Part 2 here
I found out about Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership when I first encountered the following article: The US ‘Gun Culture’ That Saved Europe does not occur in a vacuum
(by the way, check the comments to get a real laugh)
Anyway, the writer is none other than Miguel Faria, a doctor and gun rights advocate who believes that Europe owes it's salvation in the World Wars to...American gun culture? I dug rather deep, finding out that Faria and his ilk at DRGO mangled the history of firearms in the US, the World Wars, US crime, the Wild West, and other issues so badly, that I had to mention it.
Offending links: https://surgicalneurologyint.com/surgicalint-articles/is-gun-control-really-about-people-control/ https://drgo.us/review-america-guns-and-freedom-a-journey-by-miguel-a-faria-jr-md/
Faria claims that the weak, spineless Europeans, with no gun culture, allowed the Germans to overwhelm them in two world wars, yet the brave US saved their miserable, gun-hating asses twice. This is as you can tell, is utter horseshit, as it simply babbles on without any concrete evidence (save, of course, for a brief mention of Sgt. Alvin York as an example). Outside of this one anecdote (which, to Faria's credit, is certainly inspirational but not a definitive illustration of US military skill) there is no concrete evidence. Furthermore, it ignores important factors such as troop numbers, military tactics, resources, geography, and industry in favor of a nonsensical narrative. Furthermore, Faria continues to push the "guns would have stopped the Nazis" cliche.
Of course, this is far from the only badhistory I found. As it turns out, Faria and his friends at DRGO also believe that easy gun laws stop all sorts of crime
and other nonsensical tropes about guns
, which I'll get to in part two.
So let's start at part one: how the World Wars were stopped by gun culture. Faria does little to help his case with WWI by mentioning the case of Alvin York and using next to nothing else as evidence. The fact that the Germans where outnumbered, with 13 million troops against a total of 15 million from the Allied Powers, escapes him. As does the blockade that starved the entirety of Germany, as well as the fact that many German sailors were carrying out mutinies and that the country fell into unrest. Or even the fact that the Central Powers were falling apart one-by -one, or that Germany had just finished removing the Russians (themselves a major foe) from the war when America arrived. He even glosses over the many Allied victories, such as the 2nd Marne and 100 Days Offensive, stating that
Many Americans in the 21st century still cling to their guns and their Bibles, and it stands to reason that the alleged “gun culture” mentality and patriotic outlook may not be gained solely by an 8-week army basic training boot camp. Life experience, patriotism and the attitude to fight along your fellow soldiers in a just cause—such as freedom and a country’s way of life—do not appear in a vacuum.
Um... ok. What evidence do you have for this? And furthermore, if having high gun ownership makes you good at winning wars, then why did the US suffer a draw in Korea? Or lose Vietnam? Or fall into quagmires like Iraq and Afghanistan? Overall Faria chooses a completely unexplained factor as the reason for US victory, one which not one historian will take seriously. Is he forgetting the ferocity with which the other Allied Powers fought before the Americans arrived? The multiple fights at Ypres, Verdun, Vimy Ridge
, the First Marne, Cambrai
, are all those so forgettable?
WWI was won for a number of reasons.
Woodrow Wilson's overtures to the German government, combined with more pacifistic leaders rising to power as the German military broke apart, and unrest at home all lead to Germany's surrender. Germany's Ottoman allies were being pummeled by British and Arabic forces. The Austro-Hungarians were on their knees, and the Bulgarians had quit the war. American forces would not be present in full until Spring 1918, when the German Spring Offensive, largely held back by the same Europeans Faria dismisses, held the Germans back long enough for the Americans to turn the tide. Germans forces overexerted themselves just as American reinforcements, fresh, ready for combat, and larger in numbers, began to arrive in Europe.
