Gun Control and Genocide

Throughout history there have been governments that have disarmed their citizens in order to tyrannize and commit genocide on them once disarmed.

   The chart below documents just a few examples from recent history where gun control laws were enacted by governments which were then followed by genocide:

Ottoman Turkey 1915-1917 Armenians 1-1.5 million 1886-1911 Art. 166, Penal Code
Art. 166 Penal Code
Soviet Union* 1929-1953 Anti-Communists
20 million 1929 Art. 182 Penal Code
Nazi Germany**
& Occupied Europe
1933-1945 Jews, Gypsies,
13 million 1928-1938 Law on Firearms &
Ammunition, April 12
Weapons Law, March 18
China* 1949-1952
Anti- Communists
Rural Populations
Pro-Reform Groups
20 million 1935-1957 Arts. 186-7, Penal Code
Art. 9, Security Law,
Oct. 22
Guatemala 1960-1981 Maya Indians 100,000 1871-1964 Decree 36, Nov 25
Decree 283, Oct 27
Uganda 1971-1979 Christians
Political Rivals
300,000 1955-1970 Firearms Ordinance
Firearms Act
Cambodia 1975-1979 Educated Persons 1 million1956 Arts. 322-8, Penal Code

* The law(s) mentioned are part of an older/or wider body of law on and regulation of private firearms ownership

** For a complete translation of these laws, including regulations specifically banning Jews from owning any weapons and a side-by-side comparison of the Nazi Weapons Law with the U.S. Gun Control Act of 1968, see “Gun Control”: Gateway to Tyranny, J.E. Simkin & A. Zelman, 1992; available from JPFO.

Also See:

Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership’s Death by “Gun Control”


The University of Hawaii’s Democide: Murder By Government

   Conversely, this is what happens when you don’t allow yourselves to be disarmed:

But the peasants in the mountains, and the inhabitants of the small island Sphakia, called the Suliots of Candia, refused to give up their arms, collected, and drove the Turks back again into the towns.

   Returning to the main article:

A. Armenia

After the government of the Ottoman Empire quickly crushed an Armenian revolt in 1893, tens of thousands of Armenians were murdered by mobs armed and encouraged by the government. As anti-Armenian mobs were being armed, the government attempted to convince Armenians to surrender their guns. [4] A 1903 law banned the manufacture or import of gunpowder without government permission. [5] In 1910, manufacturing or importing weapons without government permission, as well as carrying weapons or ammunition without permission was forbidden. [6] During World War I, in February 1915, local officials in each Armenian district were ordered to surrender quotas of firearms. When officials surrendered the required number, they were executed for conspiracy against the government. When officials could not surrender enough weapons from their community, the officials were executed for stockpiling weapons. Armenian homes were also searched, and firearms confiscated. Many of these mountain dwellers had kept arms despite prior government efforts to disarm them. [7] The genocide against Armenians began with the April 24, 1915 announcement that Armenians would be deported to the interior. The announcement came while the Ottoman government was desperately afraid of an Allied attack that would turn Turkey’s war against Russia into a two-front war. In fact, British troops landed at Gallipoli in western Turkey the next day. Although the Anglo-Russian offensives failed miserably, the Armenian genocide continued for the next two years. [8] Some of the genocide was accomplished by shooting or cutting down Armenian men. The bulk of the 1 to 1.5 million Armenian deaths, however, occurred during the forced marches to the interior. Although the marches were ostensibly for the purpose of protecting the Armenians through relocation, the actual purpose was to make the marches so difficult (for example, by not providing any food) that survival was impossible. [9] The Armenian genocide differs from the six other genocides detailed in Lethal Laws in one important respect. Although many Armenians apparently complied with the gun control laws and the deportation orders, some did not. For example, in southern Syria (then part of the Ottoman Empire), “the Armenians refused to submit to the deportation order . . . . Retreating into the hills, they took up a strategic position and organized an impregnable defense. The Turks attacked and were repulsed with huge losses. They proceeded to lay siege.” [10] Eventually 4,000 survivors of the siege were rescued by the British and French. [11] These Armenians who grabbed their guns and headed for the hills are the converse to the vast numbers of Armenian and other genocide victims in Lethal Laws who submitted quietly; although many of the Armenian fighters doubtless died from lack of medical care, starvation, or gunfire, so did many of the Armenians who submitted. As was the case of the Jewish resistance during World War II, armed resistance was enormously risky, but the resisters had a far higher survival rate than the submitters.

