Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France
Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France

Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France

Tyranny and Resistance


256 Pages, 6 x 9

Formats: Hardcover, ebook: PDF, Mobipocket, ebook: EPUB

Hardcover, $28.95 (US $28.95) (CA $38.95)

Publication Date: June 2018

ISBN 9781598133073


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Nazi Germany invaded France in 1940. In every occupied town, Nazi soldiers put up posters that demanded that civilians surrender their firearms within twenty-four hours or else be shot. Despite the consequences, many French citizens refused to comply with the order. In Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France: Tyranny and Resistance, Stephen P. Halbrook tells this story of Nazi repression and the brave French men and women who refused to surrender to it. Taking advantage of a prewar 1935 French gun registration law, the Nazis used registration records kept by the French police to easily locate gun owners to enforce their demand that firearms be surrendered. Countless French citizens faced firing squads for refusing to comply. But many French citizens had resisted the 1935 decree, preventing the Nazis from fully enforcing the confiscation order. Throughout the Nazi occupation, the French Resistance grew, arming itself to conduct resistance activities and fight back against the occupation. Drawing on records of the German occupation and testimonies from members of the French resistance, Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France is the first book to focus on the Nazis' efforts to disarm the French.


"Stephen Halbrook has done it again, broken new ground with meticulous historical 'gun control' research. This is the harrowing story of Nazi and Vichy government savage repression of French gun owners, in part made possible by pre-war French firearms registration. Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France is an important and highly readable addition to scholarship on how dictators and invaders have disarmed conquered populations." —James B. Jacobs, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger Professor of Constitutional Law and the Courts; Director, Center for Research in Crime and Justice; New York University; author, Can Gun Control Work?

"In the outstanding book, Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France, Halbrook shows that although the French government did not intend to disarm the population when it mandated the registration of firearms, the very existence of registration records made it possible for the Nazis who occupied France during WWII to tighten their bloody grip on the country by hunting down gun owners. The applicable lesson here is that the intentions behind gun control measures aimed at the general population don't matter as much as the inevitable result: subtracting from the people's power to guard their own freedom. His mixture of anecdotes and statistics makes for sobering reading." —Angelo M. Codevilla, Professor Emeritus of International Relations, Boston University; author, Informing Statecraft, War: Ends and Means (with Paul Seabury), The Character of Nations, and Between the Alps and a Hard Place: Switzerland in World War II and the Rewriting of History

"In this detailed and fascinating book, Stephen P. Halbrook gives us a companion volume to his superb Gun Control in the Third Reich. Relying on French archival sources and German occupational records as well as a truly illuminating set of eye-witness questionnaire responses and more, Halbrook demonstrates the extent to which modern dictatorship relies on the control and confiscation of weapons and fears what French socialist Jean Jaurès once praised as 'the general arming of the people.' Like Halbrook's study of the Third Reich, Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France greatly expands our historical knowledge about the relationship between private gun confiscation and the Holocaust. As a work of scholarship, the book is—simply put—conclusive. But it is also an intensely interesting and at times inspiring account of how some French people collaborated with dictatorship and occupation, how some complied and just went along, and how some resisted heroically." —T. Hunt Tooley, Professor of History, Austin College; whose books include Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth-Century Europe, Battleground and Home Front in the First World War, and National Identity and Weimar Germany

"The theme of Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France is new, and Stephen Halbrook conveys it with laudable precision. In the early 1980s, I spoke to French Resistance fighters who told me how difficult it was to hide weapons during the German occupation. But never before had I read anything about it. We owe Halbrook tremendous gratitude for illuminating a crucial issue that had not been addressed by either the Germans or the French." —Wieland Giebel, Founder and Curator, Berlin Story Museum, Germany; author, The History of Berlin, The Brown Berlin, Goebbels's Propaganda, and Hitler's Terror in Berlin

"Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France is an impressive addition to the already vast literature on the Second World War. The book is filled with useful information from primary sources, much of it previously unpublished. Halbrook vividly depicts the terrible years of the occupation of France by German armed forces, in particular from the viewpoint of French owners of firearms, mainly hunting weapons but also miscellaneous military arms retained by the families of soldiers in prior wars. One of Hitler's major objectives was to see France (and other conquered territories) completely firearms-free, and major efforts to this end were expended by the German armed forces and their French collaborators. Two aspects of Halbrook's story are of obvious relevance for contemporary debates about civilian possession of firearms. First, although the Germans collected truckloads of firearms from all over France, they didn't get all of them—or even, perhaps, most of them. Despite threatening the most draconian penalties (including the death penalty, which was carried out in thousands of instances), and despite unlimited powers to search any premises at any time without giving reasons, occupation authorities simply could not successfully disarm a population that was unwilling to cooperate with them. Second, many of the guns that remained in civilian hands found their way to the Resistance, which valued handguns in particular. It is not that people with side arms could credibly threaten to take on organized formations of the German army. But as Halbrook shows, guns played an indispensable moralizing role for the Resistance. Because its members were able to arm and protect themselves, the Resistance was able to survive and grow, and as it grew stronger it did play an increasingly important role in harrying occupation forces, providing vital intelligence to the Allied armies, and preparing the ground for Europe's eventual liberation." —Daniel D. Polsby, Professor of Law, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University

"'Get your guns out of the straw, your stens, your grenades...' These words of the popular 1943 Chant des Partisans, by Joseph Kessel, Maurice Druon and Anna Marly, only make sense if there are hidden guns, sten guns, and grenades to fight against the evil Nazis in the first place. As Stephen P. Halbrook's splendid new book, Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France, makes perfectly clear, the not so-well-intended but comparatively harmless administrative registration of firearms by the French government before World War II made the goal of the Nazis to disarm the liberty-loving people of France much easier. The heroic fight of the resistance against the invader became harder. Until there are no more aggressions—and I fear we still have some distance in front of us until we arrive on that bright sunlit upland of human history—until there are no more wars, a lesson remains: When the battle cry of freedom is heard, people should be well-armed to respond." —Jürg F. Stüssi-Lauterburg, former Director, Library Am Guisanplatz BiG; former President, Foundation Council of the Foundation for Democracy  

"Talk of Nazi gun confiscation has long been a staple of American gun debates, but until recently the scholarly work had not been done. In this book, Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France, Stephen Halbrook continues his extensively researched history of Nazi gun controls and gun confiscation, revealing in particular how prewar French gun registration laws made the Nazis' task easier, and how French disobedience to those laws preserved a reservoir of firearms that made the Resistance's task easier. Highly recommended!" —Glenn Harlan Reynolds, Beauchamp Brogan Distinguished Professor of Law, University of Tennessee College of Law

"With Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France, Stephen Halbrook cements his position as one of the leading scholars on the right to bear arms. Halbrook provides us with an important cautionary tale. A seemingly harmless firearms registration measure enacted by France's prewar democratic government would allow a later sinister regime, the forces of the Nazi occupation and its collaborators, to round up firearms and to imprison and execute those who resisted confiscation. Anyone who doubts that disarming a people makes it easier to oppress a people would do well to read Halbrook's well-researched study." —Robert J. Cottrol, Professor of Law, History, and Sociology and Harold Paul Green Research Professor of Law, George Washington University; author, The Long, Lingering Shadow: Slavery, Race, and Law in the American Hemisphere  

Author Biography

Stephen P. Halbrook is a Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute. He has taught legal and political philosophy at George Mason University, Howard University, and Tuskegee Institute, and he received his J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center and Ph.D. in social philosophy from Florida State University. The winner of three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court (Printz v. United States, United States v. Thompson/Center Arms Company, and Castillo v. United States), he has testified before the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Subcommittee on Crime of the House Judiciary Committee, Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, and House Committee on the District of Columbia. A contributor to numerous scholarly volumes, he is the author of the books, Gun Control in the Third Reich: Disarming the Jews and "Enemies of the State"; The Founders' Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms; and That Every Man Be Armed: Evolution of a Constitutional Right; A Right to Bear Arms, among others.

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