I grew up in a liberal household in a liberal community that favored banning handguns. My parents were friends with Dr. Potter, a left-leaning physician gunned down by a drug addict in the parking lot of Providence’s Miriam Hospital. His widow formed Handgun Alert, which eventually evolved into The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Which my parents supported. Why wouldn’t they? Save my father’s brief foray into duck hunting and his failed attempt to exorcise Holocaust flashbacks by owning a shotgun, we were an anti-gun household. And by “we” I also mean “me.” I was a gun control advocate. Why not confess earlier? I forgot . . .
Seriously. Gun control was a subset of a whole host of liberal causes backed by my parents – from the A.C.L.U.’s crusade for civil rights to Planned Parenthood’s campaign for easy-access birth control and abortion. In the same way that a child growing up in a Christian household believes that Jesus walked on water, I believed that “real” guns were for cops. I never questioned the efficacy, morality or practicality of gun control – until I was mugged.
As I moved away from liberalism in general (10 years in socialist England will do that to a guy), I moved away from gun control in specific. And towards a belief in limited government and an individual right to keep and bear arms. By the time I started this website, my transition was compete.
In the interest of transparency, I’m setting the Way Back Machine for 1979. I wrote the following recently discovered letter to the editor for a college assignment. I reckon the missive offers some insight into the mind of a gun grabber, and hope for gun rights supporters who fear that their opponents will never – can never – embrace their natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms.
One more thing: I’d love to do a point-by-point take-down of my anti-pistol polemic, as I do for anti-gun agitprop published in today’s mainstream media. Suffice it to say, all the arguments I deployed to support gun control as a college sophomore are the same sophomoric justifications I rip to pieces on these electronic pages. How great is that? Oh, and I got an A-.
To the Editor,
America has been without gun control for too long. Too many men, women and children have been brutally cut down by well equipped criminals and careless gun owners. Too many people are finding the ever-present gun a physical solution to their emotional problems. Guns are killing innocent people every day, and it is time that sensible Americans stopped armed violence at its source.
Our country has a long tradition of private gun ownership. The right to bear arms was written into our Constitution to give Americans tangible proof that they were free men: free to defend their life and liberty with force. In the pioneer days, guns provided protection: the nearest officer of the law was often miles away. But these days of “frontier justice” are over, and personal freedom can no longer be made righteous by the explosive force of a deadly weapon.
According to a report prepared by the Center for the Study and Prevention of Handgun Violence (in 1978), the vast majority of the American public favors federal registration of handguns. The reports goes on to reveal that 74% of the public favors registration of all guns in civilian hands. With such a clear public mandate, why is every motion aimed at ridding society of these cheap, plentiful handguns defeated? Ask former congressman Larry McDonald of Georgia.
McDonald, a loyal member of the fiercely conservative John Birch Society, has always been a staunch opponent of gun control. In many ways, McDonald’s fanaticism on the issue mirrors that of the gun lobby. While in Congress. McDonald lobbied violently against any legislative gun reform bill, saying that gun control would leave Americans defenseless against communist invasion. Also while in Congress, specifically during his second term in 1977, McDonald was found to have stockpiled some 200 guns in his Atlanta home. It is clear that one can not debate philosophically with men like McDonald for their philosophy is a philosophy of paranoia.
In 1968, Congress passed the Federal Firearms Control Act which stipulated that any person purchasing a weapon must show some i.d., proof of residence, and sign a statement that says he is not a felon. These requirements, heatedly denounced and contested by the gun lobby, passed the legislature by a slim margin. Ten years later the inadequacy of the law was pointed out in another study, this one by the General Accounting Office. It said, “There has been a direct relationship between increased handgun availability and increased gun-related crimes in America since the mid-sixties. The cause is difficult to determine: apparently the relationship is circular, an increase in one results in an increase in the other.
In response to any call for gun control, the gun lobby argues that “criminals kill people, not guns”. As most of us would agree that the criminal element is not inherently fatal, it follows that criminals with guns kill people. Besides, FBI statistics reveal that most gun related deaths occur between people who knew each other, usually stimulated to murder by sudden emotion. The formula for a reduction of gun fatalities seems simple enough: the less guns there are, the less potential there is they will be used.
The point is this: a small group of vociferous people are intimidating our elected officials from passing life-saving laws that would restrict the sale of guns. Even if you doubt the reasoning of the mighty gun lobby, you can not doubt their dedication. The will of the majority must be heard over the ravings of those who cause the deaths of our loved ones through their ignorance. We can not stand mute while slaughter daily approaches our doorsteps. We have an obligation, already written in the blood of those needlessly killed, to show the gun lobby that we too are willing to dedicate ourselves to action. It is time that we made ourselves heard on the issue of gun control.