B. Soviet Union

As the authors note, the Bolsheviks were a minority of Communists in a vast and disparate nation where Communists themselves were a tiny minority. It should not be surprising that the Bolsheviks worked hard to ensure that any person potentially hostile to them did not possess arms. [12] The first Soviet gun controls were imposed during the Russian Civil War, as Czarists, Western troops, and national independence movements battled the central Red regime. Firearm registration was introduced on April 1, 1918. [13] On August 30, Fanny Kaplan supposedly wounded Lenin during an assassination attempt; the attempted assassination spurred a nationwide reign of terror. [14] In October 1918, the Council of People’s Commissars (the government) ordered the surrender of all firearms, ammunition, and sabres. [15] As has been the case in almost every nation where firearms registration has been introduced, registration proved a prelude to confiscation. Exempt from the confiscation order, however, were members of the Communist Party. [16] A 1920 decree imposed a mandatory minimum penalty of six months in prison for (non-Communist) possession of a firearm, even where there was no criminal intent. [17] After the Red victory in the Civil War, the firearms laws were consolidated in a Criminal Code, which provided that unauthorized possession of a firearm would be punishable by hard labor. [18] A 1925 law made unauthorized possession of a firearm punishable by three months of hard labor, plus a fine of 300 rubles (equal to about four months’ wages for a highly-paid construction worker). [19] Stalin apparently found little need to change the weapons control structure he had inherited. His only contributions were a 1935 law making illegal carrying of a knife punishable by five years in prison and a decree of that same year extending “all penalties, including death, down to twelve-year-old children.” [20] This chapter of Lethal Laws summarizes the genocide perpetrated by Stalin from 1929 to 1953, starting with his efforts to collectivize farming by destroying the class of property-owning farmers. Altogether, about twenty million people were murdered, worked to death in slave labor camps, or deliberately starved to death by Stalin’s government. From 1929 to 1939, Stalin killed about ten million people, more than all the people who died during the entirety of World War I. Stalin’s successful campaign of genocide against the Kulaks and against dissident Communists served as a model for similar campaigns in China and Cambodia. [21]

C. Germany

German gun control laws are the authors’ area of expertise. Mr. Simkin and Mr. Zelman have previously written a book analyzing the Weimar and Nazi gun laws in great detail. [22] The German chapter in Lethal Laws contains the most relevant statutes and regulations, but does not include gun registration forms and similar materials found in the previous book. Because Lethal Laws does contain more analysis of the German gun laws in their social context, Lethal Laws is the more valuable book to anyone except a specialist in German law.

After Germany’s defeat in World War I, the democratic Weimar government, fearing (with good cause) efforts by Communists or the militaristic right to overthrow the government, ordered the surrender of all firearms. Governmental efforts to disarm the civilian population–in part to comply with the Versailles Treaty–apparently ended in 1921. [23]

The major German gun control law (which was not replaced by the Nazis until 1938) was enacted by a center-right government in 1928. [24] The law required a permit to acquire a gun or ammunition and a permit to carry a firearm. Firearm and ammunition dealers were required to obtain permits to sell and to keep a register of their sales. Also, persons who owned guns that did not have a serial number were ordered to have the dealer or manufacturer stamp a serial number on them. Permits to acquire guns and ammunition were to be granted only to persons of “undoubted reliability,” [25] and carry permits were to be given “only if a demonstration of need is set forth.” [26] Apparently police discretion cut very heavily against permit applicants. For example, in the town of Northeim, only nine hunting permits were issued to a population of 10,000 people. [27]

In 1931, amidst rising gang violence (the gangs being Nazi and Communist youths), carrying knives or truncheons in public was made illegal, except for persons who had firearm carry permits under the 1928 law. Acquisition of firearms and ammunition permits was made subject to proof of “need.” [28]

When the Nazis took power in 1933, they apparently found that the 1928 gun control laws served their purposes; not until 1938 did the Nazis bother to replace the 1928 law. The leaving of the Weimar law in place cannot be attributed to lethargy on the Nazis’ part; unlike some other totalitarian governments (such as the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia), the Nazis paid great attention to legal draftsmanship and issued a huge volume of laws and regulations. [29] The only immediate change the Nazis made to the gun laws was to bar the import of handguns. [30]

Shortly after the Nazis took power, they began house-to-house searches to discover firearms in the homes of suspected opponents. They claimed to find large numbers of weapons in the hands of subversives. [31] How many weapons the Nazis actually recovered may never be known. But as historian William Sheridan Allen pointed out in his study of the Nazi rise to power in one town: “Whether or not all the weapon discoveries reported in the local press were authentic is unimportant. The newspapers reported whatever they were told by the police, and what people believed was what was more important than what was true.” [32]

Four days after Hitler’s triumphant Anschluss of Austria in March 1938, the Nazis finally enacted their own firearms laws. Additional controls were layered on the 1928 Weimar law: Persons under eighteen were forbidden to buy firearms or ammunition; a special permit was introduced for handguns; Jews were barred from businesses involving firearms; Nazi officials were exempted from the firearms permit system; silencers were outlawed; twenty-two caliber cartridges with hollow points were banned; and firearms which could fold or break down “beyond the common limits of hunting and sporting activities” became illegal. [33]

On November 9, 1938 and into the next morning, the Nazis unleashed a nationwide race riot. Mobs inspired by the government attacked Jews in their homes, looted Jewish businesses, and burned synagogues, with no interference from the police. [34] The riot became known as “Kristallnacht” (“night of broken glass”). [35] On November 11, Hitler issued a decree forbidding Jews to possess firearms, knives, or truncheons under any circumstances, and to surrender them immediately. [36]

Nazi mass murders of Jews began after the invasion of the Soviet Union. Extermination camps were not set up until late 1941, so mass murder was at first accomplished by special S.S. units, Einsatzgruppen, on June 22, 1941. Working closely with regular army units, the Einsatzgruppen would move swiftly into newly-conquered areas, to prevent Jews from fleeing. In some cases, Jews were ordered to register with the authorities, an act which made them easy to locate for murder shortly thereafter. As noted above, most of the Soviet population had been disarmed by Lenin and Stalin or had never possessed arms in the first place. [37] Raul Hilberg, a leading scholar of the Nazi military, summarizes that