Faria then proceeds to brag about how the "pusillanimous Europeans" did nothing as Nazi Germany goose-stepped all over them. In Poland,
Hitler triumphed due to the Poles simply being unprepared to deal with the twin Nazi and Soviet assaults. No declaration of war, combined with new tactics enabled the Germans to overrun the Poles in their Blitzkrieg. Norway
fell due to the Allies having to abandon it to protect France. German forces conquered France by maneuvering past the Maginot Line and driving the British out at Dunkirk. The French Army, meanwhile, suffered from poor leadership
and failed to repel the German Army, which had the element of surprise, along with speed, on their side. Finally, Greece fell due to an army that was too small, not prepared enough, and had inadequate support from it's neighbors and the British/Commonwealth forces, as documented by George E. Blau in his book The German Campaign in the Balkans
As for the spineless Europeans that are constantly scorned, Faria forgets that in every nation the Nazis invaded, there were dedicated resistance groups. The Yugoslavian resistance, which beat the Croats, helped liberate Sarajevo, and took Trieste
. The Soviet partisans
, who fought for their country when their armies could not. The Germans in the Ruhr pocket who helped capture Dusseldorf
. Or perhaps the Italians, who liberated Naples
and killed a German general
or even the French Resistance, who fought to free Paris and
) made up for their lack of military prowess with their sabotage and spying.
American industry also was critical, too. The efficiency at which the US produced vehicles and other materials made them able to overwhelm their opposition, especially with the added benefit of being out of range from enemy bombers:
War production profoundly changed American industry. Companies already engaged in defense work expanded. Others, like the automobile industry, were transformed completely. In 1941, more than three million cars were manufactured in the United States. Only 139 more were made during the entire war. Instead, Chrysler made fuselages. General Motors made airplane engines, guns, trucks and tanks. Packard made Rolls-Royce engines for the British air force. And at its vast Willow Run plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan, the Ford Motor Company performed something like a miracle 24-hours a day. The average Ford car had some 15,000 parts. The B-24 Liberator long-range bomber had 1,550,000. One came off the line every 63 minutes.Shipyards turned out tonnage so fast that by the autumn of 1943 all Allied shipping sunk since 1939 had been replaced. In 1944 alone, the United States built more planes than the Japanese did from 1939 to 1945. By the end of the war, more than half of all industrial production in the world would take place in the United States.
Patriotism of soldiers certainly helps, yet the fanaticism of such countries as Japan and Germany did not win them the war. Japan's industry was unable to catch up with the sheer industrial might of the US (just look how fast each side could build aircraft carriers, for example). Germany, meanwhile, had to divide up their resources for the war effort, according to the United States Strategic Bombing Survey
. German industry was disabled by repeated air raids that caused massive devastation:
In the wake of these attacks there are great paths of destruction. In Germany, 3,600,000 dwelling units, approximately 20% of the total, were destroyed or heavily damaged. Survey estimates show some 300,000 civilians killed and 780,000 wounded. The number made homeless aggregates 7,500,000. The principal German cities have been largely reduced to hollow walls and piles of rubble. German industry is bruised and temporarily paralyzed. These are the scars across the face of the enemy, the preface to the victory that followed.
The air raids that harassed Germany, were most effective when combined with a divided front. With up to 16 million American soldiers
committed to the entire war, it would be hard to argue that the Nazis, (with 20 million) could sustain themselves against half that amount when combined with the scores of Soviet soldiers and the 5 million Brits (along with other Allied forces) also committed to the conflict.
Faria also arrogantly assumes that the Swiss were not invaded due to their zealous gun culture. More likely theories include the fact that the Swiss were not only tough fighters but could use the rugged terrain to their advantage.
Furthermore, it's believed that the Nazis wanted to use the country's banking system to store their gold
. As such, an invasion would likely ruin their financial interests.
Faria and others, such as Robert B Young, claim that authoritarian regimes can be destroyed by gun ownership. Nazis (surprise, surprise) are brought up. This is a fallacy that has many reasons for being wrong. First off, why have Australia, Canada, the UK, and Japan not become dictatorships after passing far stricter gun laws? Second of all, the supposed gun control=Nazism argument is laughably absurd. Yes, the Nazis did ban Jews from gun ownership, yet no such gun laws are being proposed in the US. Furthermore, the claim that there would have been an uprising by German Jews going Rambo against the Nazis is undermined by many factors, not the least of which is the fact that they made up 1% of the population. That is not to say that there's any problem with them rising up, yet as pointed out by Alan E Steinweis, an expert of the Holocaust
It is preposterous to argue that the possession of firearms would have enabled them to mount resistance against a systematic program of persecution implemented by a modern bureaucracy, enforced by a well-armed police state, and either supported or tolerated by the majority of the German population. Mr. Carson’s suggestion that ordinary Germans, had they had guns, would have risked their lives in armed resistance against the regime simply does not comport with the regrettable historical reality of a regime that was quite popular at home. Inside Germany, only the army possessed the physical force necessary for defying or overthrowing the Nazis, but the generals had thrown in their lot with Hitler early on.The failure of Jews to mount an effective defense against the Waffen-SS in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943 provides a good example of what happens when ordinary citizens with small arms go up against a well-equipped force. The uprising in the ghetto possesses enduring symbolic significance, as an instance of Jews’ determination to resist their oppression. But the uprising saved few Jewish lives and had little to no impact on the course of either World War II or the Holocaust. Jews around the world did, to be sure, react to the Holocaust by concluding that they needed to protect themselves from anti-Semites more effectively. But they understood that this would be accomplished not through the individual acquisition of firearms, but rather through the establishment of a Jewish state with an army to defend it.
