretend that Hitler did actually utter those words. What could he have meant?
(a) That Nazi subjugation of the German nation would have been made more difficult had more Germans owned guns
A ridiculous notion, since the Nazis assumed power through legal means in 1933. So the quote can hardly be seen as a kind of “Phew, what a great idea to take all their guns away so we could gain power”. The main reason there was no meaningful armed resistance to the Nazi assumption of power was because it was legitimate, albeit on the back of clever political manoeuvring. It was no more illegal than the Tory-Liberal shenanigans of May 2010 in the UK. It is an absolute lie to suggest that the Nazis first disarmed the German population before seizing control in a bloody coup.
(b) Duh! He was referring to the 1938 law that the Nazis passed
Duh! Unlikely, given that the mythical “quote” is from 1933 (or did you just pluck that year out of the air because you knew none of the people who want to believe the quote would bother to check the facts?) And anyway, the 1938 law actually liberalised German gun laws, making acquisition of rifles and shotguns easier, rather than more difficult. Look it up if you don’t believe me. Only the Jews were disadvantaged by the 1938 law. I have no recollection of Obama speeches specifically calling for certain ethnic groups to be deprived of guns. Do you?
(c) He was obviously talking about other nations that Germany occupied and oppressed
OK, so which nations had he oppressed and invaded in 1933? I’m all ears.
(d) OK, so the quote wasn’t from 1933 but later. Isn’t it still valid?
The “quote” probably owes itself to an April 1942 comment that Hitler made in which he referred to not allowing “subject races” access to guns. He is clearly talking about actions to be taken once nations in Eastern Europe (he specifically mentions Russia) have been subjugated. So he thought that conquered people might be a bit angry with their German occupiers and that allowing them to have guns would be a bad idea. Not exactly V2 rocket science, is it? Hardly hits you between the eyes as a brilliant piece of insight the likes of which could only be conceived by a genius, does it?
If you’ve heard of “Godwin’s Law” you’ll know that it is the belief that as online discussions evolve they eventually lead to someone comparing someone else to Hitler, or perhaps comparing something that is being said or done to Nazism. What the gun lobby have done is evoke a kind of Godwin’s Law of their own. “Hey everyone, look what Adolf Hitler said. Believe us now”? In a nutshell, no, I don’t.
Just as it’s a sign of desperation and a lack of an alternative, reasonable argument when you have to resort to comparing someone who disagrees with you to Hitler, so misquoting Hitler (or telling lies about what he said) is a sign that your arguments are built on extremely shaky ground. The lunatics and frauds who work for Fox News (to call them “journalists” would be disgraceful and an insult to real journalists) perpetuate the lie, as perpetuating lies is the only thing they do well, apart from cheerleading when shepherds and goat-herders are eviscerated by “smart” bombs.
When you invoke “history” you need to get your facts right. And even when your facts are right, just because xyz happened in a certain country many decades ago does not mean that similar actions in modern societies will lead to similar results. But before we get to that stage, the people opposed to extended gun control just need to concentrate on getting their history in order. Just like some half-wits will tell you that atheism is evil because Hitler and Stalin were atheists (Hitler was incontrovertibly not an atheist, and though Stalin certainly was he had been sent to a seminary to train as a priest when he was fourteen, which seemed to do him the power of good!) so they will peddle the lie that Hitler succeeded due to tight gun control laws.
It simply isn’t true.
Mass-shootings in the USA in the last three decades: 62
Amount of the above that were halted by an armed citizen with a gun: 0
Conclusion: People like to think they would “do something” when confronted by a rampaging, gun-carrying lunatic. They almost always do nothing, except run and hide. They like to think they are Rambo. They aren’t.