The killers were well armed, they knew what to do, and they worked swiftly. The victims were unarmed, bewildered, and followed orders. . . . It is significant that the Jews allowed themselves to be shot without resistance. In all reports of the Einsatzgruppen there were few references to “incidents.” The killing units never lost a man during a shooting operation. . . . [T]he Jews remained paralyzed after their first brush with death and in spite of advance knowledge of their fate. [38]

How could Jews with “advance knowledge of their fate” allow themselves to be murdered? The authors suggest that

These Jews’ passivity doubtless was the result of centuries of victimization in Russia. They had come to believe that being victimized was normal. In most cases in Jewish experience, the victimizers were satisfied after the first few victims. In such situations, resisting was likely to prolong the victimization, and thus to increase the number of victims. Most Jews did not realize that the Nazis were different. Most Jews did not realize the Nazis had no use for living Jews.

On top of this tendency to accept being victimized, twenty years of Communist rule–of which Stalin’s terror had occupied ten years–had shown Jews that failure to obey orders was a fatal mistake. [39]

Although many Jews remained passive throughout the Holocaust, some did not. In 1943, the Nazis attempted to commence the liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto. [40] But as the Nazis moved in, members of the Jewish Fighting Organization opened fire. “[T]he shock of encountering resistance evidently forced the Germans to discontinue their work in order to make more thorough preparations.” [41] The revolt continued, leading Goebbels to note in his diary: “This just shows what you can expect from Jews if they lay hands on weapons.” [42] Although the Jews of the Warsaw ghetto were eventually defeated, the Warsaw battle was perhaps the most significant ever for the Jews, according to Raul Hilberg: “In Jewish history, the battle is literally a revolution, for after two thousand years of a policy of submission the wheel had been turned and once again Jews were using force.” [43]

There were other Jewish uprisings; even in the death camps of Sobibor and Treblinka, Jews seized arms from the Nazi guards and attempted to escape. A few succeeded, and more significantly, the camps were closed prematurely. [44] The authors do not attempt to tell the complete story of Jewish guerilla resistance during World War II. [45]

The German chapter is the most successful in the book. The perpetrators and the victims of Naziism both left extensive written records, allowing Simkin, Zelman, and Rice to integrate their always-strong textual analysis of the gun laws with a discussion of the actual impact of the laws on the lives of victims. [46]

D. China

The China chapter is much less enlightening, mostly because the victims of Mao’s genocide, unlike Hitler’s, left much less of a record for Western historians to uncover. While many scholars agree that about one million people were murdered during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), the number of people who were starved to death by Mao’s communization of the economy from 1957 to 1960 (“the Great Leap Forward”) might be as low as one million, or as high as thirty million. [47]

Mao, like Hitler, inherited gun control from his predecessor’s regime. [48] A 1912 Chinese law made it illegal to import or possess rifles, cannons, or explosives without a permit. [49] The law was apparently aimed at the warlords who were contesting the central government’s authority; Chinese peasants were far too poor to afford guns. [50] Communist gun control was not enacted until 1957, when the National People’s Congress outlawed the manufacture, repair, purchase, or possession of any firearm or ammunition “in contravention of safety provisions.” [51]

E. Guatemala

Perhaps the most overlooked genocide of the twentieth century has been the Guatemalan government’s campaign against its Indian population. One reason that the genocide has attracted little attention may be that the Guatemalan government has been friendly to the United States.

Gun control in Guatemala has always been intimately tied to the military’s determination to maintain itself as the dominant institution in society. [52] After taking power with a revolutionary army of just forty-five men, the Guatemalan government of 1871 speedily decreed the registration of all “new model” firearms. [53] Registered guns were subject to impoundment whenever the government thought necessary. [54] In 1873, firearms sales were prohibited, and firearms owners were required to turn their guns over to the government. [55]

Apparently, the enforcement of the 1873 law began to wane. In 1923, General Jose Orellana, who had taken power in a coup a few years before, put into force a comprehensive gun control decree. [56] The law barred most firearms imports, outlawed the carrying of guns in towns (except by government officials), required a license for carrying guns “on the public roads and railways,” set the fee for a carry license high enough so as to be beyond the reach of poor people, and prohibited ownership of any gun that could fire a military caliber cartridge. [57]

In 1944, two officers led a revolt against the military government. [58] “Distributing arms to students and civilian supporters, they soon gained control of the city [Guatemala City, the capital], and two days later Ponce [the dictator] resigned, though not before nearly a hundred people had died in the sporadic fighting.” [59] The first free elections in half a century were held. [60] The new government did not eliminate the gun control laws, but it did regularize the issuance of carry permits by specifying that the permits would be issued to an applicant who could “prove his good character by means of testimonials from two persons of known honesty.” [61]