Furthermore, Nazi gun control was an anti-Semitic propaganda tool. Mass shootings were hardly a problem in Germany at the time. In fact, the Nazi gun control law, while certainly aimed at disarming the Jews, also extended access to firearms for groups the Nazi regime did approve of. Licenses for hunting, for instance, were loosened to allow ownership of any gun.
Faria cites other genocides as proof of why gun control is problematic. He and his allies list, in addition to the Nazis, the failed Hungarian Revolution of 1956, Castro's despotism in Cuba, and the Armenian, Cambodian, and Rwandan genocides. Faria uses the Warsaw ghetto as proof, yet seems to forget that the Jews who rebelled had armament comparable to civilians in the US, with one machine gun and some pistols. The Warsaw Uprising that he approvingly speaks of, meanwhile, relied on military-grade equipment such as sub-machine guns, not hunting rifles or more civilian-oriented weapons. The fact that it was an organized effort certainly helped, but so did their use of military-grade equipment that they made or had airdropped. The Hungarian revolution is also cited. What is neglected, however, is that the rebels actually won the first phase of the revolt. It was after the Soviet military arrived that Hungary gave in. He then mentions the dictatorship of Fidel Castro claiming that shortly after he took office, he asked " ¿Armas para que?",
"Weapons for whom?". Yet what Castro meant was that the weapons that his 26 of July Movement had captured from the military and police would stay as such. Furthermore, he was talking about military weapons being smuggled and stolen.
Yet I tell you here and now that two days ago elements of certain organizations broke into the San Antonio barracks, which are under the jurisdiction of Commander Camilo Cienfuegos and also under my jurisdiction as commander in chief of the armed forces, and carried away 500 small arms, (16?) machine guns, and 80,000 cartridges.
The conversation does shift to gangsters, which presumably entails taking away civilian weapons, yet the conversation revolved around other rebels stockpiling weapons to counter Castro. Faria uses the 1959 Escambray rebellion in an attempt to point out the negatives of gun control, yet seems to miss the context. The Escambray rebels lost because, according to Ernest Volkman, they had lost CIA support, the elimination of many CIA assets by Castro likely factoring in. Faria has cited the small numbers and lack of supplies.
Overall, to use gun control for the Escambray rebels is simply a poor argument, as it was other factors that lead to their defeat. Furthermore, as of 2017, it is believed that there are 2.10 guns per 100 people in Cuba. In fact, citizens can purchase firearms for hunting and self-defense. Why have no residents rebelled against the government using these weapons? And seeing as how little documentation there is of Cuba's gun culture, could it be that easy access to firearms would not have made much of a difference?
Armenia, Cambodia, and Rwanda are also ridiculous comparisons. In Armenia, the government did in fact pass a law in 1911 that required Armenians surrender their weapons. It was the outbreak of WWI that made the genocide inevitable, as long-held contempt for the Armenians by the Young Turks fueled suspicions that the Armenians would rebel against them. Furthermore, the Ottomans had forbidden groups like the Armenians from gun ownership for centuries. And before the 1911 law, a pogrom killed hundreds of thousands of Armenians in the 1890s. When the Armenians did have their guns taken, it was weapons that soldiers had been given, not just hunting rifles or handguns they owned for self-defense/hunting. To argue gun control enabled the genocide forgets the nuances behind the affair. The Armenian genocide website itself argues that it was not armed resistance that would have ended the genocide, but international awareness.
