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The Independent Institute
Research Article

Nazism, the Second Amendment, and the NRA: A Reply to Professor Harcourt


The Second Amendment “right of the people to keep and bear Arms,” controversial enough as a domestic constitutional issue, becomes an extraordinarily provocative enigma when viewed in light of historical experiences of foreign governments. This is particularly the case when the state analyzed is Nazi Germany, which invariably (and justifiably) gives rise to negative comparisons.

A revisionist view now has been boldly asserted that Hitler was friendly to perhaps the most dangerous freedom in the Bill of Rights. The Fordham Law Review recently published a provocative Second Amendment Symposium issue which included three articles suggesting that Nazi Germany had liberal policies toward firearm owners and that the National Rifle Association (NRA) promotes a myth of Nazi repression of firearms owners as part of a cultural war. This author is taken to task as a leading perpetrator of this alleged myth.

In response, I wish to suggest why the study of Nazi firearms policies is a legitimate and timely topic of scholarly analysis in the studies of totalitarian legal systems and of the Holocaust. Presumably a justification for the study of tyranny in history is to help ensure that such events never take place again, whether in toto or in less oppressive but still not negligible contexts.


Stephen P. Halbrook, Ph.D., J.D., is Research Fellow at The Independent Institute and author of the books, Gun Control in the Third Reich: Disarming the Jews and “Enemies of the State”, The Founders' Second Amendment and Securing Civil Rights, the latter two of which were cited in the the U.S. Supreme Court cases of District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago as well as his earlier Amici Curiae Brief in Heller on behalf of 55 members of the Senate, the Senate President, and 250 members of the House of Representatives. Dr. Halbrook is also the author of the book, That Every Man Be Armed: The Evolution of a Constitutional Right (Independent Institute).
Full Biography and Recent Publications

FoundersNew from Stephen P. Halbrook!
GUN CONTROL IN THE THIRD REICH: Disarming the Jews and “Enemies of the State”

Presents the definitive history of how the Nazi regime used gun control to disarm and repress its enemies and consolidate power. Previous books on Nazi Germany and the Holocaust fail even to mention the laws restricting firearms ownership, which rendered Jews, political opponents, and other disfavored groups defenseless.. Learn More »»