Fact Check

Did the U.S. Government Purchase 30,000 Guillotines?

Some conspiracy theories are so far-fetched that they don't even have the tiniest amount of evidence behind them.

Published Jun 29, 2013

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The U.S. government has purchased a stockpile of 30,000 guillotines.

An item about the U.S. government's supposedly having purchased 30,000 guillotines after receiving Congressional approval to do so was circulated widely in mid-June 2013 on various online sites, apparently originating with a blog that traffics in anti-Muslim articles and familiar conspiracy rumors such as the alleged existence of "FEMA concentration camps."

As usual with such types of rumors, none of those sites offered any evidence documenting that Congress had approved the purchase of guillotines, that the U.S. government had actually bought tens of thousands of those instruments, or that such machines were stored in stockpiles in Georgia and Montana, as claimed — all that information was simply repetition of rumor asserted as fact (i.e., "information we received") with no proof whatsoever behind it:

The use of guillotines for "governmental purposes" was lobbied for and passed in the U.S. Congress.

The information we received is that 15,000 are currently stored in Georgia and 15,000 in Montana.

Are the beheadings by Muslims today meant to desensitize us against U.S. Government beheadings in the future?

In fact, Congress passed no such authorization (for the types of guillotines used for chopping off heads, anyway — smaller tabletop guillotines are used for mundane tasks such as trimming paper), and rumors about the military's supposed stockpiling of guillotines for use after a declaration of martial law (in furtherance of a New World Order conspiracy) are nothing new — they've been around since at least as far back as the George W. Bush administration in mid-2008. This was the same old junk in a different package.

Sources promulgating this rumor often point to a supposed new law in Georgia authorizing the use of guillotines for executions. Although it is true that Georgia state legislator Doug Teper proposed changing the state's laws to legalize execution by guillotine back in 1996, that suggestion was intended to provide an option for condemned prisoners who wished to donate their organs (which would be rendered unsuitable for transplantation by either lethal injection or electrocution, and it was never passed (or even voted upon) by the state legislature.

An indication of the credibility of this form of rumor can be gauged by noting that the illustration used to accompany one outbreak of it wasn't a photograph of a real guillotine at all, but rather a picture of a satirical "Chanel guillotine" sculpture by artist Tom Sachs.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.