Cambodia is the next example, as Pol Pot did in fact eliminate guns. Unfortunately, most of those guns belonged to the upper-class:
Firearms ownership rates in rural rice farming communities practising subsistence agriculture have been very low in Cambodia, and firearms have not been part of traditional livelihood strategies. Cambodia is not rich in large game, and game meat is not part of the typical rural diet, which is largely based on the consumption of rice, with fish as a source of protein. Nutrition surveys have demonstrated that only a minority of the rural population eat any meat at all (27–34 per cent of children aged 24–59 months were found to have eaten some meat [Helmers and Kenefick, 1999, pp. 72–73]), and most of this is derived from livestock, such as chicken, pork, and to a lesser extent cattle. Low firearms ownership rates in rural society are also the outcome of government policies and low rural incomes. To counter communist and anti-colonial insurgencies, the French colonial rulers (1863–1953) passed several laws to prevent Cambodian peasants from arming themselves (Kopel, Gallant, and Eisen, 2005, p. 6; page no. from e-publication). The laws passed between 1920 and 1938 imposed a strict licensing system and only allowed hunters to own a single gun...Available evidence suggests that unlike in many Western societies, private firearms ownership during the early period of Cambodia’s independence before the Khmer Rouge took over (1953–75) was predominantly a characteristic of the urban male elite, who were mainly in government employment
While French colonists did place restrictions on gun ownership in the 1920s and 1930s, Cambodians in general never really were interested in it. Furthermore, the efforts to counter Communist insurgents involved the very same gun control that is seen as taking citizen's rights, yet it failed to stop Pol Pot from taking the country over. Overall, one could argue that lighter gun restrictions would have given the Cambodian populace a better chance, yet since they did not really have a thriving gun culture, it would have little impact. Those that did were upper-class, meaning that they were often in the minority.
As for Rwanda, I had trouble finding good sources. Rwanda does indeed allow gun ownership, yet the one law I was looking for, which was passed in 1979, had little information for me. As such, I'll have to make do with what I could find. The 1979 law was amended in 2000, 6 years after the genocide, to do such things as ban access of government firearms from the population. Basing the gun regulations off of this chart
, I assume that Faria believes that gun registration, confiscation abilities, and more were what occurred. The Small Arms Survey's analysis of Rwanda, however, makes no mention of any abuse of this confiscation system. Furthermore, the idea that registration enabled the slaughter of Tutsi tribesmen and Hutu moderates ignores the fact that many Rwandans were required since the Belgian colonization to carry ID cards which gave their ethnicity
. Alain Destexhe, a Belgian politician who worked for Doctors Without Borders in areas such as Rwanda, even goes so far as to say:
it was the ethnic classification registered on identity cards introduced by the Belgians that served as the basic instrument for the genocide of the Tutsi people...
Once again, it was an organized military faction, the Rwanda Patriotic Front
, that stopped the genocide. It was not
armed civilians, but a faction with weapons that far outclassed those legally available to civilians in the US. To argue that gun rights would stop these regimes ignores events that Faria cites.
Look at most regimes over the past 20 years, and you'll find that they had fairly large gun ownership. Sudan
had millions of civilian weapons in circulation in 2007, yet it was 12 years before Omar al-Bashir was toppled, and not due to armed civilians. In Venezuela and Libya, authoritarian regimes grew in spite of high gun ownership rates. Yet easily the most surprising is the case of Iraq, where a large portion of the population, in spite of strict gun laws, owned firearms, yet Saddam stayed in power, enduring several rebellions and only being beaten by a US-led invasion.
Saudi Arabia, an authoritarian regime in it's own right, had the 7th highest rate of gun ownership in the world.
Heading back to WWII and gun cultures, Faria makes the case that the only other country to offer the Nazis any resistance, the USSR, was largely due to the NKVD holding soldiers in place. He says:
just as Stalin’s “Patriotic War” stimulated Russians to fight for their motherland, and to make sure they did so the NKVD’s SMERCH units (Soviet military police and counter-intelligence units) were everywhere behind the front lines to stiffen Soviet fighting resolve if their morale lapsed.
While certainly, the Soviets did carry out these measures, they had already repelled the assault on Moscow when this order, No. 227, which organized such units, was passed. In late 1944, blocking detachments were disbanded, largely due to improvements on the front lines, yet their impact on morale arguably helped hurt Soviet morale almost as much as it fixed it. Furthermore, Faria also seems to overestimate the role of SMERSH units. While indeed responsible for slaughtering many deserters, the reality is far from what is depicted in such media as Enemy at the Gates
. Geoffrey Roberts, in his book Stalin's Wars
, writes that of the detainees arrested by these units,
3,980 were arrested, 1,189 were shot, 2,961 were sent to penal battalions or companies and 131,094 were returned to their units.
