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aged mobs that killed tens of thousands
of Armenians. In the years following, the
government took steps to keep guns out
of Armenian hands. A 1903 law banned
the manufacture and importation of gun-
powder without government permission.
The manufacture of guns or ammunition
without permission was banned in 1910,
as was the unauthorized carrying of weap-
ons or ammunition. But an all-out program
of disarmament got under way in earnest
in February 1915, when local officials in
each Armenian district were ordered to
round up and surrender quotas of firearms.
Armenian homes were searched and guns
confiscated, but it was a no-win proposi-
tion for the officials. Those who met their
quota were executed for allegedly con-
spiring with the gun owners against the
government. Those who came up short
were executed on suspicion of stockpiling
weapons for themselves.
While many victims of the genocide
that followed were executed, most died
on forced marches in a government re-
location program. The total number of
Armenians killed has been estimated at
somewhere between one million and 1.5
Soviet Union
During the Russian Civil War, firearms
registration was imposed by the Bolshe-
vik regime. After Lenin was wounded in
an assassination attempt, the Council of
People’s Commissars in October 1918
ordered all but Communist Party mem-
bers to surrender all sabers, firearms, and
ammunition. Under a penalty decreed in
unauthorized persons found in pos-
session of firearms would be sentenced
to six months in prison. Lenin no doubt
considered that an exercise in leniency.
Immediate execution for anyone caught
with a firearm,” he had written in a direc-
tive to party officials two years earlier.
Stalin’s contribution to the disarming
of the people was a 1935 law
decreeing a mere five years
in prison for the carrying of
a knife. The tens of millions
who were murdered, worked
to death in slave camps, or
deliberately starved under
Stalin’s regimes had already
been disarmed by law in the
workers’ paradise.”
Some gun control advocates are fond of
debunking” the “myth” that gun control
laws were a factor in establishing Hit-
ler’s tyranny in Germany. The first Nazi
gun control law, after all, was not enacted
until 1938, five years after Hitler came to
power. But that overlooks the significant
contributions to national disarmament by
the liberal Weimar Republic in the 1920s.
In part because of fear of either a com-
munist or militant right-wing coup and in
part to comply with terms of the Versailles
Treaty, the German government after
World War I ordered the surrender of all
guns. Later, permits, granted only to those
of “undoubted reliability,” were required
to purchase guns or ammunition. Permits
to carry firearms were granted only upon
a “demonstration of need.”
Apparently police discretion cut very
heavily against permit applicants,” noted
historian David Kopel. “For example, in
the town of Northeim, only nine hunting
permits were issued to a population of
Dealers were required to keep a reg-
ister of their sales of guns and ammuni-
tions, and the records may have been use-
ful to the Nazis, who shortly after taking
power, began a house-to-house search
to remove firearms from the hands of
subversives.” On November 11, 1938,
two days after the anti-Jewish riot known
as “Kristallnacht,” or “night of broken
glass,” Hitler issued a decree forbidding
Jews to possess firearms, knives, or trun-
cheons under any circumstances, and to
surrender them immediately. How many
weapons were collected is not known,
but the edict served its purpose. Jews and
others out of favor with the government
knew it was dangerous to be found with
Imposing a genocidal tyranny on an
unarmed population, the communist
government killed about a third of
Cambodia’s six million people before its
reign of death had run its course.
Past and Perspective
Total removal:
Josef Stalin went
so far in his efforts to disarm
Russians that he forbade the
carrying of knives. Since he had
millions of Russians killed, he
likely feared an uprising if the
people had any hope of victory.
AP Images