A few days ago there was was a pretty big discussion on some blogs about the “Godwin-y” comparison of publication of concealed weapons permit holders to Jews (etc.). The relevant posts are below in chronological order. There was one post prior to this where the Jews in the Attic Test came up in private email but I’m not including it since it was not public.
The comments are where most of the action is:
- The Herald Times fires back (In the comments the first mention is made of “Jews” and my Jews in the Attic Test)
- In Other Gun News (African Americans are drawn in along with Jews)
- Moral cripples with the ethics of syphilitic weasels… (Add residents of battered women’s shelters and homosexuals to the mix.)
- Take a deep breath. (Joanna says it’s gone a bit over the top.)
- Take (another) breath. (Joanna emphasis her point and protests some of the criticism of her position.)
For the most part it appears to me that many of the participants were talking past each other. Joanna appears to be justified for expressing some irritation with:
I’m gonna say this once, and I’m gonna say it loud and use small words, so everyone understands me.
IT’S NOT OKAY THAT NEWSPAPERS MADE DATABASES WITH INFORMATION ABOUT CONCEALED-CARRY WEAPONS PERMIT HOLDERS
IT’S NOT KRISTALNACHT.
But then she appears to talk past them because as near as I could tell no one said it was anything like Kristallnacht.
That said I mostly disagree with Joanna saying it is over the top to make the comparison between the list of CCW holders and Jews.
It boils down to three things that need to be addressed.
How bad does it have to get before it is okay to say it is acceptable to make the comparison?
Just what is the current state of affairs?
Gun ownership is a choice. Not something immutable like the color of your skin, your gender, or perhaps (let’s not go there, okay?) your sexual preference.
My claim is that if you wait until the bigotry is so bad that you have events which are the equivalent of Kristallnacht you have waited much too long. At that point the police are looking the other way if not actually participating in the injustice.
A little bit of history (mostly from memory which is probably more than a little bit fuzzy so correct me where I make errors) is in order.
The abuse of Jews in Germany did not spring up out of nothingness when Hitler rose to power in the mid 1930s. Most people know there was a lot of anti-Jewish sentiment in Germany after WWI. But there was a strong German dislike for them going back several decades. And in some places in Europe it extended back hundreds of years.
That sentiment and the associated abuse did not include extermination camps until 1941. It sometimes involved unequal treatment under the law, segregation, and even driving them out of the country. But a greater proportion of the time it involved ostracism, boycotts, and public humiliation.
When is the appropriate time to complain about being mistreated as a group? Just what is the threshold before you get vocal and, in no uncertain terms, tell the bigots to back off?
Is it when the other kids in school make fun of your child because of the funny hat he wears sometimes? Is it sufficient if the newspapers attribute most crime and/or disease to “your kind”? Will it be time when the textbooks portray you as inherently evil (see also here)? Or what if the schools and public accommodations are segregated and significantly unequal? Do you wait until you are spat upon nearly every time you are in public? Or maybe you wait until it becomes illegal to have a government job.
I claim the time to get vocal about is as soon as it happens. I don’t think it is appropriate to stand secure in your position, unruffled, and get on with your business. It is very rare that you can win a war if you always play defense. You must go on the offense because otherwise your enemy will chose the time and place of his attack such that it maximizes his opportunity for success. If you are always fighting to protect your weakest flank what do you expect the result will be? We must fight on their weakest flank with our strongest “troops”.
A somewhat proportional response (Joanna’s best point) is appropriate. You don’t shoot the school bully after he splashed mud on your daughter’s dress (you look the other way while daughter Kim takes him down and rubs his face in the mud). You do shoot the police herding your family into the railroad cattle cars (a few hand grenades into their fully loaded APCs wouldn’t hurt either).
In 1987 gay activists came up with the slogan Silence = Death. They used this as the text for a poster composed of a pink triangle on a black background. The pink triangle, of course, was appropriated in the 1970s as a reminder of Nazi Germany where an inverted pink triangle was used to identify known homosexuals.
Silence in the face of injustice is almost certain to result in more injustice. And left uncorrrected long enough it will result in the extermination of the targeted population. The extermination may be the result of conversions to non-targeted groups or it may be through the physical elimination of that population.
