Gun owners and other Untermenschen

by Andy Barniskis

copyright 1997, Andrew E. Barniskis

In 1934, Hans Brulich remained at home in Stuttgart while his family went on vacation in Switzerland. The neighborhood gossips said they would be away for three weeks, but after six weeks they still had not returned.

The German government already was experiencing a problem with Jews leaving the country and taking their entire fortunes with them. No one minded that the Jews left, but it was illegal for them to take valuable property with them. By the sixth week of the Brulich family's absence, the neighborhood gossips were speculating that the family had left the country for good, and a few in the neighborhood began to watch the switching on and off of lights and the movements of curtains in the Brulich house, speculating that Hans himself would soon disappear.

At 3:00 AM one morning, agents of the young Nazi government smashed through the door of the Brulich home. Documents later indicated that they were seeking evidence that the Brulich family had smuggled money or other valuable assets out of the country. The story would not have been newsworthy, except that sometime that morning, Hans Brulich died of a fractured skull. The Nazi agents reported he had fallen down the cellar steps as they entered. Apparently he was making a mad rush to conceal evidence. (The authorities never said whether such evidence was found.) The neighbors shook their heads in disbelief at the way a Jew's greed and selfishness could result in a man who had seemed so normal, destroying himself with such mad behavior.

The story was not reported outside Stuttgart. Not because it was suppressed by Nazi officials, but simply because it wasn't newsworthy. Jewish criminals were being ferreted out every day, and occasional unfortunate accidents were only that. Even within the Jewish community, only the most paranoid whispered that an official murder had occurred, and some warned that such radical talk would only stir up deeper wrath in those Gentiles who were most susceptible to Nazi hysteria-mongering. The way to counter the Nazis was to remain staid, reasonable citizens and demonstrate that they were not the subhumans-the Untermenschen -- that the Nazis and the mainstream press portrayed them to be.

Sixty years later and an ocean away, at about 8:00 in the morning of Wednesday, May 25, 1994, Harry Lamplugh answered a knock at the front door of his rural Pennsylvania home. He instantly was surrounded by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS). "To this day I don't know exactly how many there were, but they had my house secured in seconds," Lamplugh said. Only two were in any sort of uniform, but all had firearms drawn. An MP-5 machine gun was stuck in Lamplugh's face. The agents did not announce who they were or why they were there, and no search warrants were displayed. "When I asked if they had a search warrant, their first reply was 'Shut the fuck up, motherfucker, do you want to have more trouble than you already have?', with the machine gun stuck in my face," Lamplugh said, "Then they proceeded to tear my house apart."

The agents did indeed have a warrant, but it specified seizure of "firearms, ammunition, holsters, cleaning kits, gun cases, and firearms accessories"-in short, anything vaguely firearms related, all perfectly legal, and in most cases, items that could not possibly be illegal. The Lamplugh's attorney points out that the warrant failed to name even one specific item, nor did it mention so much as the possibility of a criminal charge. It was a warrant, duly signed-and-sealed by a federal judge, authorizing an open-ended federal fishing trip.

The agents spent the entire day trashing the Lamplugh household. At one point they opened the medicine cabinet, and scattered the contents of bottles of Lamplugh's cancer medications across the bathroom floor. Incongruously, at lunch time they took a break for a pizza party, scattering trash and emptying soda cans onto the floor. Returning to their diabolical task, they confiscated, in addition to the items cited in their warrant, every single slip of paper and document in the Lamplugh household, including birth certificates, prescriptions, drivers licenses, vehicle registrations, and insurance certificates. "For about two weeks we would have a hard time proving who we were," recalls Lamplugh.

At last, at about 3:00 PM, the federal agents completed their destruction. Possibly frustrated that their day of rare fun was coming to an end, a female agent stomped one of Lamplugh's kittens to death, and kicked the carcass under a tree.

No charges ever were brought against the Lamplughs. No agents were charged with wrongdoing.

What did Hans Brulich in 1930s Germany and Harry Lamplugh in 1990s America have in common? At the most basic level, they were Untermenschen-subhumans who, despite any de jure codification of human rights that existed in their respective regimes, de facto were beneath the protection of the law. Hans Brulich was a Jew in a society that found Jews-as-Untermenschen useful for advancing the agenda of its political regime. Harry Lamplugh had the misfortune of being a gun show promoter in a society that has found gun owners-as-Untermenschen useful for advancing its political agenda-the expansion of federal law enforcement powers.

For those not familiar with them, let me explain that gun shows are a popular form of entertainment for a great many in Middle America. While the media sometimes portrays them as something akin to a convention of terrorists, or at least, gun runners, for the most part those who attend are simply dedicated gun hobbyists who go to "horse trade," or often just to look at what amounts to an always changing, pot-luck gun museum.

