The philosopher, George Santayana coined the phrase, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Unfortunately, even those who do remember suffer the consequences right along with those who don’t.
Even more calamitous are those who deliberately learn the deceptive tactics of history in order to wield them like a cudgel, pummeling the populace into cowering submission. Stalin, Castro (who deliberately mimicked Stalin), Hussein, and Hitler, are just a few of these. In fact, in his book, “Gun Control in the Third Reich,” Stephen Halbrook outlines the systematic disarming of not just the Jews, but nearly all the citizens of Germany. This disarmament ultimately allowed Hitler to become the demonic dictator that he was, inflicting the horrors of the Holocaust.
In 1933, Hitler, representing the Nazi Party, was democratically elected as Chancellor under President Hindenburg. However, being a cunning politician, he methodically applied force and political hysteria to legally implement previously unconstitutional practices. Indeed, he was a steady and masterful game-player. One of his first moves was to descend on the gun regulations of the Weimar Republic, which were enforced after WWl based on the premise that returning soldiers were slow to surrender their weapons. Believing this was a public security risk, the Weimar Republic enacted laws that required a license for any new guns acquired, but also (and this was the sneaky part) required a license to acquire ammunitions. In this way, they would know exactly who had weapons, new and old. Then, in 1931, with escalated fighting between the rising Nazi regime and Communists living in Germany, even stricter gun laws were applied. Trying to keep weapons out of the hands of the Communists, registration was now required for all firearms, and citizens had to prove they needed a gun for hunting. There were those who opposed these laws, stating that in the wrong hands, these records could be used against them. And that’s exactly what Hitler did. He seized those records, labeled the people listed as Communists, and implemented search and seizure practices. The police were authorized to immediately shoot anyone who resisted.
In an ironic twist of fate, those designing the gun regulations (most were not members of the Nazi Party), were the first to have their weapons confiscated, and rendered defenseless against tyranny. In their efforts to limit the violence of a few, they unwittingly enabled the slaughter of millions. In fact, most would be Hitler’s first victims during the fateful “Night of the Long Knives” campaign, where he systematically murdered all political leaders who did not agree with his theories.
Of equal interest is the book, “The Gun Debate: What Everyone Needs to Know,” written by Philip Cook and Kristin Goss. This book offers information concerning gun laws, why they were established, the role of state and federal entities, and how legislators interpret the constitution based on societal changes and needs. Certainly some regulations are beneficial. However, Cook and Goss broach a wide range of topics that most Americans are discussing privately. For example, there are the thoughtful masses who, instead of discussing the infringement of rights as the only option, are discussing the use of technology as a safety protocol. “For several decades gun violence prevention advocates have urged the development of personalized guns, which could only be fired by the owner.” As the book acknowledges, this doesn’t eliminate all gun violence, but it would prevent children accidentally firing weapons they find in the home; reduce violence by teens who take guns to show-off to friends or use in gang related crimes; reduce potential suicides; and limit stolen guns from being used to carry out mass shootings in public venues.
Regardless of your point of view, CDPL has a developed collection of books concerning this topic, including, “The Future of the Gun,” by Frank Miniter and “The Gun Control Debate: You Decide,” by Lee Nisbet.
Kerith Bourff is a history blogger, an avid reader, and a research librarian at the Crawfordsville District Public Library. Her column, Bookmark, will be back in The Paper in two weeks. You can reach her at the CDPL research desk or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.