Statist Ignorance Hurts

The amount of ignorance that can be displayed by the average statist is mind boggling. Consider the recent article in Salon trying to refute the claim that disarmed populaces are worse off under a tyrannical regime than armed populaces. The author, Alex Seitz-Wald, claims that gun owners who say the Holocaust was made easier due to the disarmed nature of Jewish individuals in German controlled areas is pure ignorance. Ironically the article itself is a demonstration of pure ignorance. First Alex tries to refute the claim that the Nazis implemented gun control:

The 1938 law signed by Hitler that LaPierre mentions in his book basically does the opposite of what he says it did. “The 1938 revisions completely deregulated the acquisition and transfer of rifles and shotguns, as well as ammunition,” Harcourt wrote. Meanwhile, many more categories of people, including Nazi party members, were exempted from gun ownership regulations altogether, while the legal age of purchase was lowered from 20 to 18, and permit lengths were extended from one year to three years.

Gun control advocates continue to claim that Hitler actually liberalized (using the classical definition of the word) gun laws in Germany and therefore claims by gun rights activists that state otherwise are baseless. It’s only in the second paragraph that the author notes the reality of the situation:

The law did prohibit Jews and other persecuted classes from owning guns, but this should not be an indictment of gun control in general.

Therein lies the problem. It seems that Alex either misunderstand or is purposely misrepresenting the argument made by those of us in the gun rights movement. When we discuss Nazi gun control policy we aren’t saying “Hitler disarmed all the Germans and that caused the Holocaust!” we’re saying “Hitler disarmed the Jews and other persecuted peoples which made the job of killing them easier.” This isn’t a minor detail, this is the crux of the argument. The argument we’re trying to make is that disarmed populations are easier to murder because they have less capability to resist state aggression. When it comes to gun control the most dangerous legislation targets specific demographics that the state is planning to persecute in some manner. That is why gun control in the United States initially targeted newly freed slaves. The state had no plans to grant newly freed slaves the ability to resist aggression. Meanwhile the initiators of aggression against the newly free slaves, that is to say the state and various groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, were allowed to keep their arms, which gave them an advantage.

The people who have the most to lose from gun control are those who are persecuted. In the United States that would be minorities, homosexuals, transgendered persons, etc. They are the people facing the most aggression and therefore they are the people most in need of arms for defense. Alex then tries to claim that people who oppose gun control must also oppose every other government program:

Does the fact that Nazis forced Jews into horrendous ghettos indict urban planning? Should we eliminate all police officers because the Nazis used police officers to oppress and kill the Jews? What about public works — Hitler loved public works projects? Of course not. These are merely implements that can be used for good or ill, much as gun advocates like to argue about guns themselves. If guns don’t kill people, then neither does gun control cause genocide (genocidal regimes cause genocide).

As an anarchist I do believe we should prevent the state from partaking in urban planning, eliminate all state police forces, cease so-called public works projects, and eliminiate the state in its entirety. That’s another topic for another post though, I will remain focused on gun control here. What is noteworthy in that excerpt is the final sentence where Alex tries to twist the statement that guns don’t kill people by claiming anybody saying as such must also accept that gun control doesn’t cause genocides. Once again Alex is either ignorant of arguments against gun control or purposely misrepresenting them.

We in the gun rights community don’t claim that gun control causes genocide, we claim that gun control laws make the act of genocide easier. The state, in part through it’s active disarming of the general population, reduces the cost of performing violence. Not only do such state actions reduce the cost of performing violence for non-state criminals but those same actions also reduce the cost of performing violence for the state. Killing people is easier when they have little ability to resist and gun control reduces the ability of individuals to resist. Rounding up six million Jews would have been more difficult if those Jews had arms in which to fight back. Alex tries, and fails, to argue against this point though:

Besides, Omer Bartov, a historian at Brown University who studies the Third Reich, notes that the Jews probably wouldn’t have had much success fighting back. “Just imagine the Jews of Germany exercising the right to bear arms and fighting the SA, SS and the Wehrmacht. The [Russian] Red Army lost 7 million men fighting the Wehrmacht, despite its tanks and planes and artillery. The Jews with pistols and shotguns would have done better?” he told Salon.

Proponents of the theory sometimes point to the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising as evidence that, as Fox News’ Judge Andrew Napolitano put it, “those able to hold onto their arms and their basic right to self-defense were much more successful in resisting the Nazi genocide.” But as the Tablet’s Michael Moynihan points out, Napolitano’s history (curiously based on a citation of work by French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson) is a bit off. In reality, only about 20 Germans were killed, while some 13,000 Jews were massacred. The remaining 50,000 who survived were promptly sent off to concentration camps.

Apparently Alex doesn’t understand the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The Uprising wasn’t an example of a well armed population fighting an army, it was an example of a poorly armed and poorly supplied population, already suffering the affects of inhuman conditions and starvation, resisting a heavily armed military force for almost a month. Alex should invest some time in reading The Bravest Battle, which tells the story of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. We must first analyze the numbers of Jews killed. This article appears to imply that every Jew in the Warsaw Ghetto was actively fighting the Nazis, but that wasn’t the case. There was a major divide between the denizens of the Ghetto over what to do. Many of the people damned to that Hell believed the best chance of survival was to comply, hoping the Nazis would go easy on them. Only a couple hundred men actively fought against the invading Nazi army. Part of the reason the number was so law was the mentioned divide, the other reason was the overall lack of arms. The Jews living in the Warsaw Ghetto were mostly unarmed save for a collection of pistols, a few rifles, a single submachinegun, some grenades, and very little ammunition. Outside support was almost nonexistent. With almost nothing a couple hundred Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto faced a well-armed force that had submachineguns, rifles, ammunition, and armored vehicles. David’s fight against Goliath had nothing on the Warsaw Ghetto Jews fight against the Nazis.