In 1952, the democratically-elected government of Jacobo Arbenz began an agrarian reform plan that expropriated large uncultivated estates. [62] Compensation was based on the taxable value of the land. The United Fruit Company was angry at the seizure of 386,000 acres of the company’s reserve land in exchange for what the company considered inadequate compensation. [63] In June 1954, a force of Guatemalan exiles, trained by the CIA, invaded Guatemala from Honduras. [64] “Unable accurately to assess the situation in the capital, Arbenz resolved to do as he had done in 1944 and distribute weapons to the workers for the defense of the government. The army refused to obey, and on 27 June, Arbenz resigned . . . .” [65]

Contrary to the assertion of the authors, [66] it is unclear whether total repeal of the gun controls a decade before would have saved the democratic government. Firearms at a free-market price might still have been beyond the financial reach of the peasants and students in a very poor country. What might have made a difference, however, is the actual distribution of surplus military arms for free to the citizens of Guatemala while the democratic regime was in power. [67] But such a policy was not implemented, and for all practical purposes, the military retained a monopoly of force. As the authors note, the monopoly “made Arbenz, a duly elected President, serve at the Military’s pleasure. When they wanted him to go, he went.” [68]

In November 1960, reformist military officers attempted a coup and garnered the support of about half the army. [69] Peasants, wanting to fight for their own land, asked the rebels for guns so that the peasants could join the battle; the rebels refused. [70] The coup was finally crushed by loyalist forces who were supported by the United States. [71] From the 1960s to the 1980s, the Guatemalan government found itself engaged in perpetual counterinsurgency campaigns. As part of these campaigns, right-wing terror squads were unleashed to murder suspected subversives, although regular army units also participated extensively. [72] Approximately 100,000 Mayan Indians were murdered by the government during this period. [73]

Amnesty International has waged a long and courageous campaign against human rights abuses in Guatemala. [74] The authors reviewing Amnesty International’s proposals for restoring human rights to Guatemala, note that the group nowhere advocates recognition of a strong legal right to arms or the arming of the victim populations. [75] Instead, Amnesty argues that the government should control itself better:

The government should also thoroughly review the present method of reporting and certifying violent deaths, particularly those resulting from actions taken by any person in an official capacity. The aim of such an inquiry should be to create procedures which will ensure that such deaths are reported to the authorities, who then impartially investigate the circumstances and causes of the deaths. All efforts should be made to identify the unidentified bodies that are found in the country and frequently buried only as “xx”, in order to determine time, place and manner of death and whether a criminal act has been committed. [76]

Is the Amnesty proposal realistic? “It seems absurd,” write Simkin, Zelman, and Rice, “to appeal to so blood-drenched a government to ‘impartially investigate’ atrocities its officials have committed.” [77]

The failure of the Guatemalan government to prosecute its agents for perpetrating government-sponsored genocide suggests that hopes for domestic legal reform may be of little use in actually stopping genocide. As the next two chapters illustrate, international law may be of little greater practical efficacy.

F. Uganda

If international organizations such as the United Nations were ever going to intervene to stop a genocide in progress, Uganda in the 1970s would have been the ideal spot. Ugandan dictator Idi Amin was a world pariah with no powerful allies. He was generally regarded as insane (perhaps from advanced venereal disease) and his army was, by world power standards, pitiful. [78] From 1990 to 1991, the United States assembled and led a worldwide coalition which easily drove Iraqi conquerors out of Kuwait. [79] A multinational coalition conquest of Uganda would have been all the easier, since Idi Amin’s army was tiny compared to Saddam Hussein’s war machine. [80] Kuwait, however, was a strategic oil resource, [81] while Uganda had few resources other than the Ugandan people who were being slaughtered by their government. Although the existence of the Ugandan genocide was well-established as it was being perpetrated, the possibility of a multinational campaign to oust Idi Amin was never even a topic for serious discussion, whereas discussion about the reconquest of Kuwait began days after Iraqi tanks entered Kuwait. [82]

Not once in this century has one nation or a coalition of nations launched a military action to stop a genocide in progress. It is true that wars have sometimes led to a genocidal regime being deposed; Tanzania ousted Amin, and the Allies defeated Hitler. But Tanzania and the Allies acted only because their territory had been invaded, not because they were moved to action by reports of the murders within Uganda or within Nazi Germany.

Notably, even when the Allies were engaged in all-out war against Hitler, they refused to take military action against the extermination camps, such as by bombing the rail lines that led to them. [83] As historian Raul Hilberg writes, “The Allied nations who were at war with Germany did not come to the aid of Germany’s victims. The Jews of Europe had no allies. In its gravest hour Jewry stood alone, and the realization of that desertion came as a shock to Jewish leaders all over the world.” [84] The people of Uganda likewise stood alone from 1971 to 1979, when Idi Amin’s dictatorship killed about 300,000 people, roughly 2.3% of the total population. [85]

The authors began their study of Ugandan gun laws with a 1955 statute promulgated by the British imperial government, although this gun control law may not have been Uganda’s first. [86] Although the British/Ugandan law had the length and complexity typical of modern statutes, the essence was a provision requiring that a person could only possess a firearm if he had a permit, and the permit would be granted by the police only upon a discretionary finding regarding the applicant’s “fitness” to possess a firearm. [87]

Uganda achieved independence in 1962, [88] keeping the structure of the Colonial gun laws intact. In 1966, Milton Obote assumed dictatorial powers. In 1969, Obote tightened the gun laws, imposing a nationwide ban on firearms and ammunition possession, making exceptions only for government officials and for persons granted an exemption by the government. [89] In 1970, the 1955 British gun law was recodified, with some minor changes. [90]