Silence is not an option.
We don’t know who discovered water, but we know it wasn’t a fish.
We are blind.
I think one of the problems the Jews faced in Germany was the “boiling frog” problem. Things moved slowly enough that there was never a big enough change in one day/week/month that they could justify taking a stand over the latest injustice. The cost of putting up a fight versus the possible benefit never looked better than just trying to “keep your head down” and getting through another day. For those familiar with optimization problems–I view it as seeking a local optimum while actively avoiding the search for a global optimum.
I think it is far too easy for gun owners and especially the neutral but non-gun owning population to be unaware of the current state of affairs because it “is just the way it is”. The status quo almost always seems perfectly normal.
I will now point out some things that I think most people overlook when they think of gun owners and the situation we face. I do this in a fairly general manner and don’t even get into the most extreme situations like in New Jersey where “When dealing with guns, the citizen acts at his peril” (New Jersey v. Pelleteri). In order to see how bad it is I use comparison to other specific constitutionally protected rights.
There are people advocating that parents ask if their child’s friend has guns in their home before allowing them to visit. What if it were a religious or skin color test before they could visit?
There are people advocating “snuffing out” gunshop owners and pro-gun legislators–complete with lists.
There are people advocating the killing all gun owners.
Of course you know that guns are only allowed near schools in a handful of states under very restricted situations. And you’ve heard about kids being suspended for possession of “GI-Joe” action figures with “guns” the shorter than your thumbnail. Or a sandwich eaten into the shape of a gun. What sort of message does this send the children about guns and gun ownership?
Are there any school textbooks that portray the shooting sports, self-defense, or the individual right to keep and bear arms in a positive manner? If so I have never seen them.
If it were a First Amendment issue regarding religious symbols or clothes what would be the effect? There would be a law against Jewish/Christian/Muslim symbols within 1000 feet of a school. If you park you car with a bible in it just outside the limit they suspend you anyway. And if you make the sign of the cross in front of another student you get kicked out of school.
Nearly all workplaces forbid you to carry a gun. It doesn’t matter that you are a petite female, elderly, wheelchair bound, or unable for any reason to defend yourself yet work the night shift in the bad part of town. Your best tool for defending yourself against death or permanent injury has to remain in your car and parked off the company property or you, almost for certain, will be fired on the spot.
If you park your car with guns in the trunk so you can go hunting when you get off work they will bring dogs in to sniff for them on the first day of hunting season–and then fire you.
Many businesses and shopping malls have signs on their doors forbidding you to carry on their property.
eBay, PayPal, and other commerce sites turn you away when firearms and/or firearm related accessories are involved. And in many cases who can blame them? The ATF has a reputation of confiscating records, computers, products, and jailing the people involved in legitimate firearm businesses and frequently refusing to even tell them of the allegations against them.
You can’t carry a gun on a plane, train, or many buses. You can’t carry a gun in the post office. There are some places where you cannot carry a gun in hospitals or churches.
Where is the Federal agency charged with enforcing the laws and making regulations restricting the First Amendment? What form do you have to fill out when you purchase a serial numbered Bible, Koran, or Torah? The form that must be kept for 20 years and be available for inspection by law enforcement?
And shouldn’t you have to pass a background check before you can purchased a religious book? And wouldn’t a 10 day waiting period be a good idea? What could it possibly hurt to wait a few days before getting possession of such powerful words they have been used as justification for the death and oppression of millions of people? It’s not like if you you need a copy of the Bible or Koran to defend yourself against an abusive ex who is threatening to kill you. You can get along just fine for a few days (or months) while the police interview your neighbors to see if you really should be allowed to own a book. And don’t forget mandated, government approved, training on the responsibilities of religious book ownership.
What if there was a law that enhanced penalties for crimes committed by Jews/Muslims/homosexuals? Suppose if you robbed someone while being a Muslim you automatically had another five years added to your prison term. How does that sit with you? We have that situation for gun owners, right now, in this country.
