Based on media reports, the Canadian province of Quebec is going to descend into chaos very soon. The Supreme Court ruled last week that data from its gun registry could be destroyed. It didn’t take long before the media started interviewing victims of the Polytechnique School, where 14 women were murdered by a gunman in 1989.
But rest assured, “La Belle Province” is going to keep its cool without the data from the gun registry. In fact, not having this registry is for the better. The reason is simple: a government that wants to control gun ownership in whatever way – registration, limitation, confiscation or outright ban – just doesn’t understand the risks involved, even if they are (relatively) democratic.
It couldn’t clearer with what happened in Germany following World War I. Stephen Halbrook, a well-known advocate for gun rights, traces the bone-chilling path taken starting in the Weimar Republic until the beginning of World War II in his masterpiece Gun Control in the Third Reich.
Using his training as a lawyer, Halbrook dug into German legal archives to trace back the origins of gun control in Germany, starting with the democratic Weimar Republic. In order to (try to) control the chaos in the streets, the Republic passed a draconian gun law against “military” weapons in 1920. Government officials even raided private homes to ensure no such weapons were in civilian hands. It was to no avail since violence continued; criminals just don’t pay attention to laws.
The government passed another major law in 1928, which required every citizen to register their gun to the police, who would grant gun licenses. They were to decide if a person was “worthy” of having a gun to preserve public order.
Unfortunately, these laws merely served to restrict gun ownership among law-abiding citizens. Communists and Nazis just kept weapons for themselves and kept accumulating them. As the violence increased, so did the severity of the law. Among others, it was now required to show “need” for a gun, and gypsies were forbidden to own guns – the first explicit ban on a group easy to identify.
As tensions increased, the law even stated that guns must be surrendered upon request or face jail time. The interior minister warned other officials that their registration lists must be kept in a safe place so no ill-intentioned people get their hands on them.
That is exactly what happened when the Nazis gained power in 1933. Using the gun registries created under the democratic Weimar Republic, they started by disarming their political enemies, simply labeled “communists.” After securing power after the Reichstag arson in 1934, they started restricting gun ownership for everyone. From then one, only people whose loyalty to the state was undisputable could own a gun. Authorities even got to completely control shooting clubs so they would be faithful to the Nazi regime.
Enemies of the state, of course, included Jews. Once again using registration list from Weimar, they progressively disarmed them as to render them completely defenseless. After that, they merely needed an excuse, such as the Polish Jew who assassinated a Nazi official at the Paris embassy, to spark the “Night of Broken Glass,” where everything Jewish (synagogues, shops) was either set ablaze of vandalized. This event, which Halbrook claims to be long-planned, was the final nail in the coffin of disarmament. From then-on, no Jew was permitted to own any kind of weapon, including knives. That greatly facilitated their deportation and extermination.
However, Halbrook is careful making any parallels to gun registration in the U.S. and Nazi Germany. He merely shows what can happen, not what will happen.