Idi Amin took power in 1971, and the mass murders began shortly thereafter. The nation’s large Asian population was expelled (not murdered), and in the process the Ugandan government seized approximately a billion dollars’ worth of the Asians’ property. [91] The main targets of the Ugandan government’s mass murders were members of tribes whom Amin perceived as a threat to his power. [92] Because Uganda had far less of an infrastructure than Nazi Germany, the murders were perpetrated mostly by bands of soldiers who shot their victims, rather than through extermination camps. [93]

Amin’s army numbered about 25,000 and his secret police–the “State Research Bureau”–only 3,000. [94] The army was ill-disciplined and incompetent, and collapsed not long after Amin began his ill-advised war against Tanzania in late 1978. [95] How could such a small and pathetic army get away with mass murder against a nation of thirteen million people? Is it possible that a disarmed Ugandan population was easier to murder than an armed one?

Idi Amin, by the way, now lives in Saudi Arabia. [96] As far as I know, there has been no effort to extradite him and put him on trial for murder. With the exceptions of the rulers of the nations that lost World War II, none of the perpetrators of genocide in the 20th century have been prosecuted for crimes against humanity.

G. Cambodia

Also enjoying a comfortable post-genocide life is Pol Pot, the perpetrator of the best known mass-murders of the post-World War II era.

Cambodian gun control was a legacy of French colonialism. [97] A series of Royal Ordinances, decreed by a monarchy subservient to the French, appears to have been enacted out of fear of the Communist and anti-colonial insurgencies that were taking place in the 1920s and 1930s throughout Southeast Asia, although not in Cambodia. [98] The first law, in 1920, dealt with the carrying of guns, while the last law in the series, in 1938, imposed a strict licensing system. [99] Only hunters could have guns, and they were allowed to own only a single firearm. [100] These colonial laws appear to have stayed in place after Cambodia was granted independence. The Khmer Rouge enacted no new gun control laws, for they enacted no laws at all other than a Constitution. [101]

Cambodia was a poor country, and few people could afford guns. [102] On the other hand, the chaos that accompanies any war might have given some Cambodians the opportunity to acquire firearms from corrupt or dead soldiers. There is no solid evidence about how many Cambodians, with no cultural history of firearms ownership, attempted to do so. [103]

As soon as the Khmer Rouge took power, they immediately set out to disarm the populace. One Cambodian recalls that Eang [a woman] watched soldiers stride onto the porches of the houses and knock on the doors and ask the people who answered if they had any weapons. “We are here now to protect you,” the soldiers said, “and no one has a need for a weapon any more.” People who said that they kept no weapons were forced to stand aside and allow the soldiers to look for themselves. . . . The round-up of weapons took nine or ten days, and once the soldiers had concluded the villagers were no longer armed, they dropped their pretense of friendliness. . . . The soldiers said everyone would have to leave the village for a while, so that the troops could search for weapons; when the search was finished, they could return. [104]

People being forced out of villages and cities were searched thoroughly, and weapons and foreign currency were confiscated. [105] To the limited extent that Cambodians owned guns through the government licensing system, the names of registered gun owners were of course available to the new government. [106]

The Cambodian genocide was unique in the twentieth century, in that its target was not a single ethnic, religious, or political group, but rather the entire educated populace. Lacking infrastructure for sophisticated Nazi-style extermination camps, the Khmer Rouge used the genocide methods which had been used by the Turkish government (internal deportations with forced marches designed to kill), the Soviet government (hard labor under conditions likely to kill), and the Guatemalan government (murders of targeted victims). [107]

Like other victims of genocide, the Cambodians forced into slave labor were kept so desperately hungry that revolt became difficult to contemplate, as every thought focused on food. One slave laborer explained that

There was no possibility of an uprising. . . . Contact between many people was made impossible by the chlops [informers] . . . . Besides, we had no arms and no food. Even if we’d been able to produce arms and kill the fifty Khmer Rouge in the village, what would happen to us? We didn’t have enough food to build up any reserves to sustain a guerilla army. In our state of weakness, after a few days wandering in the jungle, death would have been inevitable. [108]

The authors estimate that Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge murdered about a million people, at least 14% of the Cambodian population. [109] The percentage was about the same as the percentage of the Soviet population murdered by Stalin, except that Pol Pot accomplished in three-and-a-half years what took Stalin twenty. [110]

The mass murders of the Khmer Rouge became well-known in the international community, but no nation made an effort to try to rescue the Cambodian people. Finally, Pol Pot was driven from power by a Vietnamese invasion that was motivated by imperialist, rather than humanitarian reasons. [111]

Pol Pot’s fate was thus similar to Idi Amin’s: the world would tolerate genocide, but threatening the borders of a neighboring country would lead to the regime’s demise. According to the New York Times, “Pol Pot is today a free, prosperous and apparently unrepentant man who, 15 years after his ouster from Phnom Penh, continues to plot a return to power. The calls for some sort of international genocide tribunal for Pol Pot and his aides have not been heard for years.” [112]

The authors have demonstrated that every nation in the twentieth century which has perpetrated genocide has chosen a victim population which was disarmed. If the intended victims were not already “gun-free,” then the murderous governments first got rid of the guns before they attempted to begin the killing.

