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The Forbidden Topic

I know our opponents hate it when we bring up the ‘N’ word, but Dave Kopel quotes for us a 2009 article by Stephen Halbrook in the St. Thomas Law Review:

That brings us back to Alfred Flatow. [The article provides a case study of Flatow, a Jewish veteran of the German army, who competed for Germany in the 1896 Olympics.] What if he – and an unknown number of other Germans, Jews and non-Jews alike – had not registered his firearms in 1932? Or if the Weimar Republic had not decreed firearm registration at all? What if the Nazis, when they took power in 1933 and disarmed social democrats and other political enemies, or when they decided to repress the entire Jewish population in 1938, did not have police records of registered firearm owners? Can it be said with certainty that no one, either individually or in groups small or large, would have resisted Nazi depredations?

One wonders what thoughts may have occurred to Alfred Flatow in 1942 when he was dying of starvation at the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Perhaps memories of the 1896 Olympics and of a better Germany flashed before his eyes. Did he have second thoughts, maybe repeated many times before, on whether he should have registered his revolver and two pocket pistols in 1932 as decreed by the Weimar Republic? Or whether he should have obediently surrendered them at a Berlin police station in 1938 as ordered by Nazi decree, only to be taken into Gestapo custody? We will never know, but it is difficult to imagine that he had no regrets.

Now our opponents tell us we can’t talk about the mass disarmament that preceded the Holocaust, because that’s just a ridiculous thing, you know. But it seems to me that the firearms policies of mass murdering totalitarian states are highly relevant to the debate over the scope of a constitutional amendment that was meant, ultimately, to be a check on governmental power.

We’re told by our opponents that mass registration is harmless, and under normal circumstances it probably is. But I think there’s a strong argument to be made that registration infringes on the core purpose of checking governmental power, whether that power is a totalitarian murder on a mass scale, or the more common history in our country of local law enforcement colluding with domestic terror organizations for the purposes of keeping disfavored racial minorities subjugated.

We’d like to think we’re more enlightened than that now, but that strikes me as hubris. Where flawed humans are involved, it’s never a wise to rely on the better angels of our nature.

3 Responses to “The Forbidden Topic”

  1. ShelleyRae says:

    I really appreciate the commentary on placing checks on the government, it seems that a lot of people have forgotten the principle of the people maintaining their own rights outside of government control. I actually had some kid the other day trying to tell me I only had the right to own a firearm if I was in a well-regulated militia.
    What horrified me most is that this was supposed to be an educated, adult human being who’s college degree makes them worth tens of thousands of dollars a year. This is someone who should be willing to take responsibility over their own life. But, like so many people now days, he too wanted nothing more than a highly structures government run world to take care of him.
    People are fast to sacrifice freedom for the perception of safety and the ease of not having to think. If there is a gun registry and the government is tracking all our firearms so the bad guys don’t get them it ceases to be a problem of the individual whether or not someone who is perceived as “bad” has a firearm and instead becomes the fault of the government. This logic is, of course, flawed because it presumes a level of infallibility inherently impossible in the system we’ve created.
    We designed a government based on checks and balances and self regulation that was supposed to be for the people, by the people, and the people have become to irresponsible to look out for the power and freedoms they were granted.

  2. Hank Archer says:

    Are you sure you meant to wrote “about the mass disarmament that followed the Holocaust, because that’s just a ridiculous thing.”

    Seems like you meant “about the mass disarmament that preceded the Holocaust, because that’s just a ridiculous thing.”

  3. Harold says:

    The comments to that item are a mixed bag as best (no surprise), but it’s worth searching for Clayton Cramer’s, his are of course very good, historically grounded and continue in more detail Halbrook’s theme.

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