A common theme in the current debate on gun violence is that it is only liberals that are for controlling firearms and that it is President Obama leading the way as the only President to have ever considered gun control. History clearly suggests otherwise.
Gun Control…the catchall phrase which can mean everything from confiscation to requiring an ID to buy a firearm, depending upon who is trying to define the term is historically the result of an act of gun violence that makes the country stop and reevaluate its priorities regarding guns, gun violence and the role of government in affecting the safety of society.
St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, Chicago, 1929
The National Firearms Act of 1934 was the result of gangster violence in the 1920s and early 1930s…punctuated by bootlegging wars in places like Chicago and Kansas City to the hundreds of bank robberies of John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Machine Gun Kelly and Bonnie and Clyde. The common denominators…extreme gun violence and machine guns.
The Gun Control Act of 1968 was the direct result of five events…the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr and the Supreme Court ruling on Haynes v United States which negated part of the 1934 Act. After the two very high profile assassinations in 1968, passage of the bill was pushed by an outraged public and much of the 1968 bill was supported by the NRA.
Robert Kennedy Assassinated, 1968 – Ron Bennett Photography
In 1972 George Wallace, southern governor who was campaigning to be President was shot during a campaign rally and left wheelchair bound. President Richard Nixon, himself on the campaign trail was outraged that, yet again the political process was impacted by gun violence. The Washington Post reports that, post assassination attempt Nixon “proposed ridding the market of Saturday night specials, contemplated banning handguns altogether and refused to pander to gun owners by feigning interest in their weapons.”
Nixon is quoted from his copious Oval Office tapes, this from May 16, 1972…
“I don’t know why any individual should have a right to have a revolver in his house.” “The kids usually kill themselves with it and so forth.” He asked why “can’t we go after handguns, period?”
Nixon Attorney General John Mitchell spoke to the question of getting rid of the cheap, $20 Saturday Night Specials by saying “No, the gun lobby’s against any incursion into the elimination of firearms.”
Exactly one month later, June 17, 1972 burglars working for the Nixon “Committee to Re-elect the President” broke into the Watergate offices of the Democratic National Committee. Within a month President Nixon’s priorities had changed completely… fighting for his legacy, his presidency, and his freedom.
This was not, however Nixon’s first commentary on guns. In a 1969 conversation with his then staff speech writer William Safire Nixon said “Guns are an abomination.”
Long time outspoken Republican William Safire, in 1999 working as the libertarian-conservative voice of the New York Times wrote regarding the Second Amendment…
“[A] right that sometimes isn’t is no right at all. After a great job on the First Amendment, the amending Founders botched the Second.
The intellectually lazy will say, ”Let the Supremes sort it out.” I say, let the people decide a political issue. Either we’re serious about our right to gun ownership or we’re serious about our need for gun control.
Here’s how to fix a flawed amendment that is the source of so much confusion: Repeal its ambiguous preamble. Let some member of Congress introduce an amendment to strike the words before the comma in the Second Amendment.”
James Brady shot during Reagan assassination attempt, March 1981
In March 1981, outside the Washington Hilton Hotel, Ronald Reagan met an assassin’s bullet. It was not successful in killing Ronald Reagan, or his Press Secretary James Brady. It was, however the action that directly led to the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban…led by Republicans James and Sarah Brady. The bill is commonly known as the Brady Bill in James Brady’s honor. Further, it was advocated by Ronald Reagan who said in a March 28th speech to George Washington University and a March 29th editorial in the New York Times…
“Every year, an average of 9,200 Americans are murdered by handguns, according to Department of Justice statistics. This does not include suicides or the tens of thousands of robberies, rapes and assaults committed with handguns.
This level of violence must be stopped. Sarah and Jim Brady are working hard to do that, and I say more power to them. If the passage of the Brady bill were to result in a reduction of only 10 or 15 percent of those numbers (and it could be a good deal greater), it would be well worth making it the law of the land.”
Reagan further addressed his philosophy on gun violence by saying.
“California, which has a 15-day waiting period that I supported and signed into law [Mulford Act] while Governor, stopped nearly 1,800 prohibited handgun sales in 1989.”
In 2002, post 9/11 William F. Buckley, Jr. framed his thoughts on gun control with this…
“The assertion of a right at ridiculous lengths — the absolutization of it, in the manner of the American Civil Liberties Union — is a way of undermining it. If the Constitution says you can say anything you want under any circumstances, then you can shout “fire” in a crowded movie theater. If you have the right to remain silent in all circumstances, then you can decline to give testimony vital to another citizen’s freedom and rights. If you insist that a citizen has the right to own a machine gun, you discredit his right to own a pistol or a rifle.”
Buckley’s position is summarized that he is opposed to gun control, but cannot fathom the NRA’s opposition to banning so-called assault rifles.
Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, James Brady, William Safire, William F. Buckley, Jr. These are not left wing, liberal haters of guns. They are pillars of the Republican Party, of the conservative movement in the United States. They support the Second Amendment and they are realistic enough to understand that gun control – in one of its many fluid definitions is necessary to stop gun violence, necessary to strengthen the fabric of American society.
McAllister is a life long liberal, environmentalist, Eagle Scout, and even gun owner – born in Harlan, Kentucky and has lived in Southern California, New York City and now resided in Lexington, Kentucky as a Systems Analyst.
You can read more of McAllister’s observations and opinions at Shoot From the Left Hip.