Here’s What Really Happened in History When Gun Control Disarmed Citizens

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History is often called the laboratory of human experience, so to address the controversy over the Second Amendment‘s guarantee to ‘keep and bear arms,’ we should look at historical outcomes when gun control has disarmed citizens.

A History of Disarmament and Tyranny


History is filled with instances where tyrannical rulers and oppressive governments took advantage of disarmed populations. A stark reminder of this is the sheer number of brutal dictators and regimes that have stripped their citizens of the ability to defend themselves. 

This often resulted in tragic consequences for those left defenseless.

Does Gun Control Empower Oppressors?


The very notion of firearm accessibility complicates the efforts of despots and oppressive governments to impose their will unchallenged. 

This sheds light on why, throughout the last century and a half, the deadliest regimes often pursued policies that restricted gun ownership and even confiscated firearms from the populace.

King George’s Gun Confiscation 

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Reflecting on the pre-Revolutionary War era, King George III of England’s attempts to enforce gun confiscation in the American Colonies spectacularly backfired. 

This overreach played a key role in spurring the American Founding Fathers to enshrine the right to bear arms within the Second Amendment—a pivotal move in safeguarding liberty.

Current Gun Control Controversies


Today, as debates around gun control resurface in the U.S., fueled by tragic shootings and rising public discourse, it’s time to revisit the lessons of the past. Some voices in academia, legislation, and the public arena are advocating for stringent gun bans and even the dismantling of the Second Amendment. 

These discussions make it imperative to reflect on how historical gun control measures have often preceded severe repercussions for ordinary citizens.

Hitler’s 1938 Gun Control Campaign

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In 1938, the trajectory of Nazi Germany took a perilously dark turn under Adolf Hitler’s regime, coinciding with stringent gun control measures and the onset of an agenda targeting Jews and other minority groups. 

This year marked a profound expansion of oppressive policies and the formulation of a calculated strategy to disarm and disenfranchise specific segments of the population.

Strategic Disarmament Before the Holocaust


The newly enacted Gun Control Act of 1938 allowed for the relaxation of some restrictions, particularly benefiting members of the Nazi Party. However, it simultaneously tightened the noose around the Jewish community, who were expressly forbidden from engaging in any firearms-related occupations and were also banned from owning certain types of ammunition. 

This strategic disarmament was critical in setting the stage for the more overt acts of violence and plunder that soon followed.

Setting the Stage for Kristallnacht

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As the groundwork for aggression was laid, the Jewish community was systematically stripped of any means of resistance. Police records of registered firearms were utilized to ensure that all weapons were surrendered. 

The Night of Broken Glass


This mass confiscation rendered the Jewish population defenseless, paving the way for the violent pogrom known as Kristallnacht, or the Night of the Broken Glass, which erupted in November 1938.

Strategic Cruelty

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Kristallnacht was not a spontaneous event but a well-orchestrated attack spearheaded by Nazi leadership to decimate the Jewish community. The pretext for this onslaught was the assassination of a German diplomat by a young Polish Jew in Paris—an incident that Hitler and his propaganda minister, Josef Goebbels, exploited to justify the violent purges. 

The operation involved widespread ransacking of Jewish homes and businesses, as well as the burning of synagogues across Germany.

Harsh Penalties for Jews

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Adding to the severity of the regime’s ruthlessness, Heinrich Himmler, the SS chief, decreed harsh punishments for any Jew found in possession of a firearm. This included long-term imprisonment in concentration camps, further exemplifying the grim fate that befell those who had once served the nation in the Great War, only to have their honors cruelly stripped away. 

The events of 1938 underlined the profound impact of gun control as a precursor to more extensive and brutal measures of repression and extermination.

Ottoman Gun Policies and Tragedies

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Taking a look back, the Ottoman Empire’s history around the early 20th century illustrates this point vividly. By 1911, the empire had implemented full gun confiscation, setting the stage for the horrific events that followed. 

The Start of Armenia’s Darkest Days


From 1915 to 1917, the government massacred approximately 1.5 million Armenians—half of the empire’s Armenian population. 

