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Beware claims that are misuse of history

By From page A8 | June 30, 2014

How often in the pages of the Daily Republic have I seen history enthusiasts declare something like, “Hitler took away the guns; Mao took away the guns; Stalin took away the guns, and look what happened!” The point of the argument is that it can happen here.

No it can’t.

Certainly the vision of jack-booted government agents kicking in your front door does exist in the Technicolor imaginings of some of our more excitable citizens, but in fact, it can’t happen here. To claim otherwise is a misuse of history.

We live today in modern times. Modern people (and certainly post-modern people) will not tolerate dictators nor genocides. Proof? Let’s look at the conditions that resulted in genocides in the 20th century and compare them to today.

In the case of Germany, you have a people who were at the threshold of modernity. Culturally and economically, the Germans were largely modern. The problem was in governance.

The Germans still respected a strongman leader. Not for them this French thing called equality. Many Germans thought that they were a different species of human; one that did best with a military leader. Long before the rise of Adolf Hitler, Germans were longing for a fuhrer, a leader to lead them to their “place in the sun,” the leadership of Europe and therefore, the world.

Enter Hitler. He disparaged modernity. War and dominion was the dream he gave his people. He told German women to have lots of babies so they could die in the wars of the fatherland. He predicted “Europe today; tomorrow, the world!”

Americans, do you have babies so that they can die in war? Would you tolerate a dictator? Of course not; you’re modern. If Barack Obama wanted to confiscate all guns, would he find millions of people to dress in brown shirts and rummage in your closets? Of course not.

There are no good dictators. German dreams of conquest were dashed and they have become thoroughly modern today. No strong man need apply.

Stalin? The problems of Germany magnified by 30. The only governmental tradition was also a strong single leader, a Caesar (czar). Well, how about a “man of steel” instead? Someone named Stalin. When he ordered his loyal cadres to confiscate the food that the recalcitrant Ukrainians had withheld, they did so. Six million Ukrainian farmers starved to death.

Could the U.S. government take away the food of millions of Americans? Plainly, it’s unthinkable. Cadres would refuse.

China? They had an emperor for 2,000 years. Confucianism instructed them to shut up and obey. Obey your emperor, obey your husband, your father, your older brother, but always obey. So in the Great Leap Forward, Mao said to melt your pots and pans for steel and 30 million people obeyed and died. Thirty million – Hitler and Stalin were pikers.

If President Obama told you to melt your pots and pans because steel is the metal of modernity, would you?

No, modern people know that power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Applying premodern events to modern countries is an abuse of the study of history. The U.S. is a modern nation, universally suspicious of governmental power and golden dreams. Democrats and Republicans, both pointing to a Constitution that divides power, are suspicious of power. Hitler, Stalin and Mao can’t happen here.

When you hear otherwise, just say, “That’s a misuse of history.”

Jack Batson is a former member of the Fairfield City Council. Reach him at [email protected]

Jack Batson


Discussion | 30 comments

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  • Mr. PracticalJune 30, 2014 - 6:13 am

    Way to pick the low hanging fruit. An entire column devoted to the extreme ranting of a couple commenters?

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  • Jason KnowlesJune 30, 2014 - 7:47 am

    Practical, you make a good point, however, your numbers are a bit off. The majority of gun owners, NRA members, and GOP members (via a Gallup poll) espouse the very beliefs Batson writes about and never do I see and reasonable Republicans do anything other than use this misguided paranoia to secure votes and money. Democrats pull the same stunts with their causes, too, but in the case of guns, Batson is absolutely correct.

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  • mike kirchubelJune 30, 2014 - 6:14 am

    Great column, Jack. That should, but probably won't, shut up the "Obama is going to take our guns away" crowd. Why? Because the gun and ammo companies make too much money selling that fear. Whenever they need to bolster their bottom line, they don't need to have a sale, they just scare people into thimking Obama is after their guns. I noticed that you are outnumbered 2:1 on this page. Better buy a gun.

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  • TJ BairdJune 30, 2014 - 6:54 am

    I think that I understand how those who are opposed to guns can make an argument for no more guns. However, to suggest that history can't repeat itself is in itself "a misuse of history". Mr. Baston, those indeed were different times, different societies and different people, but much like after WW I, when people were saying "we will never let another thing like this happen again" we should learn the great truth imbedded in the saying, "never say never". What makes us so different than those countries that the author uses to illustrates his point is that we have yet to lose complete confidence and adherence in our Constitution. But we are always just one generation, one group of people, one person away from being a country that puts "modernity" in the drivers seat instead of what has made us the envy of the world for over 200 years.

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  • AlfJune 30, 2014 - 8:51 am

    The point of this letter is .......?

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  • rlw895June 30, 2014 - 9:48 am

    It's not a letter, it's a column.

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  • mike kirchubelJune 30, 2014 - 9:48 am

    What? No guns on Melmac?

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  • Rick WoodJune 30, 2014 - 10:05 am

    It's an interesting thesis, "It can't happen here." It should make us think about what separates us from the past and from other places, past, present, and future. What makes America, more than anything else, is a history of immigration and our Constitution. Our history has made us the most culturally diverse country on Earth, yet bound together by a common language and the Constitution. Australia has a similar history of immigration, or at least a history more similar to our own than just about any other nation, but no constitution. Australia now has a strict gun law. I've heard no concern that they are headed toward dictatorship. The issue there is, as it should be here, not what gun laws mean to our freedom from tyranny, but from crime.

