By Stephen P. Halbrook
In 1931, Wiemar authorities discovered plans for a Nazi takeover in which Jews would be denied food and persons refusing to surrender their guns within 24 hours would be executed. They were written by Werner Best, a future Gestapo official. In reaction to such threats, the government authorized the registration of all firearms and the confiscation thereof, if required for “public safety.” The interior minister warned that the records must not fall into the hands of any extremist group.
In 1933, the ultimate extremist group, led by Adolf Hitler, seized power and used the records to identify, disarm, and attack political opponents and Jews. Constitutional rights were suspended, and mass searches for and seizures of guns and dissident publications ensued. Police revoked gun licenses of Social Democrats and others who were not “politically reliable.”
During the five years of repression that followed, society was “cleansed” by the National Socialist regime. Undesirables were placed in camps where labor made them “free,” and normal rights of citizenship were taken from Jews. The Gestapo banned independent gun clubs and arrested their leaders. Gestapo counsel Werner Best issued a directive to the police forbidding issuance of firearm permits to Jews.
In 1938, Hitler signed a new Gun Control Act. Now that many “enemies of the state” had been removed from society, some restrictions could be slightly liberalized, especially for Nazi Party members. But Jews were prohibited from working in the firearms industry, and .22 caliber hollow-point ammunition was banned.
The time had come to launch a decisive blow to the Jewish community, to render it defenseless so that its “ill-gotten” property could be redistributed as an entitlement to the German “Volk.” The German Jews were ordered to surrender all their weapons, and the police had the records on all who had registered them. Even those who gave up their weapons voluntarily were turned over to the Gestapo.
This took place in the weeks before what became known as the Night of the Broken Glass, or Kristallnacht, occurred in November 1938. That the Jews were disarmed before it, minimizing any risk of resistance, is the strongest evidence that the pogrom was planned in advance. An incident was needed to justify unleashing the attack.
That incident would be the shooting of a German diplomat in Paris by a teenage Polish Jew. Hitler directed propaganda minister Josef Goebbels to orchestrate the Night of the Broken Glass. This massive operation, allegedly conducted as a search for weapons, entailed the ransacking of homes and businesses, and the arson of synagogues.
SS chief Heinrich Himmler decreed that 20 years be served in a concentration camp by any Jew possessing a firearm. Rusty revolvers and bayonets from the Great War were confiscated from Jewish veterans who had served with distinction. Twenty thousand Jewish men were thrown into concentration camps, and had to pay ransoms to get released.
The U.S. media covered the above events. And when France fell to Nazi invasion in 1940, the New York Times reported that the French were deprived of rights such as free speech and firearm possession just as the Germans had been. Frenchmen who failed to surrender their firearms within 24 hours were subject to the death penalty.
No wonder that in 1941, just days before the Pearl Harbor attack, Congress reaffirmed Second Amendment rights and prohibited gun registration. In 1968, bills to register guns were debated, with opponents recalling the Nazi experience and supporters denying that the Nazis ever used registration records to confiscate guns. The bills were defeated, as every such proposal has been ever since, including recent “universal background check” bills.
As in Wiemar Germany, some well-meaning people today advocate severe restrictions, including bans and registration, on gun ownership by law-abiding persons. Such proponents are in no sense “Nazis,” any more than were the Wiemar officials who promoted similar restrictions. And it would be a travesty to compare today’s situation to the horrors of Nazi Germany.
Still, as history teaches, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
— Stephen Halbrook is a research fellow with the Independent Institute and the
Making it difficult for law abiding citizens to protect themselves and their families.
Maura Healy's Three-Point Plan to Reduce Gun Violence
Massachusetts has among the lowest rates of gun deaths in the United States, but we can do better. In Massachusetts alone, over 2,100 residents have lost their lives to gun violence in the past ten years. Since 2000, over 300,000 Americans have died from guns.
Gun violence results in physical pain, disability and death. It burdens the families of both victims and perpetrators emotionally and financially. Communities suffer, home values and school performance drop, businesses shutter or refuse to move in, and residents feel unsafe on their own front steps.
As Attorney General, Maura will ensure that Massachusetts is at the forefront of gun violence reduction and prevention by:
1) Addressing the root causes of violence
2) Keeping guns out of dangerous hands
3) Taking on new challenges with proactive planning and new technology
Point 1: Address the Root Causes of Violence
People with access to safe housing, health care, education, and jobs create healthy, safe communities. When we fail to make opportunities available to all, neighborhoods fill the void with crime, gang violence, abuse and trauma. And too often, services and programs meant to assist communities fail to reach those families with members engaged in violence and those most at-risk of engaging in violence.
We have to target our resources directly at families involved in violence and ensure that state agencies, law enforcement, schools and community groups are able to work together to assist those most in need and to break cycles of violence. Communities and families harmed by gun violence need resources as well.
As Attorney General, Maura will:
- Convene justice and social service agency heads including the District Attorneys, state and local law enforcement, and state departments of corrections, health & human services, and public safety to develop plans for better coordination of services to the most at-risk families, improve communication of information so that agencies can work together, and ensure accountability across services and programs to improve overall outcomes for families.
- Expand programs like YouthConnect, which provides clinical social workers to the most at-risk youth and their families in an innovative partnership with the Boston Police Department.
