Friday, October 9, 2015

Ben Carson, Guns, and the Holocaust

Ben Carson, challenged by Wolf Blitzer about his assertion that widespread gun ownership would prevent mass shootings, expanded his claims:
Ben Carson said Thursday that Adolf Hitler’s mass murder of Jews “would have been greatly diminished” if German citizens had not been disarmed by the Nazi regime.
This reminds me of something I wrote back in 2000 about the intifada raging in Palestine:
The conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians has had a sort of dreamland familiarity to me as it has raged over the past two months. After long reflection, I have realized where I have seen these images before: in the rhetoric of the American gun lobby. A truck parked down the street from my house proudly proclaims, Nations are Free when Free Men Have Guns. The idea seems to be that if an American government tried to turn despotic, it would be opposed by millions of righteous gun owners who, with their combined arsenal, would drive off the agents of tyranny like the Minute Men chasing the redcoats back from Lexington.

I think you can see how much success they would have by observing the situation in Palestine. Has the arsenal of the Palestinians enabled them to win their freedom by force? No. Instead, it has compounded oppression with terror, hatred, and death. Against the tanks and helicopters of the Israeli "Defense Forces" the Palestinians' AK-47s are about as much use as, well, I was going to say "slingshots", but I think the stone-throwing kids have done much more for their cause than the terrorists have. The more the masked gunmen fight, the farther their stated goal of a free, united, multi-ethnic Palestine retreats into the future.
There is no case in history in which an armed citizenry has successfully opposed a dictatorial government. None. Partisan or guerrilla warfare is something very different from a spontaneous uprising of gun-toting regular guys. It requires the creation of military forces that can match the government's army in organization, planning, and cruelty; and even then it only works against weak governments with no legitimacy. (Say, the Shiite government of Iraq, in the Sunni north.) Armed partisan groups did oppose the Nazis in several parts of Europe, but they had no success in averting the Holocaust.

Not to mention that in Germany in the 1930s, most of the people who did own guns were pro-Nazi. Carson's fantasy seems to assume that German gun-owners would have defended their Jewish neighbors against the Gestapo, but everything we know about the rise of the Nazi party shows that this is false.


Unknown said...

This idea that the first thing the Nazis did was disarm their own people has always made me wonder: what WAS the first thing the Nazis did? It would be interesting to find out what was the first regulation or law passed after Hitler became chancellor in January 1933. If anyone knows, please tell me. The first "significant" thing that I've been able to find them doing was the banning of the Communist Party in Prussia after the Reichstag fire. But that was roughly a month after Hitler became chancellor.

The closest thing I can find to the fabled disarming of the German people is the Weimar Republic's effort to disarm right-wing and left-wing militias in the early twenties. But that was ten years before Hitler came to power (and also once again, sadly directs the eye to the hard left as an important force resisting the hard right in Germany).

G. Verloren said...

Well, immediately after he became Chancellor on January 30th, the next day he dissolved the Reichstag and set new elections for March 5th.

On February 1st, he delivered a radio speech stating, "Within four years, the German farmer must be raised from destitution. Within four years, unemployment must be completely overcome."

Two days later, on the 3rd, he held a secret meeting with military commanders and detailed his plans to defy the Treaty of Versailles and rearm with the intent of conquering territory in Eastern Europe.

On the 4th, he granted police the power to ban any publications which were deemed "a threat to public order", enforceable by arrest and detention for up to three months, and without need for a warrant.

February 8th saw Hitler informing his cabinet that he would persue full rearmament within five years, and that all government employment would be directly assessed on its value to the military.

On the 17th, longstanding Mayor of Cologne Konrad Adenauer, who would later become the first Chanceller of West Germany after the war, refused to receive Hitler and had city property purged of all Nazi iconography. Within a month, the SS made an attempt on his life.

On February 21st, Hermann Göring issued a decree in the Völkischer Beobachter, instructing police to put to death "enemies of the state" and instituting disciplinary measures against officers found to be "inappropriately considerate".

The same day, dissenting novelist Heinrich Mann fled the country, having been stripped of his position at the Prussian Academy of the Arts for his opposition to Nazism.

February 22nd, Hitler authorizes concentration camps for the purposes of placing dissidents into Schutzhaft or "protective custody".

The same day, Göring deputized over 50,000 civilian members of the Sturmabteilung into the police force as official officers.

On February 23rd, a national decree was issued prohibiting homosexuality, as well as pornographic materials.

The next day, February 24th, a raid is conducted on the Berlin Headquarters of the Communist Party. It is officially stated that documents were found detailing plans for arson against government buildings, a scant three days before the Reichstag Fire, which was itself less than a week before the March 5th elections. How convenient.

So to sum up, the very first things the Nazis did were defy international treaties, grant authorities sweeping powers to silence opponents, began a purge of government offices, sanctioned executions, used threats and coercion to enforce conformity within party ranks, established concentration camps, converted an army of armed thugs into police officers, and criminalized homosexuality, all before arranging a politically convenient arson attack replete with an ideologically suitable scapegoat.

G. Verloren said...

Forgot to mention, my source for all this was Wikipedia's "calendar" section, looking through the entry for February 1933.

Unknown said...

Thank you, very useful! I may assign that Wikipedia article to my students.

G. Verloren said...

The shift to full blown authoritarian terror was remarkably swift, when you stop to look at it. People barely would have had time to respond to each new development - a veritable cultural blitzkrieg predating the military version.