[4] Id. at 81.
[5] Id.
[6] Id. at 81, 94.
[7] Simkin et al., supra note 2, at 82.
[8] Id. at 79.
[9] Id. at 83.
[10] Id.
[11] Yves Ternon, Report on the Genocide of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, 1915-16 in A Crime of Silence: The Armenian Genocide 117-18 (Gerald Libridian ed., London, Zed Books 1985), quoted in Simkin et al., supra note 2 at 83.
[12] Simkin et al., supra note 2, at 98.
[13] Id., at 106-7.
[14] Id.
[15] Id.
[16] Financial rewards were offered for informants who turned in persons possessing unlicensed guns. Decree of the Council of People’s Commissars, 10 December 1918, reprinted in 4 Decrees of Soviet Power 123 (Moscow 1968), reprinted in Simkin et al., supra note 2, at 123.
[17] Simkin et al., supra note 2, at 98.
The decree also specified that minors could not be given arms unless the license specified the name of an adult who would be responsible. As in New York City (for handguns) and New Jersey (for all guns) under current laws, unlicensed persons were not permitted even for a moment to touch a firearm, even for supervised use at a range. Decree of the Council of People’s Commissars on the Issuing, Keeping, and Handling of Firearms, reprinted in 9 Decrees of Soviet Power 104 (Moscow, 1978), reprinted in Simkin et al., supra note 2, at 129. (“It is absolutely forbidden to hand over weapons to anyone, whether for temporary use, or for storage.”)
[18] Simkin et al., supra note 2, at 101.
[19] Id.
[20] Id. The “crime bill” enacted by the United States Congress in August 1994 provides for the death penalty for offenders as young as thirteen-years-old. Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, 199th Pub. L. No. 103-332, 108 Stat. 1796.
[21] Id. at 100-04.
[22] Jay Simkin & Aaron Zelman, “Gun Control”: Gateway to Tyranny (1992). The authors’ copyright permission requires the following exact citation: “Gun Control”: Gateway to Tyranny, Jay Simkin & Aaron Zelman, Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, 2872 South Wentworth Avenue, Hartford, WI 53027, (262) 767-0760.
[23] Simkin et al., supra note 2, at 150.
[24] Id. at 151.
[25] Id.
[26] Id.
[27] Id.
[28] Id. at 152.
[29] Id. at 153. The Nazis (on a pages per year basis) issued laws and regulations at 2.5 times the rate of the Weimar government. Id. at 155.
[30] Id. at 153.
[31] William Sheridan Allen, The Nazi Seizure of Power: The Experience of a Single German Town, 1922-1945, at 184-85 (1984), quoted in Simkin et al., supra note 2, at 154.
[32] Id.
[33] Simkin et al., supra note 2, at 163-70.
[34] As the then-head of the German police, Hermann Göring, stated, “I refuse the notion that the police are protective troops for Jewish stores. The police protect whoever comes into Germany legitimately, but not Jewish usurers.” Restricting Handguns: The Liberal Skeptics Speak Out 188 (Don B. Kates, Jr. ed., 1979).
[35] Simkin et al., supra note 2, at 156.
[36] Id. at 156.
In the Atlanta suburb of Brownsville in 1906, the press incited the city over a non-existent epidemic of assaults on white women by blacks; a wave of beatings and shooting of blacks followed. The police arrested Negroes who armed themselves against further attack. American Violence: A Documentary History 237 (Richard Hofstadler & Michael Wallace, eds., 1971); see also Richard Maxwell Brown, Strain of Violence: Historical Studies in American Violence and Vigilantism 210-11 (1975).
In Michigan, handgun permit laws were enacted after Dr. Ossian Sweet, a black, shot and killed a person in a mob that was attacking his house because he had just moved into an all-white neighborhood. The Detroit police stood nearby, refusing to restrain the angry crowd. Don B. Kates, Jr., History of Handgun Prohibition in the United States, in Restricting Handguns: The Liberal Skeptics Speak Out, supra note 34, at 19. Indicted for first degree murder, Sweet was acquitted after a lengthy trial at which Clarence Darrow served as his attorney. Black newspapers such as the Amsterdam News and the Baltimore Herald vigorously defended blacks’ right to use deadly force in self-defense against a mob. Walter White, The Sweet Trial, Crisis, Jan. 1926, at 125; Irving Stone, Clarence Darrow for the Defense 529-47 (1941); Herbert Shapiro, White Violence and Black Response: From Reconstruction to Montgomery 188-96 (1988).
Darrow summed up for the jury: “[T]hey may have been gunmen. They may have tried to murder. But they were not cowards . . . . [E]leven of them go into a house, gentlemen, with no police protection, in the face of a mob, and the hatred of a community, and take guns and ammunition and fight for their rights, and for your rights and for mine, and for the rights of every other human being that lives.” Clarence Darrow, Attorney for the Damned 241-42 (Arthur Weinberg ed., 1957).
[37] See supra text accompanying notes 12-16.
[38] Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews 318-20 (1985).
[39] Simkin et al., supra note 2, at 157.
[40] David I. Caplan, The Warsaw Ghetto: 10 Handguns Against Tyranny, Am. Rifleman, Feb. 1988, at 31.
[41] Caplan, supra note 40.
[42] Elliot Rothenberg, Jewish History Refutes Gun Control Activists, Am. Rifleman, Feb. 1988, at 30.
