Dictators and Disarmament

May 11th, 2009

Most commonly, an aspiring dictator disarms the population, thereby facilitating an easy slaughter of the opposition. As a population, it is expedient for us to understand both historical and modern examples of how dictators have used civilian disarmament to attain and maintain absolute control that we might recognize instances evident in our society and immediately curtail such efforts.

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The Link Between Dictatorship and a Disarmed Populous

Dictatorships, both past and present, follow common patterns. While their methods for attaining their powerful positions vary—Adolf Hitler and Hugo Chavez were freely elected, Joseph Stalin slowly developed his prominence within the ruling political party, and Mao Tse-Tung and Fidel Castro led violent revolutions–they facilitate their increasing stronghold on the population through similar measures. Most commonly, an aspiring dictator disarms the population, thereby facilitating an easy slaughter of the opposition. As a population, it is expedient for us to understand both historical and modern examples of how dictators have used civilian disarmament to attain and maintain absolute control that we might recognize instances evident in our society and immediately curtail such efforts.

During the ascension to power, most dictators gain popular support by exploiting the fears and desires of the people. The way Hitler gained control of Germany serves as an illustration of the pattern all prominent 20th century dictators used to secure absolute control. In the aftermath of World War I, Germany was left in ruins and was forced to bear the full blame and cost the war had wrought. The result was a nation where unemployment, food shortages and economic hardship were rampant. The German people were forced to finance reconstruction efforts, leaving them economically crippled. To add insult to injury, Germans were not allowed a voice on the international stage in directing those reconstructive efforts, leaving them socially crippled (Knapper n.d.). It was this climate of victimization that made fertile the soil in which Hitler would grow into power. Writing about a recent documentary on how Hitler was able to rise to power, National Review editor Dave Kopel, and Psychologist Richard Griffiths (2003), who specializes in researching gun issues observe that “[i]f we are serious about ‘never again,’ then we must be serious about remembering how and why Hitler was able to accomplish what he did”(p.1). Hitler began his rise to power by promising to redeem Germany, making her again a great power, forcing her to be esteemed in international circles, and by enacting dramatic social purifications that would create a more perfect society. Political desires to improve one’s nation are not uncommon, nor undesirable, the distinct difference between an honest politician and a dictator manifests in what they do after taking power.

Because the policies of Nazi Germany were carried and imposed upon every nation in occupied Europe, coupled with the direct aggression propagated by the Nazis, there is an abundance of information on Hitler’s policies to disarm civilian populations, thus examples from Nazi Germany are many, but the same patterns were followed by the other aforementioned dictators. Dr. Miguel Faria Jr. (2001), Who escaped Cuba as a political refugee after Castro seized control, describes the universal nature of this pattern:

“Frequently, when presented with these deadly chronicles [of the many dictatorships who disarmed civilians] and the perilous historic sequence – namely, that gun registration is followed by banning, confiscation, civilian disarmament and, ultimately, by authoritarianism – naïve Americans opine that it cannot happen here (p. 2).”

Germany’s prelude to significant disarmament began during the Weimar Republic, when expansive registration and recordkeeping requirements of firearms and firearm owners were mandated in 1929. On these policies Dave Kopel and Richard Griffiths write:

“Under the Weimar law, no license was needed to possess a firearm in the home unless the citizen owned more than five guns of a particular type or stored more than 100 cartridges. The law’s requirements were more relaxed for firearms of a “hunting” or “sporting” type. Indeed, the Weimar statute was the world’s first gun law to create formal distinction between sporting and non-sporting firearms. . .. Significantly, the Weimar law required the registration of most lawfully owned firearms. . . In Germany, the Weimar registration program law provided the information which the Nazis needed to disarm the Jews and others considered untrustworthy (p. 2).”

In 1938, after Hitler had taken power, he expanded the registration requirements and began to compile the data on firearm owners as well as the types and quantities of the firearms possessed. The original purpose of the Weimar registration requirements was to provide for public safety by controlling who could possess firearms and to allow the government to regulate their use. Antithetically, passive registration in the name of public safety gave Hitler the ability to begin complete disarmament.

In order to gain proper perspective on firearms and public safety, the modern American saga on this issue serves as a dynamic vehicle. Those in the United States who support the registration and restriction of firearms possession among civilians, the foremost of which is the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, lay public safety as the primary reason for such restrictions, being here quoted from their website:

“In order to stem the flow of handgun violence, America needs a national system of handgun owner licensing. Handguns should be treated like cars in that owners would be licensed and handguns would be registered. Congress would establish minimum standards for the licensing system, which would be implemented by the states. . . . Licensing and registration will also provide law enforcement with the means to prevent individuals like. . .[here a list of several murderers is inserted] from obtaining guns (2007).”

The Brady Campaign website provides for similar restrictions on all other types of firearms as well, making distinctions between sporting and non-sporting firearms. Although it seems logical, one is still left to ask if gun registration and other restrictions really do serve the public safety and if they do in fact reduce crime.