This event, now known as the Armenian  Genocide, highlights the grim outcomes of a disarmed populace under a tyrannical regime.

Targeting Armenian Leaders


Initially, political leaders and intellectuals within the Armenian community were arrested and executed—a move aimed at decapitating the leadership and crippling any potential resistance.

The March Toward Death


The horror escalated as the remaining Armenians were deceitfully informed of relocation for their safety. Instead, they were forcibly marched towards desolate concentration camps located in the desert stretches between Jerablus and Deir ez-Zor. 

No Water or Food

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The journey itself was a cruel ordeal—devoid of sufficient food and water, many were subjected to brutal violence by their supposed protectors or fell victim to roving bandits.

Tragedy at Sea


The city of Trebizond presented a variation of this grim routine, where Armenians were loaded onto barges only to be drowned in the Black Sea. 

Throughout these horrifying events, acts of sexual violence were rampant; women and young girls suffered through rape, forced marriages, and even enslavement.

The Full Scale of Armenian Suffering


The violence was indiscriminate and relentless, targeting men, women, the elderly, and children alike. Mass shootings, pillaging, persecution, and torture became the horrifying norm.

Firearms Were Not the Weapon


Despite the widespread international awareness of these atrocities, denials of the genocide persisted, complicating efforts for recognition and reconciliation. 

The primary weapon used in these atrocities was not a firearm but a machete.

The Brutal Nature of the Genocide


This genocide underscores the brutal nature of the violence inflicted upon the Armenian people, making the tragedy an even more poignant reminder of the consequences when a population is left defenseless.

Stalin’s Ban on Private Guns


In 1929, the Soviet Union witnessed a significant shift as private gun ownership was outlawed, aligning with the ascent of one of history’s most repressive leaders, Joseph Stalin. 

This policy change marked the beginning of an era characterized by severe repression and brutal tactics against those considered threats to Stalin’s power.

The Deadly Cost of Disarmament


As gun ownership was stripped away, Stalin’s regime tightened its grip, leading to the roundup of tens of millions of Soviet citizens. 

Dissidents and anyone perceived as a potential threat were either executed or sent to labor camps and prisons, where many endured work conditions so harsh they resulted in death.

Stalin’s Paranoia and Party Purges

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Stalin’s notorious indifference to human life was further exacerbated by his profound paranoia, culminating in the widespread purging of the Communist Party. 

This period highlighted the severe consequences of disarming the populace and also underscored the ease with which totalitarian control could be imposed in the absence of armed resistance.

The Echoes of Stalin’s Disarmament

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Stalin’s chilling approach to quelling opposition was starkly encapsulated in his statement during the purge, suggesting a brutal resolve to disarm any resistance forcibly if necessary. 

This historical reflection echoes in more contemporary discussions around gun control, demonstrating the timeless debate over the balance between safety and the potential for governmental overreach.

Mao’s Gun Control and Political Power


In China, the imposition of gun control in 1935 by the Nationalist government set the stage for one of the darkest eras under Mao Zedong’s rule. Mao, who later became synonymous with extreme measures of political repression, is often quoted from his speeches emphasizing that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. 

65 Million Lost Under Mao’s Regime


This sentiment chillingly reflects the lethal force used to consolidate power during his regime, which saw the death of an estimated 65 million Chinese. 

These deaths were not mere casualties of conflict but victims of executions, imprisonments, and forced famines as Mao endeavored to sculpt a new socialist China.

The Beginning of Cambodia’s Gun Control

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Moving to Southeast Asia, Cambodia experienced its own harrowing chapter of gun control history starting in 1956. 

The total gun control law enacted that year may not have immediately led to violence, but it preceded one of the most brutal periods under the regime of Pol Pot. 

1 Million Lives Lost


Between 1975 and 1979, the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot engaged in a genocidal campaign to reshape Cambodian society, resulting in the deaths of approximately one million people, particularly targeting the educated class. 

The Killing Fields


This period of intense persecution was captured in the haunting film The Killing Fields, which portrays the devastating impact of a disarmed populace unable to resist a tyrannical rule.

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