The Jews had built bunkers with underground tunnels, and grew increasingly well-armed with rifles, machineguns, handguns, grenades, and other explosives supplied by the Polish resistance, smuggled out of Nazi factories, or taken from dead Nazi soldiers. A major Nazi assault began on April 19, with the expectation that the ghetto would be cleared in time for Hitler’s birthday on the 20th. The assault was led by a tank and two armored cars; a Jewish unit set the tank on fire twice, forcing a Nazi retreat. See Simkin et al., supra note 2; Caplan, supra note 40.
The Nazis returned with artillery, and after April 22, Nazi artillery drove many Jews into the Jewish tunnel system that connected with the sewers. The Nazis used poison gasses to attempt to clear the Jews out of the sewers. Nazi forces could not directly take on the buildings where the Jews had built hidden bunkers, cellars, and attics; room-to-room fighting would have inflicted unacceptably high casualties on the Nazis. So the Nazis began to burn down the Warsaw ghetto, one building at a time. Explosives and artillery were used to smash the buildings that were not flammable. On April 25, the Nazi commanding general recorded in his diary “this evening one can see a gigantic sea of flames.” Even so, the Jewish will to resist was not broken. Finally, on May 15, the Warsaw synagogue was blown up, and the battle was over. In contrast to the usual result when the Nazis made an area into a “Jew-free-zone”, there was nothing of economic value for the Nazis to take; to the contrary, the Nazis had been forced to pay a price in order to take Jewish lives. Id.
[43] Hilberg, supra note 38, at 499. For a full discussion of the Warsaw ghetto battle, see Yitzhak Zuckerman, A Surplus of Memory: Chronicle of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (1993); Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, The Warsaw Ghetto: The First Battle to Re-Establish Israel (1993).
[44] Simkin et al., supra note 2, at 158.
[45] The story can be found, among other places, in Harold Werner, Fighting Back: A Memoir of Jewish Resistance in World War II (1992); Yechiel Granatstein, The War of a Jewish Partisan (1986); Nechama Tec, Defiance: The Bielski Partisans (1993); and Chaika Grossman, The Underground Army: Fighters of the Bialystok Ghetto (1987).
For Jewish difficulty in obtaining arms for resistance, see Israel Gutman, The Armed Struggle of the Jews in Nazi-occupied Countries, in The Holocaust 457-98 (Leni Yahil ed. & Ina Friedman & Haya Galai trans., 1990).
[46] Another strength of the chapter is that the authors merely mention in passing, but do not elaborate on, their theory from their previous book that the Nazi gun law served as a model for America’s Gun Control Act of 1968. Simkin et al, supra note 2, at 2. The theory is actually not quite as absurd as it might seem at first glance. The 1968 American law was primarily the work of Connecticut Senator Thomas J. Dodd, who served as a senior prosecutor on the American legal staff at the Nuremburg trials. Dodd was apparently familiar with the Nazi gun laws. See Lewis C. Coffin, Law Librarian, Library of Congress, to Senator Thomas J. Dodd, July 12, 1968 (sending Dodd a translation of the 1938 Nazi gun law, and noting that Dodd has supplied the Library of Congress with his own German text of the law). It is also true that Senator Dodd, as a Nuremburg prosecutor, had no reason in any of his professional work to need a copy of the German gun control law. Id. at 79-80. But the fact that Dodd was interested in the Nazi law is hardly proof, by itself, that the Nazi law was the basis for the American law.
Ultimately, any claim of linkage between the two laws must depend on common elements in those laws. What similarities do Simkin and Zelman see between the 1938 German law and the 1968 American law? Both laws: exempted the government from the controls that applied to law-abiding citizens; treated firearms ownership as a privilege granted by the government rather than as a right; and required that gun buyers meet some test of reliability. The 1968 American law requires the gun purchaser to affirm under felony penalty that he is not a convicted felon, dishonorably discharged from the military, an alcoholic, a drug user, or otherwise disqualified under federal law.) Simkin & Zelman, supra note 22, at 83. All these features are indeed common to the 1938 Nazi and 1968 American laws. But these features are common to virtually any gun control anywhere in the world. The premise of the vast majority of gun laws around the globe, before and after 1938, is that the government can be trusted with weapons, but certain classes of citizens should not, and accordingly gun acquisition or ownership should be regulated by the government so as to disarm those untrustworthy classes. These three common features, rather than proving that the American law derives from the Nazi law, simply prove that American and Nazi law both followed the standard world-wide pattern of gun control.