- Support targeted early-childhood violence prevention programs that focus on helping younger siblings of those engaged in violent behavior from following in their footsteps.
- Enforce state laws to protect against discriminatory, abusive, unfair and deceptive practices in housing, lending, employment and education that keep communities in poverty.
- Collaborate with educational, medical and religious institutions, along with community and religious leaders, to expand services to at-risk youth and families, including programs for mental health and substance abuse treatment as well as after-school programs to keep children in safe, structured environments.
- Partner with community groups to provide safe housing and resources to people, including women, young girls and domestic violence survivors, who are forced to buy and hide illegal guns.
- Use the Attorney General’s Criminal Bureau and State Police to collaborate with District Attorneys and local police to reduce gang and gun violence and the trafficking of illegal guns.
- Work with the Department of Corrections, Parole Board and Probation Department to ensure that those reentering civilian life are given the support they need to find stable housing and employment, and are educated on the serious consequences of re-offending.
Illegal trafficking of guns into and throughout Massachusetts is a major threat to public safety. The Committee to Reduce Gun Violence reports that “more than 60% of crime guns used in Boston were originally purchased outside of Massachusetts.” Law enforcement needs tools to effectively track guns and to access current, comprehensive data on crimes committed with firearms as well as the resources to train officers. This will help law enforcement stem the trafficking of illegal guns. Identifying and understanding where the gun came from and how it ended up in a shooter’s hands is key to stopping gun trafficking and ending gun violence.
We must also ensure that guns do not get into the hands of people who pose a risk to themselves or to others, including criminals and domestic violence offenders. Further, gun dealers need access to the best information available to help ensure that prospective buyers are eligible to purchase guns.
As Attorney General Maura will partner with law enforcement and legislators to:
- Trace every gun used in Massachusetts crimes. This will give law enforcement better information to take on and shut down traffickers. Seek partnership agreements with other state Attorneys General to share gun trafficking data.
- Close the gun show and private sale loophole that allows guns to enter and exit the market in Massachusetts untraced.
- Require all private gun sales be conducted through a registered gun dealer.
- Support development by the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association and the Massachusetts Gun Control Advisory Board of a clear “suitability” test for gun ownership and licensing. Give Chiefs of Police the ability to use that same, clear test for granting firearm identification cards as they do for handguns.
- Increase the penalties on gun owners who fail to report the loss or theft of a firearm within seven days.
- Issue a report from the Office of the Attorney General within six months on internet sales of firearms into Massachusetts.
- Update state background check databases to include all relevant information, including restraining orders, indictments, parole/probation information and felony and misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence and abuse.
- Require gun dealers to conduct background checks in federal and state databases on the sale and transfer of any firearm, including all private sales and those at gun shows.
- Establish a National Association of Attorneys General Task Force on Gun Trafficking and multi-state firearms issues.
- Work with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm’s National Tracing Center to better trace lost, stolen and trafficked firearms and support state and federal legislation to reduce gun trafficking.
- Lead a public awareness campaign to help family members take smart, proactive action to keep guns away from those who might harm themselves.
- Support the Committee to Reduce Firearm Violence’s recommendation that individuals who are drug dependent, substance abusers or have a mental illness based on a judicial finding and a likelihood of serious harm are reported to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NCIS), but not those who seek voluntary treatment or are involuntarily hospitalized for assessment and evaluation.
- Support the Committee’s recommendation to integrate behavioral health issue identification and services into schools and other educational settings to help identify the early signs of youth mental illness that could result in harm.
- Fight to remove the stigma of mental illness by using the reach of the Attorney General’s Office to raise awareness of services and help for individuals and families.
- Work with health care providers and insurers to create better access to mental health treatment in all hospital emergency rooms.
- Make health care parity a reality by enforcing mental health parity laws and ensuring that all public and private insurance coverage includes mental health services.
- Target community benefit contributions by our state’s health care providers to increase access to mental health services for vulnerable populations
Massachusetts should have the best public safety measures in place to reduce the inherent risk of guns. We have to push back on 3D manufactured guns, have the best-prepared schools in the country, and enlist the most advanced technology to reduce gun injury or death. The too-often repeated injuries and deaths stemming from guns used by children demand immediate action.
As Attorney General Maura will:
- Partner with municipalities, schools and law enforcement to ensure that every school in Massachusetts has a best-practices School Safety Plan in place that students and educational professionals are prepared to follow in the event of an emergency.
- Lead collaborations with law enforcement, schools, parents and teachers to ensure that school violence threats are identified early. In most cases, youth shooters have spoken to someone else about wanting to do harm. Further education and open dialogue on mental illness, bullying, and school culture can help keep young people safe.
- Work with state and federal legislators, law enforcement and gun manufacturers to adopt nation-leading gun-safety technology, including biometric trigger locks and firearm micro-stamping, which imprints firearm serial numbers or identifiable etchings on all fired cartridge cases.
- Support the adoption of the recent federal ban on undetectable firearms and promote state measures to require that all firearms and ammunition feeding devices contain at least one metal part.
- Prohibit the use of 3D printers to print fully-functional plastic firearms that are untraceable and can be easily destroyed along with other evidence.
- Adopt the Committee to Reduce Gun Violence’s recommendation for standardization of firearm training courses. Every course must include extensive live fire training, and instruction on safe handling and storage of firearms.