Yesterday I had lunch with a physician colleague and the topic turned to gun rights. I shared my belief that we could no longer afford “gun-free zones” in the wake of so many mass shootings, and he agreed, but then added that he felt a national firearms registry was an important step in reducing gun violence. I disagreed, and gave some cursory reasons why I felt that gun registries were a bad idea. I left lunch thinking that I needed a better argument against gun registration, maybe a poignant example from history.
This morning, I found what I was looking for. In his article “How the Nazis Used Gun Control”, posted at National Review Online, Stephen Holbrook discusses the creation of a national gun registry in 1930’s Germany, and how the Nazis, who didn’t create the registry, later used it to disarm and oppress the Jewish population. I highly recommend this excellent article, which can be found here: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/365103/how-nazis-used-gun-control-stephen-p-halbrook
There are two lessons I think we learn from the Nazis. First, that we should never forget the true purpose of the Second Amendment. It is not about hunting, or gun shows, or even concealed carry, although all of these things are clearly protected by it. Its true purpose is as a check against a runaway government, one that no longer serves the people. We, as Americans, have the right to overthrow our government by armed insurrection, just as our forefathers did at Concord Bridge. If we ever lose our firearms, we are powerless against an aggressive and oppressive government, just as the Germans were in the late 1930’s (even if that government doesn’t take power for 5, 10, 50 or 100 years later).
The second lesson we learn, one I hope to keep ever mindful of as your State Representative, is the power of unintended consequences. What was most insightful to me in the article was that the Weimar government knew about the Nazis and their deadly intentions as early as 1931, yet they failed to see how something as simple as gun registration could be used to disarm and ultimately exploit the civilian population, rather than prevent the Nazis from grabbing power. Our elected leaders should always pause before rushing to “pass something”, and truly reflect on the possibility that there may be future costs and harms that result from their good intentions.