President Ronald Reagan
(Exerts from an article published in Guns & Ammo – November 1975)
“. . . the purpose of this article is make the case against gun control.”
Daily we read in the newspapers or see or hear on the air, stories of death and crime and violence involving the use of guns. There are tales of robbery victims that are shot down in cold blood or executed “gangland style.” There are stories of deranged parents killing their children or deranged children killing their parents. There are reports of snipers. And now and then the headlines blurt out that an assassin has struck again, killing a prominent official or citizen. All of these stories involve the use of guns, or seem to.
As a result, there is growing clamor to outlaw guns, to ban guns, to confiscate guns in the name of public safety and public good. These demands come from people genuinely concerned about rising crime rates, persons such as Sheriff Peter Pitchess of Los Angeles, who says gun control is an idea whose time has come. They come from people who see the outlawing of guns as a way of outlawing violence. And they come from those who see confiscation of weapons as one way of keeping the people under control.
Now, I yield to no one in my concern about crime, and especially crimes of violence. As governor of California for eight years, I struggled daily with that problem. I appointed judges who, to the best of my information, would be tough on criminals. We approved legislation to make it more difficult for persons with records of crime or instability to purchase firearms legally. We worked to bring about swift and certain punishment for persons guilty of crimes of violence. We fought hard to reinstate the death sentence after our state Supreme Court outlawed it, and after the U.S. Supreme Court followed suit; we won.
President Ford’s new Attorney General , Edward H. Levi, would ban guns in areas with high rates of crime. He thinks somehow that banning guns keeps them out of the hands of criminals. New Yorkers suffer under the Sullivan Act which makes law-abiding citizens sitting ducks for criminals who have no qualms about violating it in the process of killing and robing and burglarizing. Despite this, Mr. Levi apparently thinks that criminals will be willing to give up their guns if he makes carrying them against the law. What naivete!
Mightn’t it be better in those areas of high crime to arm the homeowner and the shopkeeper, teach him how to use his weapons and put the word out to the underworld that it is no longer totally safe to rob and murder? Our nation was built and civilized by men and women who used guns in self-defense and in pursuit of peace. One wonders indeed, if the rising crime rate, isn’t due as much as anything to the criminal’s instinctive knowledge that the average victim no longer has means of self-protection.
No one knows how many crimes are committed because the criminal knows he has a soft touch. No one knows how many stores have been let alone because the criminals knew it was guarded by a man with a gun or manned by a proprietor who knew how to use a gun. Criminals are not dissuaded by soft words, soft judges or easy laws. The are dissuaded by fear and they are prevented from repeating their crimes by death or by incarceration.
In my opinion, proposals to outlaw or confiscate guns are simply unrealistic panacea. We are never going to prevent murder; we are never going to eliminate crime; we are never going to end violent action by the criminals and the crazies – with or without guns. True, guns are a means for committing murder and other crimes, but they are not an essential means. The Los Angeles Slasher of last winter killed nine men without using a gun. People kill and rob with knives and clubs. Yet we have not talked about outlawing them. Poisons are easy to come by for the silent killer. The automobile is the greatest peacetime killer in history. There is no talk of banning the auto. With the auto we have cracked down on drunken drivers and on careless drivers. We need also to crack down on people who use guns carelessly or with criminal intent.
But back to the purpose of this article which, hopefully, is to make the case against gun control. The starting point must be the Constitution, because, above all, we are a nation of laws and the foundation for our laws, or lack of same, is the Constitution. It is amazing to me how so many people pay lip service to the Constitution, yet set out to twist and distort it when it stands in the way of things they think ought to be done or laws they believe ought to be passed. It is also amazing to me how often our courts do the same thing.
The Second Amendment is clear, or ought to be. It appears to leave little, if any, leeway for the gun control advocate. It reads, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Shall the people have the right to keep and bear arms? There is little doubt that the founding fathers thought they should have this right, and for a very specific reason: They distrusted government. All of the first 10 amendments make that clear. Each of them specifies an area where government cannot impose itself on the individual or where the individual must be protected from government.
The second amendment gives the individual citizen a means of protection against the despotism of the state. Look what it refers to: “The security of a free state.” The word “free” should be underlined because that is what they are talking about and that is what the Constitution is about — a free nation and a free people, where the rights of the individual are pre-eminent.
The gun has been called the great equalizer, meaning that a small person with a gun is equal to a large person, but its a great equalizer in another way, too. It insures that the people are the equal of their government whenever that government forgets that it is servant and not master of the governed. When the British forgot that they got a revolution. And, as a result, we Americans got a Constitution; a Constitution that, as those who wrote it were determined, would keep men free. If we give up part of that Constitution we give up part of our freedom and increase the chance that we will lose it all.
I am not ready to take that risk. I believe that the right of the citizen to keep and bear arms must not be infringed if liberty in America is to survive.
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