According to statistics posted on the Brady Campaign homepage (2007): In 2004, there were 11, 344 firearm related murders in the United States. This is a significant number of deaths, but when removed from isolation, it shrinks in its shock value. There are approximately 193 million legally owned firearms in about 80 million U.S. households (Kleck, Gertz, 1998), making each individual firearm statistically unlikely to be used in a murder. Furthermore, according to research conducted by University of Florida Professors and Criminologists Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz, (1998) privately owned firearms are used between 1.2 million and 2.2 million times per year to prevent crime in the United States (p. 18), significantly outweighing the perceived costs of private firearms ownership. Further logical deductions can be made regarding the true dispositions of using gun control as a crime deterrent. First and foremost, criminals, or people who break the law, don’t care if a gun is outlawed. Thus, even when guns are completely banned, criminals are still armed. Secondly, registration information is used by law enforcement to investigate crimes, and has rarely, if ever, been used to prevent crime. Thirdly, law enforcement is rarely able to prevent violent crime, but typically arrive after the criminal has left the scene. In the United States, the most significant reductions in violent crime have occurred in the states that have removed restrictions on civilian’s right to carry a handgun (Kleck, Gertz, 1998. p. 11). Thus, public safety is not at all strengthened by the registration and restriction of firearms; in fact it is significantly weakened.

Firearm registration and restriction has seldom started after a dictator has gained absolute power, rather, the dictator exploited already existing laws. On November 9th, 1938, Nazi SS troops, armed with the lists of registered gun owners created under the Weimar government, raided Jewish homes enforcing a newly signed decree by Hitler, ordering, “all Jews are to be disarmed. In the event of resistance, they are to be shot immediately” (Halbrook, 2001, p. 2). Once the confiscation was complete, on the 10th of November 1938, Nazis began to loot, burn, and destroy Jewish property, forcing the Jews either into ghettos or concentration camps. With no resistance, the operation was completed quickly. The Jews who were relocated in the ghettos were subjected to ever increasing restrictions on the possession on weapons, Dr. Stephen P. Halbrook Ph. D, J.D. Described this condition:

“All hell broke loose on Nov. 10: “Nazis Smash. Loot and Burn Jewish Shops and Temples,” “One of the first legal measures issued was an order by Heinrich Himmler, commander of all German police, forbidding Jews to possess any weapons whatever and imposing a penalty of twenty years confinement in a concentration camp upon every Jew found in possession of a weapon hereafter.” Thousands of Jews were taken away. Searches of Jewish homes were calculated to seize firearms and assets and to arrest adult males (p. 2).” [Quotations in original]

The Nazi raids on Jewish homes in Germany continued to intensify as WWII spread across Europe. In each country the Nazis occupied one of the first orders of business was to post a notice ordering the occupied citizens to surrender their firearms on penalty of death:

“It [the notice] is entitled “Regulations on Arms Possessions in the Occupied Zone” (“Verordunung Uber Waffenbesitz im besetzen Gebiet”). . .the top of the double columned poster, written in German on the left and Flemish on the right, with and eagle and swatiska (sic) in the middle. It commands that all firearms be surrendered to the German commander within 24 hours. . . While the Nazis made good on the threat to execute persons in possession of firearms, the gun control decree was not entirely successful. Partisans launched armed attacks. But resistance was hampered by the lack of civilian arms possession (Halbrook, 2001, p. 3).”

Although the Nazis faced armed resistance in every country they occupied until the end of the war, the fact that “[o]ther European countries also had laws requiring police records to be kept on persons who possessed firearms. . . It was a simple matter to identify gun owners. Many of them disappeared in the middle of the night along with political opponents (Halbrook 2001, p. 3).” As the Nazis exploited firearm registration and licensing requirements, most opposition groups were severely crippled, facilitating the rapid spread of Nazism. In 1943, there was one such uprising in the Warsaw, Poland ghetto. Here several Jewish men, despite being woefully outnumbered, and armed with only a few old handguns, began to fight the Nazis. With the conviction to protect their lives and their families, this small band of armed men were able to fend off the Nazi forces for several days. Dr. Halbrook describes this act of astonishing bravery:

“Out of all the acts of armed citizen resistance in the war, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943 is difficult to surpass in its heroism. Beginning with just a few handguns, armed Jews put a temporary stop to the deportation and extermination camps, frightened the Nazis out of the ghetto, stood off assaults for days on end, and escaped to the forests to continue the struggle (p. 5).”

Even though this particular uprising failed to permanently expel the Nazis, Dr. Halbrook asks: “What if there had been two, three, many Warsaw Ghetto Uprisings (p. 5)?” If not for the forceful disarming of the citizens, it is unlikely the Nazis could have been nearly as successful. Those Jewish men demonstrated that a lot of courage and a little weapon can do much to stem the prevailing tide of a monstrous dictatorship. But the failure of these courageous men demonstrated that the use of civilian disarmament was a very significant factor in facilitating Hitler’s murder of about 21 million people, excluding war casualties (Kopel, Griffiths 2003 p. 1).
Hitler’s use of gun control is in keeping with typical patterns for a dictator to seize control. Dr. Miguel Faria Jr. (2001), a political refugee from Castro’s Cuba, further describes how this pattern works:

“Unbeknownst to many Americans, who having seen and experienced mostly the goodness of America, gun registration is the gateway to civilian disarmament, which often precedes genocide. In the monumental book “Lethal Laws,” published by Jews for the Preservation of Firearm Ownership, we learn that authoritarian governments that conducted genocide and mass killings of their own populations first disarmed their citizens. The recipe for accomplishing this goal went as follows: demonizing guns, registration, then banning and confiscation, and finally total civilian disarmament. Enslavement of the people then followed with limited resistance, as was the case in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Red China, Cuba and other totalitarian regimes of the 20th century (p. 2).”

