Myths about Guns and Gun Control


As the debate about creating new legislation about gun control in the US continues on after Obama’s executive orders (I talked about it here), there has been plenty of the standard politics going on. In an interview the President said he played skeet a fair bit when at Camp David, which means he used a shotgun. The media became very suspicious of this since he never really talked about his own gun sport activities, and those on Fox News in particular were wondering why there was no picture. Well, ask and ye shall receive, it seems.

But besides trying to say the President isn’t a gun-user, there are plenty of other myths about guns going about which would be used against any new laws against gun control. Ten in particular are dealt with here by Mother Jones, including “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” (translated to mean more guns does not mean more murders, which is false (see graph)), arming people makes them safer and more respectful, good guys stop bad guys from mass-murdering with guns, video games make people violent, and the current laws are good enough as is. It was thorough and sourced, so give that a read.

But perhaps the biggest myth I have been hearing is how the Nazis were big control freaks, and that is how Hitler came to power and brought about his evil regime. In particular, if Jews had guns then the Holocaust may not have ever happened. What is the evidence for this?

This story was brought up by Salon and other outlets, and as you may expect the truth isn’t so rosey for the NRA and gun rights advocates (see the scholarship these articles go to here). The reality is that the Nazi regime actually made access to guns easier than the previous Germany government, the Weimar Republic in part to conform to the Treaty of Versailles.  The laws were relaxed a bit in 1928, but there was a strict system of registration of firearms. Later in 1938, years into Hitler’s domination of Germany (having been made Chancellor in 1933 and Fuhrer in 1934), the Nazis deregulated gun ownership and access to ammunition. The age of purchase was lowered and party members had ever easier access to guns. In other words, the law allowed more guns rather than less.

This is interesting because this 1938 law is the exact same law pointed to by the NRA and others worried about the government taking over. Perhaps there is confusion because there was one group that was not allowed to have guns: Jews. Now, it’s hard to know how many guns were taken away from Jews and other “undesirables” in Germany around this time, but considering there was such strong regulation of guns before the easing of the law in 1938, there probably were not that many in the ghettos.

But suppose the Jews did have armaments. Could that have prevented the genocide that still makes people cringe today? A few things indicate that such an idea is fantastical. Consider how difficult it was the the Soviet Union and the Western powers to subdue Germany in World War II. Using the most advanced weapons with armies of trained soldiers, the death count was horrendous. Tens of millions died in Russia alone. So how is a band of rebels with little to no military training supposed to fight one of the best armies in the world?

We also have a historical example of this, and strangely some gun rights advocates point to this same example: the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943. Instead of this being a grand stand that saved the lives of Jews and giving a bloody nose to the Nazi regime, pretty much the exact opposite happened. As noted by journalist Michael Moyniham, only 20 Nazi soldiers were killed, while 13,000 Jews were killed, and the remaining 50,000 were sent to concentration camps. Moyniham also shows other examples of exaggerated “successes” of Jews rebels using various weapons against their oppressors. In other words, a rag-tag team of people with their hand-held weapons are not going to defeat an army and are likely to get themselves killed.

This should also cause some reflection when it comes to those here in the US that claim they need their guns to stop a possible future tyranny here in the US. Considering that shotguns are not much use against Apache helicopters, nor are AR-15 rifles going to do much to an Abrams tank or predator drone, the idea of arming for such a show-down is simply fantastical to the extreme. Currently there are plenty more guns in the hands of common folk than in the hands of police officers and soldiers in the US, but that doesn’t mean much when one side has aircraft carriers, super-sonic jets, tanks, satellites, and smart bombs. You think your arsenal is going to work against that? Good luck, buddy!

So, the Nazis didn’t restrict guns more, and Jews with guns were doing no better than otherwise under the regime. Of course there are myths related to gun control in communist Russia, but those don’t add up either. Under the Tzar, gun ownership was allowed, but it was the populace that used those guns to take down the Tzar and bring in the communist regime. In other words, gun owners brought in a tyranny. After the Bolsheviks came to power only party members could have one rifle and one handgun. If anything, should it not be an argument against loose gun laws? (Consider also the French Revolution; that didn’t bring in peace and liberty.) Perhaps if the populace did have guns the Soviet system under Stalin would have failed, but such a simple solution is too hard to justify. Consider also that the thing that brought down the Soviet Union wasn’t a mass, armed revolt against the Kremlin.

Again, I’m not saying that guns ought to be restricted more because of these myths. What I am saying is that these reasons cannot be used to maintain gun rights as is. False premises cannot be used to support an argument. (I’m looking at you, Alex Jones.) What is the best policy? I don’t know, but the evidence suggests there are things we can do which will not bring about the Obama/liberal/communist tyranny while will also make the country safer.

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2 thoughts on “Myths about Guns and Gun Control

  1. Whenever you want to prove something comparatively in economics you need to use per capita stats; otherwise, you will have varying results when using households. Also, Canada is a great example disproving most of your fundamental points. We have strict gun laws, and thus gun killings have gone down dramatically since the 70’s. However, homicides have increased dramatically with other weapons of choice. Even last year, homicides went up 22%, most of which was done with knives — a 39% spike. So, when you say that guns kill people, it is just fundamentally wrong. People’s behavior changes and new choices are made to provide the means to these murdering ends. Have you ever seen a gun do jail time?

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