A fourth feature common to the Nazi and American laws is more intriguing. The Nazi law allowed guns with particular features to be banned based on governmental determination that they were not “sporting.” The American law allowed the government to prohibit the import of guns which the government did not find to be “particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes.” Gun Control Act of 1968, Pub. L. 90-618, 82 Stat. 1213 (codified as amended at 18 U.S.C. § 925(d)(3)).
The distinction between supposedly benign “sporting” weapons (supposedly used for killing animals) and other weapons (which might be used for killing government troops) is not, however, original to Nazi law. The 1921 Firearms Act in Great Britain, for example, set up a licensing system for handguns and rifles, but left shotguns unregulated. Although the Act did not use the word “sporting,” the reason that shotguns were treated differently from rifles and handguns is that shotguns were seen as benign sports instruments for bird-hunting, whereas rifles and handguns were (in the wake of World War I) considered military weapons whose main purpose was anti-personnel. David B. Kopel, The Samurai, The Mountie, and The Cowboy: Should America Adopt the Gun Controls of Other Democracies? 78-79 (1992).
[47] Simkin et al., supra note 2, at 187.
[48] Id. at 188.
[49] Id.
[50] Id.
[51] Id. at 190.
[52] Id. at 229-234.
[53] Id. at 230.
[54] Id. at 237. The law actually listed particular firearms manufacturers (“as for example, a rifle or carbine made by Henry, Winchester, Sneider [sic], Remington, etc.). Id. The 1971 Guatemalan law was one of the very few brand-specific gun control laws ever enacted, until American local governments began enacting “assault weapon” bans in the late 1980′s that defined “assault weapon” not by characteristic, but by brand name and model. David B. Kopel, Hold Your Fire, Pol’y Rev., Jan. 1993, at 58.
[55] Simkin et al., supra note 2, at 231.
[56] Id.
[57] Id.
[58] Id. at 232.
[59] Peter Calvert, Guatemala: A Nation in Turmoil 75 (1985), quoted in Simkin et al., supra note 2, at 232.
[60] Simkin et al., supra note 2, at 232.
[61] Id.
[62] Id. at 233.
[63] Id.
[64] Id.
[65] Id.
[66] Id.
[67] By way of historical precedent, some American colonies bought guns for militiamen who could not afford their own. Don B. Kates, Jr., Handgun Prohibition and the Original Meaning of the Second Amendment, 82 Mich. L. Rev. 204, 215 n.46 (1983).
[68] Simkin et al., supra note 2, at 233.
[69] Id.
[70] Id.
[71] Id.
[72] Id. at 234.
[73] Id. at 229.
[74] Id. at 234.
[75] Id.
[76] Amnesty International, Guatemala: The Human Rights Record 150-51 (1987), reprinted in Simkin et al., supra note 2, at 234. By way of disclosure, I should note that I have been a monthly donor to Amnesty International since 1984.
[77] Simkin et al., supra note 2, at 234.
[78] Id. at 275, 280. See also Angus Denning et al., Idi Amin’s Rule of Blood, Newsweek, Mar. 7, 1977, at 29.
[79] The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour: Excerpts of Bush News Conference, Saddam’s Future; Gergen & Shields; A Quiet Patriotism (Educ. Broadcasting and GWETA television broadcast, Mar. 1, 1991).
[80] Simkin et al., supra note 2, at 280; Lee Stokes, Iraq Warns Against Foreign Interference in Kuwait, UPI, Aug. 2, 1990, available in LEXIS, News Library, UPI File.
[81] Stokes, supra note 80.
[82] See excerpt from Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, Schwarzkopf, in Newsweek, Sept. 28, 1992, at 52.
[83] Simkin et al., supra note 2, at 159.
[84] Hilberg, supra note 38, at 1048.
[85] Simkin et al., supra note 2, at 269.
[86] Id. at 271.
[87] Id.
[88] Id. at 272.
[89] Id. at 274.
[90] Id. at 271, 274, 283-99.
[91] Id. at 277.
[92] Id. at 276.
[93] Id. at 278.
[94] Id. at 280.
[95] Id.
[96] Chet Lunner, Idi Amin Benefits from Desert Storm Protection, Gannett News Service, Feb. 11, 1991, available in LEXIS, News Library, GNS File.
[97] Simkin et al., supra note 2, at 305.
[98] Id.
[99] Id.
[100] Id. at 305.
[101] Id. at 306.
[102] Id.
[103] Id.
[104] Alec Wilkinson, A Changed Vision of God, New Yorker, Jan. 24, 1994, at 54-55, quoted in Simkin et al., supra note 2, at 306. Similarly, one refugee recalled the days after the Cuban revolution overthrew Batista: “We believed [Castro] when he said we should surrender our arms because we did not need guns now that we were a free country . . . [and] we rushed to the police station to give up our guns.” Lin Williams, The Rise of Castro: ‘If only we hadn’t given up our guns!’, Medina County Gazette, Oct. 15, 1976, at 5.
[105] Simkin et al., supra note 2, at 306.
[106] Id.
[107] Id. at 312.
[108] Pin Yathay, Stay Alive, My Son 102 (N.Y., Simon & Schuster 1987), quoted in Simkin et al., supra note 2, at 314.
[109] Simkin et al., supra note 2, at 315.
[110] Id. As with the other nations studied, the authors use a conservative estimate for the total number of deaths. Other scholars of genocide put the number of killings in Cambodia much higher. R.J. Rummel, Death by Government 175 (1994).
[111] Simkin et al., supra note 2, at 316.
[112] Philip Shenon, Pol Pot, the Mass Murderer Who Is Still Alive and Well, N.Y. Times, Feb. 6, 1994, § 4 (Business), at 1.