Guns, History, Nazis, and “Enemies of the State”

The Zeskind Fortnight No. 20

by Leonard Zeskind

 He was a lone figure in this video posted on the Kansas City Minuteman Civil Defense Corps website.  Carrying a small piece of cardboard with “Tax the Rich” scrawled on it, he wore a white tee-shirt with a picture of a handgun crossed out in red by the universal “no” symbol.  The rest of the crowd, estimated by organizers at 500 patriots, at the United We Stand Freedom Fest on Sunday September 6, clapped the speakers and paid the tax the rich guy little mind.  Except for one freedom fester who came over to argue.  First the topic was health care, and you can imagine that the fester wanted the government to get out of health care.  Then the topic turned to history.


 “Let me ask you a question,” the fester said.  “World War Two.  What did Hitler do first in 1934.  Know your history buddy before you go on preaching.  What happened in 1934 in Adolph Hitler’s Germany?  What did he do.  What did he do. They took their weapons away,” the fester concluded.

 The scene was reminiscent of the mid-1990s when all those posters appeared at gun shows.  They pictured Hitler with his arm up in a “Seig Heil” salute.  ‘All in favor of gun control raise your right arm,’ was the cut line.   Railing against Hitler as a symbol of gun control was popular back then, and it has become fashionable again. 

 Mr. tax the rich did not have much to say about this.  But in the interest of History, and its accuracy, it needs to be remembered that Hitler did not take everyone’s guns away, and that “gun control” for reliable Aryan-types was actually fairly relaxed. 

 In 1928, before Hitler came to power, a Reich Law was enacted to regulate guns.   Dealers needed a license.  And in order to buy ammunition and own and register a gun, one needed a certificate.

 Then, as soon as Hitler became chancellor on January 30, 1933, Nazi party police did indeed start seizing guns from all those deemed enemies of the state.  That included communists, socialists and Jews; and five years later, Jewish citizenship was revoked altogether.  More, on June 12, 1933, an executive order banned the importation of guns.  It eased other pre-Nazi era gun restrictions, however.  German Aryans no longer needed a license to own a rifle.  They could buy ammunition without a permit.  And if you were a state employee, a Nazi Party member or part of a civil defense team, you did not need a license to buy and carry a handgun.

 Another gun control law went into effect on April 1, 1938.  At that point, it became possible for German citizens (but not Jews or enemies of the state) to buy a handgun with a simple hunter’s permit. All limits on buying ammunition were lifted.  Carrying a gun in public required a license.

 Thus, the Nazi regime’s restrictions were on citizenship and political reliability, not on guns per se. Hitler did not seize all the guns in 1934 or any other year.  The militia-era poster was wrong in fact.  And the question remains for the freedom fester described above:  Should guns in the United States be restricted to citizens only?  And what about those deemed by the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps to be unpatriotic “enemies of the state”?

Thanks to M. Hahn in Tubingen, FRG, for research assistance.