What if the standards of evidence were different if you were a Jew? Instead of the prosecutor having to prove your guilt you had to prove your innocence? I had one former New York City prosecutor tell me that if you shot someone in NYC the gun owner, and rightly so, had to prove it was self-defense. It was not the job of the prosecutor to prove it wasn’t self-defense.
There was a case where failure to pay a $200 tax on a shotgun (a jury eventually acquitted them of all of the alleged crimes and recommended the Federal agents compensate them for shooting the family dog as well) resulted in snipers in camouflage surrounding the house of the alleged perpetrator with the orders, “Deadly force can and should be used against any armed adult outside the house”. This order was in effect even without any occupants of the house knowing there was law enforcement outside or that they had orders to shoot on sight. The occupants of the house were exercising a constitutionally protected right when they left the house carrying their guns–as they always did when they went outside. It resulted in two of them being seriously wounded and a mother with a baby in her arms being killed via bullet to her head. What happened to the shooter and the people who gave the order? Even after congressional hearings they didn’t even loose their jobs or pay a fine. How much worse does it have to get before one can consider it the equivalent of the treatment of Jews in Germany 75 years ago?
Everyone knows about Nazi Germany treatment of Jews. But what about their treatment of private gun owners? The story of the Belgian Corporal is just one example. Did you know the U.S. Gun Control Act of 1968 was based on the German Weapons Control Act of 1938? And someone dares to say it’s inappropriate to compare gun owners with the plight of the Jews?
Chilling Effect Doctrine:
In Constitutional Law, any law or practice which has the effect of seriously discouraging the exercise of a Constitutional Right.
Blacks Law Dictionary.
True. There is a something to be said about “having a choice” to be a gun owner. You don’t have a choice to be black, racially Jewish, and perhaps homosexual. It is for this reason I frequently mention “interracial marriage” as a comparison. You don’t have to date, marry or stay married to someone with a different skin color. You don’t have to be openly gay. And you don’t have to be Baptist, Catholic, or Muslim.
So if your name and address was published in a list of all the Catholics in a state, right next to the sex offender database, you should just suck it up and not worry about it? Or how about the list of people in interracial marriages? It isn’t valid to compare that to a list of Jews because you can get off the list by changing the church you go to, or divorcing your spouse? Are you serious?
In this country we have a specific, constitutionally, protected right to belong to whatever church we want to as long we don’t hurt anyone else. And punishment for hurting someone else cannot be in the form of prior restraint. The law may punish someone for falsely yelling fire in a crowded theater, but the law may not remove someone’s ability to yell while in the theater. Yet we have that in this country for gun owners.
When someone starts publishing lists of “those people” it doesn’t really matter whether the list is of racial Jews or people that worship at the church of John Moses Browning. The publishing of that list serves just one purpose. And that purpose is not for the benefit of those on the list. The purpose is to cause a chilling effect on the exercise of that constitutionally protected activity.
The comparison of gun owners to Jews is valid. It currently doesn’t compare to the situation of Jews in Germany in 1941 or even Kristallnacht in 1938. But it’s not much different from their situation in 1931. The social stigma, the negative stereotyping in the press, schools, and the enhanced harshness of the laws all parallel the plight of the Jews in 1931. We even have politicians talking about the “Gun Problem” just like there were German politicians talking about the “Jewish Problem”. There are only a few people that want to kill us and a few more “enlightened ones” who just want us in prison. But you will have no difficulty finding people that want to stigmatize, harass and impose further restrictions on us.
Perhaps when comparing gun owners to Jews it should be qualified with “the Jews in 1931”. They didn’t have it so bad, did they? They didn’t have anything to worry about, did they?
True, our situation has been improving over the last few years. The trend is definitely up compared to the dark days of 1994 and 1995. There were smart, extremely well informed gun rights professionals, who then believed that the fight for gun rights would all be over in ten years. In ten years, they told me, the only people with guns would have a government paycheck or would be criminals. There would not be any young people to carry on the culture and the culture of freedom associated with gun ownership would be essentially extinct within 20 years. They were wrong. But the situation is only marginally improved.
Ten years doesn’t sound like a very long time but the changes can be profound. Just because the are no extermination camps for gun owners today doesn’t mean we can’t run a path parallel to the German Jews of 1931.