While it would be silly to pretend that at least some illegal transactions do not take place at gun shows-just as some stolen goods are sold at virtually every big flea market- their purpose most certainly is not to facilitate a criminal trade in guns. And, given that undercover BATF agents circulate at almost all such shows, they would make an extremely foolish medium for carrying on a deliberately illicit trade. For the most part, illegal activities at gun shows are inadvertent technical violations by amateur traders who find state and federal firearms laws impenetrable to understand.

But something else does go on at gun shows. They also are places where people of common interests meet to share their political views-sometimes casually, in conversation, and sometimes more formally, by organizations that pass out literature. One thing that can be said with certainty is that the opinions expressed would seldom be considered "leftist," and there are no tables handing out literature supporting federal firearms policies or the agents assigned to carry them out.

Harry Lamplugh was in the politically incorrect business of promoting gun shows. It would please the BATF greatly if there were fewer gun shows. More than two decades of propagandizing against a mythical, monolithic "gun lobby" had rendered anyone in the firearms business an Untermensch, to which almost anything could be done with impunity by agents of the state. Being a high profile person in the firearms community, on May 25, 1994, Harry Lamplugh was "it."

In making my comparison of Untermensch victims in Nazi Germany and modern day America, I deliberately bypassed the Waco Massacre and the Weaver family killings as contemporary examples. Both incidents became sufficiently controversial, (though in the Weaver case, that took some time) that most Americans are aware of them-even if they are unclear as to what happened, or the outcomes. The most notable feature of the Lamplugh incident is that it is not untypical, yet, unless you are involved in the broader firearms rights network, you probably never heard about it. If you encountered it reported in the mainstream media, it most likely was an ambiguous, two column-inch filler that reported a federal raid on a "gun trader." Like the Nazi raids on Jewish "criminals" in the days leading up to the "final solution," an attack on Untermenschen wasn't newsworthy, and public attitudes could be summed up as, "Where there's smoke there's fire; knowing those people, they must have been doing something wrong!"

The phenomenon of Untermenschen being beneath the protection of the law is not new in America, but has gone consistently unrecognized, except for discussions of racism directed against non-whites. Many people have pointed out that Japanese-American citizens had their constitutional rights violated in the most blatant way during World War II, while Germans, even those who were enemy aliens, escaped similar treatment. Quite simply, the Japanese were regarded as racial Untermenschen, and everyone tacitly understood that guarantees of rights applicable to everyone else, were not really intended for them.

The phenomenon of people becoming political Untermenschen, independent of race, creed, or color, is less recognized. It is best exemplified in the ongoing Drug War. While someone accused of a drug violation still has appeal to constitutional rights if they are lucky enough to get to court with a decent lawyer, there have been untold numbers of cases of human rights violations and property destruction, similar to the Lamplugh incident, resulting from the mere accusation of drug infractions. (Someone in my area came home to find their house destroyed by drug agents, because a neighbor had reported to police that "A man riding a motorcycle brought a package to the door late at night." The incident never was reported in any newspaper. The victim was an Untermensch; a young man with a beard who kept his Harley-Davidson in the hallway, accused of drug dealing.)

If the principle of accused "drug dealers" being a lesser specie of human, beneath protection of the law, is well established and recognized for what it is by some, its application to gun owners is less so, but rapidly gaining ground. Actually, it has been at least somewhat in effect for two decades that I am aware of. Early in my professional career, as an employee of a high-security defense industry, I mentioned to one of my supervisors that I was a member of the National Rifle Association. "Oh!", he blurted, "I didn't know they still allowed you people in the building!" This was in the early '70s, when the defense industry remained at least somewhat a bastion of right-leaning opinion, but already the demonization of the "gun lobby" as a monolith of subhumans ("You people") had infected the mindset of some of my contemporaries.

Whether the portrayal of political Untermenschen as a monolithic entity is deliberate, or sometimes a matter of mere convenience, is open to conjecture, but it is an almost universal phenomenon. It is well known that Hitler did it deliberately. He wrote in Mein Kamph that the genius of a great leader lies in concentrating all hatred on a single foe, making "adversaries far removed from one another seem to belong to a single category." Eric Hoffer notes in his classic book The True Believer that "When Hitler picked the Jew as his devil, he peopled almost the entire world outside of Germany with Jews, or those who worked for them. 'Behind England stands Israel. . .and behind the United States.'"

The same tactic is used in the public excoriation of "the gun lobby," for which the National Rifle Association fulfills the same role as Hitler's "International Zionist Conspiracy." Any pro-firearms activity or opinion anywhere in the United States, regardless of its source, is attributed to "The NRA." A local example of this was when our county sportsmen's organization held a meeting with the county sheriff regarding his questionable interpretations of the way the Brady Law should be enforced. Despite the cordial tone of the meeting, the sheriff later portrayed himself to the press as "standing up to the NRA"- even though the meeting had been a local initiative, and to my recall the acronym "NRA" never was spoken by any participant.