Faria insists that only Americans were driven by as sense of patriotism and civic duty, yet the same holds true for the Soviets, in spite of the monstrous actions of their government. Roberts states that Stalin's skill in tapping into Soviet patriotic fervor was essential to their victory, the patriotic messages providing a useful image of a united Soviet nation against a foreign menace
Also mentioned are Filipino, Guatemalan, and other insurgents as proof of the importance of gun ownership. Once again, Faria makes more mistakes. He assumes that privately-owned firearms are what these groups used when it was also military-grade gear. The insurgents in the Philippines, meanwhile, operated even after strict gun laws were passed by president Marcos, and likely benefited from the jungle terrain. As for Guatemala, Faria seems to once again conflate organized insurgency with gun rights. The Guatemalan insurgents that held the regime back for decades received Soviet and Czech weapons that were smuggled through Communist states such as Nicaragua. The stereotypical patriot who owns guns to protect from an oppressive regime was not the kind of individual who fought against the government. Furthermore, many of these rebels were often peasants who were likely too poor to own firearms.
Overall, Faria misuses countless events to fit his narrative. His claims are so poorly constructed that they are almost impossible to support. Those that use historic events as basis often neglect to mention other factors, such as cultural differences, or history.
On Gun Registration, the NRA, Adolf Hitler, and Nazi Gun Laws: Exploding the Gun Culture Wars (A Call to Historians) Bernard E. Harcourt http://www.smallarmssurvey.org/publications/by-type/yearbook/small-arms-survey-2007.html https://www.britannica.com/place/Norway/World-War-II
Soviet Arms and Central American Turmoil, ALBERTO R. COLL https://www.lawphil.net/executive/genogo1972/genor_6_1972.html http://www.world-war-2.info/casualties/ https://www.britannica.com/event/Battle-of-France-World-War-II/The-fall-of-France-June-5-25-1940
Blau, George E; THE GERMAN CAMPAIGNS IN THE BALKANS (SPRING 1941), 118 http://jpfo.org/filegen-a-m/deathgc.htm https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-i/armenian-genocide https://blog.usni.org/posts/2020/05/24/reflections-on-memorial-day https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-i/battle-of-cambrai
Small Arms Survey: The Use and Perception of Weapons before and after Conflict: Evidence from Rwanda By Cécelle Meijer and Philip Verwimp
Small Arms Survey: How Many Weapons Are There in Cambodia? By Christina Wille
14/06/2000 - LAW N° 13/2000 OF 14/06/2000 MODIFYING THE DECREE-LAW N° 12/97 OF MAY, 1979 CONCERNING FIREARMS AND THEIR AMMUNITIONS https://ucdp.uu.se/conflict/445 https://www.anesi.com/ussbs02.htm#c
Alain Destexhe, Rwanda and Genocide in the Twentieth Century; Pg 47 https://www.businessinsider.com/switzerland-gun-laws-rates-of-gun-deaths-2018-2?op=1 http://www.pbs.org/thewaat_home_war_production.htm https://www.britannica.com/event/World-War-I https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/breaking/ct-met-chicago-gun-laws-explainer-20171006-story.html http://www.genocide-museum.am/eng/online_exhibition_8.php https://www.britannica.com/event/Rwanda-genocide-of-1994/Genocide https://www.armenian-genocide.org/genocide.html http://lanic.utexas.edu/project/castro/db/1959/19590109.html https://www.britannica.com/event/Hungarian-Revolution-1956 https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/15/opinion/ben-carson-is-wrong-on-guns-and-the-holocaust.html?_r=0 https://foreignpolicy.com/2013/01/09/guns-dont-kill-dictatorships-people-do/
Roberts, Geoffrey; Stalin's Wars From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953 pgs 22, 132 https://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/region/sudan
Volkman, Ernest 1995. "Our man in Havana. Cuban double agents 1961–1987" in Espionage: The Greatest Spy Operations of the Twentieth Century
Roberts, Walter R. (1973). Tito, Mihailović and the Allies 1941–1945;
pg 319 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-lP70jPAqRs https://thehistoryherald.com/articles/military-history/world-war-ii/aktion-rheinland/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_Crisolli https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberation_of_Paris#FFI_uprising_(19%E2%80%9323_August)