By virtue of the fact that this identical pattern of civilian disarmament is found at the root of virtually every mass killing in the 20th century, modern governments should be very careful when contemplating firearm registration and restriction requirements. The importance of gun control measures to the dictators themselves is revealed in the writings of Mao Tse-Tung, when he wrote:

“Firearms are the most important of all weapons, and it should be guaranteed that they are in the hands of the armed forces of the workers and peasants. Undertaking an investigation and banning privately owned firearms, and carrying out the registration of firearms constitute important tasks in ensuring the victory of the revolution (Schram, 1992, p. 378).”

As the “most important of all weapons,” the possession of firearms is in reality the possession of power. Dictators cannot subdue an armed population, and an unarmed population cannot overthrow a dictator. Consider the following photo:

Note: go to http://www.apfn.org/apfn/mmm.htm and look for the Troops Obeying Orders Picture.

Although it is a rather graphic illustration, it is important that the danger facing an unarmed population not be just an abstract sentence. These are real people being murdered by their government.

Modern efforts to require the registration and restriction of civilian firearms come from many fronts, from organizations like America’s Brady Campaign to the United Nations. Even though we may not perceive a direct threat of impending dictatorship, the pattern of how they begin is well in motion. And perhaps the most effective reminder to any aspiring dictator is that armed citizens are capable and willing to fight for a democracy any dictator is seeking to usurp.

During the past year, Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, has declared that he is “temporarily” taking complete control in order to quickly move his country toward a more independent and more prominent world position. He has already taken control of all Venezuelan oil and utilities, and has made moves to decrease the voice of his opponents by restricting political representation to those who agree with him. Venezuela already had mandatory firearm registration and many restrictions, and although Chavez had yet to take any overt action against those who do possess firearms, he certainly has all the tools he would need to do so. In the space of only a few months, Chavez has gone from a freely elected democratic President, to a socialist autocrat. Illustrating the use of an armed population to protect a nation from dictatorship, James Madison, (1987) one of America’s Founding Fathers, said in the Federalist Papers:

“Besides the advantages of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of (p. 301).”

It was well understood by America’s Founding Fathers that the only way a nation can remain forever free from the tyranny of dictatorship is to maintain an armed population. History shows that the cost of disarming civilians is very high. Conservative estimates put the number of unarmed civilians killed by their own governments at over 56 million people in the past century (Harvey, n.d.).

History has given us many examples to clearly show the pattern dictators use to seize and maintain control. Modern politics in both domestic and international arenas are beginning to show a widespread increase in the prevalence of the dictatorship pattern and civilian disarmament. If the populations of the world are to resist dictatorship and if we truly desire to “never again” allow monsters like Hitler, Stalin, and Mao to seize power, the most basic protection is the ability to give armed resistance. The people of the world must never be disarmed; we all need to recognize this insidious way that a nation can rapidly slip from freedom to tyranny. As a means of self preservation, and to preserve our freedom, we should all be armed, trained, and vigilant in killing the seeds of tyranny that are being sown by those who would disarm us.

References

Knapper K. (n.d.). Germany After the First World War. Retrieved 23 November, 2007
from http://www.schoolhistory.co.uk/year9links/wwii/afterwwi.pdf

Kopel D. & Griffiths R. (2003). Hitler’s Control. National Review Online. Retrieved
18 November, 2007 from http://www.nationalreview.com/kopel/kopel052203.asp

Faria, M. (2001). National Gun Registration—Paving the Road to Tyranny. Newsmax.
Retrieved 18 November, 2007 from http://archive.newsmax.com/articles/2001/8/31/200747.shtml.

Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence (2007). Retrieved 24 November, 2007 from

http://www.bradycampaign.org

Kleck G. & Gertz M (1998). Carrying Guns For Protection: Results From the National
Self-Defense Survey. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency. 35 (2),
19bhamm3-224

Halbrook, S. (2001). Registration: The Nazi Paradigm. American Rifleman. 149 (6) 53-
59.

Schram, S.R., & Hodes, N.J., (Eds. ). (1992). Mao’s Road to Power: Revolutionary
Writings 1912-1949. London: East Gate.

Madison, J., Hamilton, A., Jay, J., (1987). The Federalist Papers. London: Putnam

Harvey, P. (n.d.) Are You Considering Backing Gun Control Laws? Retrieved 20
November, 2007 from http://graham.main.nc.us/-bhammel/GOV/guns.html

Source: Magua The Warrior Blog

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