For months now there has been a lot of talk about Adolf Hitler’s stance on gun control. Pro-gunners argue that he disarmed the Jews before attempting to exterminate them, but gun control advocates say that he did not ban guns. So, which is it? Who is right? They both are…sort of.
After their defeat in World War I (and before Hitler came into power), Germany was forced to sign the Treaty of Versailles. Article 169 of this treaty read “Within two months from the coming into force of the present Treaty, Germans arms, munitions, and war material, including anti-aircraft material, existing in Germany in excess of the quantities allowed, must be surrendered to the Governments of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers to be destroyed or rendered useless.” In fear of chaos amidst the economic depression, in 1919 they adopted a series of gun confiscation legislation against the citizens before disarming the military, called the Regulations on Weapons Ownership which declared that “all firearms, as well as all kinds of firearms ammunition, are to be surrendered immediately”. Under these regulations, anyone in possession of a firearm or ammunition was subject to five years in prison and a 100,000 mark fine. However, fear and tensions rose, and on August 7, 1920, the government also put in place the Law on the Disarmament of the People.
The strict gun laws lasted until 1928 when the National Socialists and Communists enacted the Law on Firearms and Ammunition which relaxed gun restrictions and began using a firearm licensing scheme that allowed Germans to possess firearms. However, they were required to have separate permits for ownership, selling, carrying, manufacturing, and professionally dealing in firearms and ammunition.
In 1934, after the death of President Hindenburg, Hitler gave himself the power (after the Enabling Act) to be a totalitarian regime, legally write laws, and rendered the parliament useless. In 1938 Hitler passed the German Weapons Act, which only applied to the new qualified “citizen”. Under this law, which applied to all guns and ammunition, it was specifically prohibited for Jews to hold, manufacture, or deal in firearms or ammunition, while making it easier for those in the Nazi regime to acquire and transfer rifles, shotguns, and ammunition. This law exempted holders of annual hunting permits, government workers, Nazi regime members, officials of the central government, states, and employees of the German railway from gun ownership restrictions. The legal age for purchasing firearms was lowered from 20 to 18 years of age, and permits were made valid for three years instead of one. This act did not change the 1928 requirement for all gun manufacturers and dealers to maintain records with information about who purchased guns and the firearms’ serial numbers, which were to be delivered to a police authority yearly. On November 11, 1938, the Minister of the Interior (Wilhelm Frick) promulgated the Regulations Against Jews’ Possession of Weapons which effectively deprived all Jews living in those locations of the right to own a firearm or any other weapon. Historian William Sheridan Allen noted that the Nazis also went house to house confiscating firearms, targeting “subversives”.
So, knowing all of this, did Hitler ban guns? No, he did not. Some might even say that he made the gun control laws more lenient…for his allies. However, he did ban Jews from owning guns, or even holding them! After all, if you disarm your enemy, and arm your allies, who can rebel? Fortunately, others stood up to him; but who wants to take the chance, and hope someone else will defend them?