There are many arguments that can be used against gun control and while I disagree with them all, some are plausible. However, there is one that is so completely absurd that it hardly deserves the dignity of a rebuttal. This is the notion that genocides were preceded by gun control and that taking away people’s guns is the first step towards taking away their freedom and finally their lives. This argument is filled with so much paranoia and historical inaccuracies that it is a wonder that anyone takes it seriously. Yet American politics is so extreme that a fanatical argument like this can find widespread support among conservatives.
For example here are a few sites that claim gun control leads to genocide. What should become clear is how quickly it becomes repetitive, as though they are all drawing on the one source. It should also be obvious that none of them provide any evidence to support their claims (nor did I pick the worst examples, I found all of these by googling “guns genocide”). There are no references or citations or anything to prove the authors aren’t just making things up. Also note how vague the language is. In 1929 there was supposedly gun control, but it is never said what form it took or how prevalent it was or how many people lost their guns. Finally most of the quotes are either fake or taken out of context.
Let’s start with the first claimed example, that of the Soviet Union. Anyone who claims that an armed group of civilians could have stopped Stalin clearly has never opened a history book. First of all, the only reason the Bolsheviks were able to come to power in the first place was that they had access to guns. Armed civilians wouldn’t have solved the problem; they were the cause of it. Stalin, Lenin and the Bolsheviks had a minority of votes and were only able to seize power in a military coup. Second of all, armed citizens did try to stop them; it was called the Russian Civil War and lasted between 1917 and 1922. So to claim that armed civilians could have stopped the Bolsheviks is to be ignorant of the fact that they tried and failed to do so.
Next there is everyone’s favourite internet debate tool, Hitler and the Nazis. An examination of the historical record shows that most of the gun control in Germany came not from the Nazis but from the Versailles Treaty. The Nazis actively campaigned against gun control legislation and supported the 1928 law which weakened gun control. In fact, there is a pattern from 1919 onwards of weakening gun control not strengthening. The best gun control opponents can do is use a quote allegedly from Hitler in 1935 (which is almost certainly fake) or mention the 1938 law. However, the 1938 law actually weakened gun control and made it easier for everyone except the Jews to own guns. So while the Jews were excluded from gun ownership, by 1938 the Nazis were deeply entrenched in power and it was far too late for the Jews to try to overthrow them.
It is also hard to take seriously the notion that the Jews, who comprised 1% of the German population, could militarily defeat the other 99%. How could a handful of Jews armed with a few pistols defeat the Wehrmacht which conquered Europe? Not even France, which had tanks, could do that. Any armed uprising by the Jews would have played right into the Nazis hands and only hastened their destruction. It should be noted that Jews in the rest of Europe were not disarmed but that did little to save them. Opponents of gun control fail to realise that making guns easily available to Jews would also make them easily available to Nazis and in all likelihood lead to a pogrom. Seeing as the Jews were so outnumbered by their enemies, a guns-for-everyone policy would not have worked in their favour. Remember that the largest armed insurrection in Germany at the time came not from Jews but in the form of Hitler’s 1923 Beer Hall Putsch.
Communist China is also cited as an example of the dangers of gun control, despite the fact that it was the wide availability of guns that allowed the Communists to launch a rebellion in the first place. Nor would have armed resistance have prevented it. How do I know this? Because that’s exactly what happened and it failed to stop them. Between 1927 and 1949 the Chinese Civil War was fought with between 1.8 and 3.5 million casualties. If armies with experienced troops, tanks, planes etc could not stop Mao, what chance would some untrained and unorganised civilians have? Gun control becomes irrelevant when the main opposition to the government has been crushed in war.
You are probably noticing a common theme here. Pol Pot is the next figure cited, not because he introduced gun control but because he committed genocide. After much research I haven’t been able to find any evidence that the Khmer Rouge introduced any form of gun control or that it aided their rise to power. All I have come across is a host of sites mentioning 1956 without any evidence or citations. Seeing as the Khmer Rouge seized power in 1976, the relation with twenty year old legislation (if it even exists) is tenuous. Also the Khmer Rouge were resisted by not just civilians but also by the army of Cambodia which was far better armed than any civilian ever could be. After decades of constant warfare, it can hardly be claimed that the main problem in Indochina at the time was a lack of guns.
So neither Stalin, Hitler, Mao nor Pol Pot prove the dangers of gun control. Their mass murders would not have been prevented by armed civilians seeing as most of them were resisted by actual armies. To the contrary, the availability of guns made their seizure of power easier. It is nothing short of delusion to think that a small group of untrained civilians could have defeated some of the most powerful armies in the world. How could hunting rifles possibly overpower tanks, planes, artillery and millions of soldiers? History shows that civilians are powerless to militarily resist an oppressive dictator. The only way to prevent genocide is not by stockpiling guns, but strengthening democracy, supporting a free press and non government organisations. To think that gun control in America will lead to genocide is to abandon reality and live in a fantasy world.