I'm in a tough spot on the subject of gun control. Many in my extended family — including my 85-year-old mom — are staunch supporters of the NRA. They are convinced that President Obama’s most cherished dream is to eventually send troops around to confiscate every firearm in the country. I think that’s ridiculous. We get around the dispute in the way most families do: We don’t talk about it.
I love my family and I won’t let any political differences get in the way of that. But as a way of venting, I will talk about it here. Again: Restricting private ownership of military-grade weapons does not equal tyranny. It is a way to make it more complicated for nuts to acquire the firepower necessary to kill dozens of people without reloading. Period. Look around: We have strict safety rules for cars and food and pharmaceuticals. We’ve long kept civilians from owning rocket launchers and machine guns and plastic explosives. Somehow the Republic endures.
Of all the arguments for limitless civilian arsenals, the one I find most exasperating is the knee-jerk reference to tyrant emeritus Adolph Hitler. In America, Hitler’s name comes up a lot more than Lincoln’s. He haunts zoning boards and parking commissions and state legislatures. The man is everywhere, Godwin’s Law notwithstanding. But over the last few years, Facebook has become his venue of choice.
The meme above is just the latest. Like most of them, it uses a grim photograph and a specious quote to support the idea that rampant gun ownership is the only thing dividing 2013 America from 1935 Germany.
I say “specious” because the quote is almost certainly false. While it has appeared a lot over the years, primarily in letters to the editor of various American newspapers, there is no historical documentation that Hitler ever said it. Even if he did say such a thing, concluding that Hitler’s views on gun control were even slightly pertinent to the power of the Third Reich betrays a serious ignorance of history. Hitler didn’t need to disarm his citizens; they were solidly behind him until the war started going south. That’s just one of the logical fallacies behind stuff like this.
It’s breathtaking how so many Americans are so willing to imagine the forcible overthrow of their democratically elected government, to see Nazis or Commies behind every administration they happen to dislike. But millions of private guns don’t do anything to protect us from tyranny; if that were true, Somalia and Afghanistan would be the safest places on earth.
Reasonable people can disagree on ways to cut down on the number of mass murders in this country. I get that, and I’m open to reasoned opinions. But for God’s sake, let’s try to keep Hitler out of it.