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  • Shanna WieserJune 30, 2014 - 9:38 am

    I enjoy shooting my guns.I shoot at a range, my guns are registered I shoot my shotguns at skeet which is fun and challengeing. I don't kill beings. I don't understand why my hobby is so offensive to others. If the answer is someone could steal my guns and kill someone. My car could be stolen and kill someone as well but no one is trying to prevent the sale of cars. I am a responsible car and gun owner so I should be able to enjoy my rights. Criminals don't have my rights and I should not be punished by taking away my rights due to criminals behavior. I am a 67 yr. old woman.

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  • mike kirchubelJune 30, 2014 - 10:10 am

    And no one is trying to take away your guns, either. That's the point.

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  • Rick WoodJune 30, 2014 - 10:18 am

    Shanna: Would you object to having a background check and a registration like a driver's license that requires periodic renewal to ensure you are still qualified to own your guns? Registration would also ensure that if your guns are stolen and used in a crime, they can be traced to your theft and the criminal might be identified that way.

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  • Mike KirchubelJuly 01, 2014 - 10:58 am

    Nothing but crickets.

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  • Little Jim CricketJuly 01, 2014 - 11:26 am

    What are conscience! I'll tell ya! A conscience is that still small voice that people won't listen to. That's just the trouble with the world today...

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  • Shanna WieserJuly 01, 2014 - 10:23 pm

    Rick: My gun are registered with a background check.There is no reason to do anything else. If my guns are stolen there will be a big ass safe attached to them along with my registration of my guns. Will that stop a thief? ?? Slow them down hopefully. I am not responsible for anyone else behavior.

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  • Rick WoodJuly 01, 2014 - 10:31 pm

    Shanna: There is no reason to do any more than the law requires and your own sense of responsibility dictates. My point is the law should require, in addition to registration and a background check, a periodic renewal of the registration and background check. Things change in a person's life. Would you be OK with that?

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  • Shanna WieserJuly 02, 2014 - 9:49 am

    I don't understand what changes would require a renewal of registration if I became a criminal my rights are lost by me. So I see no need for a renewal other then a more policing of me as a law biding citizen, which is not going to solve issues of problems with this society. Why do people hyper focus on one problem of society rather looking to see the whole picture? It amazes me that people focus guns but think nothing of adults selling children to other adults for sexual pleasure or forcing animals to fight each other to live another day. I wish everyone was passionate about these issues as they are about these pieces of metal.

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  • CD BrooksJuly 02, 2014 - 10:21 am

    Shanna, that's a pretty disgusting analogy and nobody accepts child abuse as okay. What we need is training for proper use and storage of weapons, certification (having passed whatever tests established as the standard), then ongoing testing and recertification. I don't get the argument against registering your legal firearms. Nobody is going to take your legal guns away, that's a GOP plant and another effort at suggesting the president is going to do so. BS.

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  • Shanna WieserJuly 02, 2014 - 12:19 pm

    Hello CD: disgusting or not that is where I think the energy, time & money should go. California has the toughest gun laws in the states so WHY is more regulation needed??? How and what specifically are you talking. What specific changes are we talking and how would they help the problems?

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  • CD BrooksJuly 02, 2014 - 6:42 pm

    Shanna, with all due respect I just spelled it out. But full-on enforcement would of course be the best bet.

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  • rlw895July 02, 2014 - 8:29 pm

    Shanna: Would it be OK if we took your guns away if you went nuts?

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  • Mr. PracticalJuly 02, 2014 - 8:33 pm

    rlw, I assume that the periodic renewal would help catch mental health issues? If so, how would that work?

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  • rlw895July 02, 2014 - 8:36 pm

    Mr.P: I don't know. I just want to know what Shanna thinks.

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  • Mr. SmithJuly 02, 2014 - 8:47 pm

    Mr. P.: I wonder what would happen if we applied rlw895's renewal requirement to everyone's marriage license? Say, every five years or so? Wait--he might have something there!

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  • rlw895July 02, 2014 - 8:54 pm

    Mr.S: Thank you! It's not exactly analogous, but I like it!

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  • Mr. SmithJuly 02, 2014 - 9:19 pm

    Rlw: The one major tweak to your renewal procedure would be this: First, assume that you and your significant other were already nuts at the time of license application( that's obvious, right?). Second, every five years, the couple would have to prove they are still nuts. Failure to do so would trigger a loss of license and automatic dissolution. Community property would, of course, be divided equally.

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  • rlw895July 02, 2014 - 9:28 pm

    Mr.S: "That's quite a catch, that Catch 22."

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  • YossarianJuly 02, 2014 - 9:46 pm

    Rlw: How about this: There is a popular sentiment in this country that people who willingly register their guns with the federal government are nuts. If we all agree that we don't want people who are nuts to own guns, then those who willingly register their guns would be subject to having their guns confiscated.

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  • Mr. PracticalJuly 02, 2014 - 8:55 pm

    It might just reduce domestic violence! I get that a log of gun deaths now are by people with mental illness. I know some of the mass shootings have been perpetrated with legally registered guns that weren't registered to the shooter. And if you did require proof of mental stability, How would you verify it? Certification from a mental health professional? Take a test? Take a polygraph? I don't see how it would work.

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  • Shanna WieserJuly 02, 2014 - 10:58 pm

    I don't know the procedures for going nuts.Do they take my car, my house Do I loose all my property such all my cutlery from the kitchen. Where does the government draw the line in what should be the done ? Why is there more interest in what happens to my guns than what happens to me? Why do my guns appear to have more worth than myself? I am not undrestanding the value system in the discussion. I never once said anyone was "taking away my guns". I have been talking about my rights concerning my guns. No further government intervention is needed in California for gun regulation. My final opinion. Goodnight.

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  • Rick WoodJuly 02, 2014 - 9:31 pm

    Shanna: How about if the renewal required you to testify that you still had the gun(s)? Or produce them for inspection?

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