It is inevitable that when making comparisons of current events to those of Hitler's Germany, a writer will be accused of utilizing a degree of hyperbole-that is, exaggerating the situation for effect. However, I would invite the reader to consider the degree of documented exaggeration that has been used by federal officials in weaving a tapestry in which advocacy of gun rights has been made equivalent to aiding and abetting terrorism.

As this is written, no court has yet convened in the case of the Oklahoma City bombing, yet within days, it was settled in the court of public opinion that the fault could be laid at the feet of "militias." (Ironically, no documentary evidence exists linking the primary suspects to any militia, but a photograph of what appears to be Timothy McVeigh in the company of BATF agents, weeks before the bombing, has been widely circulated.) Regardless, settled public opinion was utilized in pushing through a federal crime bill, greatly expanding federal powers, based on fear of "terrorist militias" and the accepted scenario for how the bombing was carried out. While firearms were in no way a factor in the bombing, the incident provided fuel for more strident calls for gun control, and pragmatic arguments in defense of firearms rights were neatly turned into evidence of support for terrorism.

When TWA Flight 800 was downed, again new legislation and new security regulations were imposed within days, mostly aimed at controlling the explosives that allegedly brought down the airliner. Now there seems to be a consensus that mechanical failure caused the disaster; there has been no corresponding relaxation of the new security measures.

When the Olympic Park was bombed, there was instantaneous suspicion placed on a local militia group-despite reports that members of that group already had unilaterally reported to the FBI that one of their members (as it turned out, a government agent provocateur) had been proposing bizarre criminal activities. Quickly blame was shifted to an erstwhile security guard, who now has been declared blameless. Nonetheless, quickly-drafted legislation that could lead to the registration and tagging of all sporting gunpowders remains in place, and again, opposition to these measures is equated to a desire to maim young athletes.

In the same time frame, the so-called "Viper Militia" was announced to have been caught planning a campaign of bombings of government buildings. Later, it turned out that the "militia," as such, had virtually been a product of the imagination of another government agent provocateur, with some claiming that even the name "Viper Militia" was coined and used mostly by him. As this is written, all of the front-page charges of terrorist intent and conspiracy have been plea-bargained down to page 23 charges of illegally playing with explosives-but legislative proposals still are crafted on the original, front-page version of the story.

It is worth reflecting that when the Reichstag burned, Hitler knew how to capitalize on it; who, if anyone, actually lit a match was totally immaterial. That the guilty parties in most of the above examples are yet to be identified; or that in some cases government agent provocateurs were involved; or that in other cases no real crimes at all had been committed; all are immaterial, in political terms. A milieu has been created wherein reasoned criticism of the resulting proposals for gun control legislation, lowers one to the status of those newest mythical Untermenschen, the militias.

I am not a student of the Holocaust. However, I have encountered the opinion that the full-blown, mass extermination of Hitler's Untermenschen is something even he hadn't foreseen in his early days, when he used "The Jew" as the necessary devil for advancing his greater agenda. Some say it resulted from an accidental convergence of Germany's misfortunes of war with Hitler's escalating insanity. But planned or not, there is no disputing that the early reduction of Jews to the status of a subhuman monolith, for political purposes, paved the way for the mass exterminations that followed.

While it may not be likely, it is not completely implausible that some greater terror could grow out of the cynical reduction of the American "gun lobby" to a stereotyped, subhuman monolith. In some states, such as California and New Jersey, state-level gun bans already have turned literally tens of thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens into documented but unprosecuted criminals, for not turning in banned weapons. In most cases, ownership of those weapons is recorded, but with non-compliance at 90 percent or greater, a round-up of violators has been politically unfeasible. It is not difficult to envision a scenario, perhaps starting with a truly horrendous attack by foreign terrorists, leading to a knee-jerk demand for all of those people-already identified as militiamen-cum-terrorists-cum-racists by a complicit national media-to be rounded up in mass gun raids. I will allow your imagination to fill in the rest.

At this point, it may be expected that I will make a recommendation for countering the deliberate reduction of a whole segment of our society to the status of victims waiting to happen. I cannot do that, except to urge potential victims to recognize what is happening, and consider first what has not worked in the past.

Much as with the German Jewish community of the early '30s, there is a conventional wisdom among the majority of America's political Untermenschen, who believe that moderate speech and political compromise will win the hearts and minds of their neighbors. (Recall that the NRA waffled and ran for cover within hours of one of its spokesmen calling "jack-booted thugs" by their right name.) I am old enough to remember that no progress had been made using moderate tactics, for well over 20 years- at least, from that day a co-worker expressed amazement that "You People" still were allowed into a defense plant building.

(Andy Barniskis is chairman of the Legislative Committee of the Bucks County [Pennsylvania] Sportsmen's Coalition.)

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An abridged version of the above article appeared in the February 1997 issue of The Pragmatist, Box 392, Forest Grove, PA 18922. The above version may be freely reprinted and reproduced with appropriate credit to the author, but only in its entireity; quotes taken out of context must be approved by the author.

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