Likewise the number of Nazis killed that was cited by Alex is erroneous. I’m going to link to Wikipedia here but the important thing to search are the cited sources, which include the book The Jews of Warsaw. The casualty list cited by the Germans was 16 killed and 85 injured. This number doesn’t include Jewish collaborators and is of questionable accuracy. Seeing the Jews as subhuman lead the Nazis to downplay any deaths caused by Jewish individuals and some estimate the total number of Nazis killed in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising are close to 300. When you consider the conditions under which the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto fought the fact that they killed any Nazis is rather awe inspiring, the fact that they killed enough to halt their takeover of the Ghetto for a month is nothing short of amazing. It really is a testament to what a handful of fighting individuals can accomplish. The article continues:

Robert Spitzer, a political scientist who studies gun politics and chairs the political science department at SUNY Cortland, told Mother Jones’ Gavin Aronsen that the prohibition on Jewish gun ownership was merely a symptom, not the problem itself. “[It] wasn’t the defining moment that marked the beginning of the end for Jewish people in Germany. It was because they were persecuted, were deprived of all of their rights, and they were a minority group,” he explained.

According to Mr. Spitzer the disarming of the Jews was merely a symptom. I think the above example of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising is a testament to how different things could have been if the Jews were well-armed. When a couple hundred malnourished untrained poorly armed individuals can keep a military fighting force at bay for a month imagine how different things would have been had the general Jewish population been well armed. Six millions Jews were killed by the Nazis. Imagine how much harder that genocide would have been if if even 500,000 of them were armed. Once again we return to the fact that a disarmed populace is easier to murder and the disarmament of the Jews was almost certainly a contributor that allowed the Nazi’s persecution. Had the Jews been well armed they may not have been completely deprived of all their rights. Alex continues:

Meanwhile, much of the Hitler myth is based on an infamous quote falsely attributed to the Fuhrer, which extols the virtue of gun control:

This year will go down in history! For the first time, a civilized nation has full gun registration! Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the future!

The quote has been widely reproduced in blog posts and opinion columns about gun control, but it’s “probably a fraud and was likely never uttered,” according to Harcourt. “This quotation, often seen without any date or citation at all, suffers from several credibility problems, the most significant of which is that the date often given [1935] has no correlation with any legislative effort by the Nazis for gun registration, nor would there have been any need for the Nazis to pass such a law, since gun registration laws passed by the Weimar government were already in effect,” researchers at the useful website GunCite note.

I’ve never used that quote, nor have I seen it cited (which seems odd to me considering how many gun blogs I read and gun rights activists I talk to). Although I would rather not jump to conclusions I’m curious why Alex didn’t give an example of that quote being used on gun blogs or opinion columns. It would seem that the people who post that quote aren’t the only ones who have trouble citing their sources. Either way Alex finally moves away from Hitler:

“As for Stalin,” Bartov continued, “the very idea of either gun control or the freedom to bear arms would have been absurd to him. His regime used violence on a vast scale, provided arms to thugs of all descriptions, and stripped not guns but any human image from those it declared to be its enemies. And then, when it needed them, as in WWII, it took millions of men out of the Gulags, trained and armed them and sent them to fight Hitler, only to send back the few survivors into the camps if they uttered any criticism of the regime.”

Wait, both gun control and gun rights would have been absurd to Stalin? You would think he would have been in favor of one or the other unless he held no opinion either way. According to Jews for the Preservation of Firearm Ownership (JPFO) the Soviet Union established gun control laws in 1929, which would have been during Stalin’s reign. Of course I do not know how to read Russian so I can’t verify the source for myself but the fact that JPFO gives a citation and Alex doesn’t provided any citation gives credibility to Stalin holding a preference for gun control. The article finishes up with the following:

Bartov added that this misreading of history is not only intellectually dishonest, but also dangerous. “I happen to have been a combat soldier and officer in the Israeli Defense Forces and I know what these assault rifles can do,” he said in an email.

He continued: “Their assertion that they need these guns to protect themselves from the government — as supposedly the Jews would have done against the Hitler regime — means not only that they are innocent of any knowledge and understanding of the past, but also that they are consciously or not imbued with the type of fascist or Bolshevik thinking that they can turn against a democratically elected government, indeed turn their guns on it, just because they don’t like its policies, its ideology, or the color, race and origin of its leaders.”

Huh. So, if I read Bartov’s statement correctly, a society cannot turn on a democratically elected government unless the people have been imbued with fascist or Bolshevik ideas? Interesting. Obedience to the state seems like a very fascist idea in of itself but I’m an anarchist so what do I know. Someday I would like Bartov to explain to me how a state gains legitimacy just because a majority of voters checked the box next to the names of the current leaders. One must remember that most people in the United States don’t vote (and good on them) and therefore cannot be made a party to the state itself. Furthermore many individuals, such as felons, are unable to vote in many states meaning they are entirely at the mercy of decisions made by others. If a majority of voters in a state that disallowed felons to vote favored deporting all felons to prison camps would it be illegitimate for the felons to resist? As you consider this remember that many felony crimes are nonviolent.

Once again we have a gun control advocate attempting to refuse criticisms of gun control by ignoring or twisting facts. This is par for the course, which is why I cannot take gun control advocates seriously.