Monday, September 22, 2014

German Gun Laws

There's a fair amount of bogus stories told over Germans, Nazis, and gun control.  So I sat down over the week and did a fair amount of reading, and it comes to being an interesting tale.

Through the 1700s and 1800s....people of German-background (Hessens, Bavarians, Prussians, etc)....were avid hunters and you'd find at least one gun in every house.  Rifles and shotguns were more popular than pistols....for obvious reasons.

Tied into this picture is the fact that up until the early 1800s....there were 300 different city-states, countries, empires, or regions.  Each had some formal or informal laws or rules on guns and their usage.  It's safe to say....laws that were passed....weren't written in a cohesive or concrete fashion.  Almost every law was written to be interpreted by the judge in a different way.

This meant that if you accidentally shot some guy with buckshot while hunting....while in one state, you might end up spending your life in prison, and if you were in another'd be simply slap on the hand or maybe a fine.

All of this led up to 1914, and World War I.  The chief hunting targets for Germans over this era prior to the war?  Bears (up to the 1880s), wild boar, foxes, wolves (pretty much all hunted out by the war), rabbits, and pheasant.

With the war ended and the Kaiser out of the picture....the Wiemar Republic stepped up to the plate, and wanted to define laws in the proper way.

Strangely enough....their chief fear in 1920 was the possible political fight by the Communists.  The stability of the new government after the Kaiser....was a major issue.  So a law was drafted in 1920.....Law on Disarmament of the People.  Basically, it identified weapons that were not supposed to be in the hands of regular people....such as guns left over from the war.  The fear was that the Communist threat was bigger than people thought.

So included in this first round of gun control were five-round magazines.  Single-shot guns were OK, and perfectly legit to hold.

Five years later....a more enhanced law came up.  It required a license from your local authorities....forbid you from trading or selling guns at local sporting events or fairs, and required a license to assemble or repair guns.

A Nazi thing?  No.  This was still the Wiemar Republic, and still reacting to the Communist threat.

The secondary threat after the Communists?  This was a curious thing....gypsies.  Generally, anyone could get the license to own/shoot a gun, except in the cases of gypsies.  They were perceived to be a national threat or at least deemed so by the news media of the time.

Weapons to be sold or traded?  They were to be deemed for hunting only.  If you were offering up a weapon that could be swiftly switched to some automatic capability?  That was forbidden.  Hunting and sports weapons were the only thing that seemed to be agreeable to the government because of the perceived threats going on.

Five more years go by, and the Nazi era has kinda arrived.  You could say between 1900 and was like night and day because laws were written to be effective in every state of Germany, and no possible way of having ten different interpretations. The Nazi era doesn't do much to initially change the laws already set into place.....until two Nazi officers are shot (supposedly by Communists).

Using the 28 Feb 1932 emergency decree, where the Chancellor (Hitler) sought emergency powers (from the German President).....that's the point where various normal laws just plain fell to the side, as the Nazi-government felt that the Communists were the big threat.  Cops got authority to search without a judge being involved.  Weapons under the ownership of a perceived Communist could be seized.

Gun seizure to started to generate itself into an everyday affair....eventually going past Communists.  The chief target of seizure?  Bolt-action rifles.  Shotguns were still perfectly legit.  What they were going after....were weapons that were left over from World War I.

The 1938 Law?  This is the only real effort by the Nazis to change basic gun law in Germany.  The chief effect?  They wanted the gun industry clean up potential threats.  They didn't want Jews in the gun industry, and it was generally a perceived thing that only Nazi members could be part of the industry.

Beyond the Jew was a repeat of the 1928 law, and simply enforced things to a slightly more marginal degree.  The paperwork trail?  Well....yeah, this is the point where gun manufacturers, salesmen, and ammo involved.  Everyone had to have a book, and note actions.

In some general areas....the general public kept their guns, although it was an odd lot.....some WW I weapons and a large stock of hunting rifles.

So we come to 1945, the American arrival, and perceptions of the new leadership over defeated Germany.  Basically, the American Army was shocked at the large amount of weapons in the hands of regular Germans (farmers, merchants, hunters, etc).  A period starts, and for a while, there is some gun control put into effect by the American Army, and then that eases up.

This leads me to an odd feeling that maybe there's a bigger story over an unstable Germany coming out of World War I, and the Communist threat against the Republic was bigger than people think it was.  I'm also of the mind that whatever gun control people think was going on in Germany in 1932.....was already be pursued immediately after WW I.  And there's this question over gun technology development coming up early in the 1900-1914 period.....which shocked some folks at the extent of capability in WW I.

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