Propaganda: Ronald Reagan believed guns have no place in society! He would be an enemy of the NRA! Republicans have become so extreme that even their hero, Ronald Reagan, would not be one of them today!
First, let’s get this out-of-the-way: Ronald Reagan was a long-time Lifetime Member of the NRA.
Ok, there’s a lot here so stay with me. You’ll be glad you did…
Let’s deal with the quote, second. It goes as follows:
I do not believe in taking away the right of the citizen for sporting, for hunting and so forth, or for home defense,” he said. “But I do believe that an AK-47, a machine gun, is not a sporting weapon or needed for defense of a home.
Reagan, then 78-years old, retired and living at his ranch near Stockton, CA, made this statement at a birthday celebration for him at the University of Southern California, on February 6, 1989. On January 17, 1989, less than a month earlier, 24-year old Patrick Purdy, armed with a AK-47, killed five school children and wounded thirty others before killing himself at a Stockton, California, Elementary School.
Reagan was 78, he was emotional, the massacre happened in his home state, practically around the corner from his ranch, he was responding to a question from the audience, and he erred on the “machine gun” part. But, we can take him at his word that he didn’t believe “machine guns” should be legal.
A “machine gun” is a fully automatic weapon. A fully automatic weapon means it continues to fire rounds after you depress and hold the trigger one time. A semi-automatic weapon means you have to squeeze the trigger to expel each round. Purdy did not use a “machine gun”. The AK-47 he used was a semi-automatic weapon. “Machine guns”, fully automatic weapons, were made illegal under the Firearm Owners Protection Act (FOPA), in 1986, under President Ronald Reagan.
Firearm Owners Protection Act? Sounds like it protects the rights of firearm owners, doesn’t it?
So, what did FOPA, do? Here are the major provisions:
- The Act mandated that ATF compliance inspections can be done only once per year
- Affirmed the Hughes Amendment, which banned “machine guns” or fully automatic weapons (more on this later)
- Affirmed the Safe Passage provision, allowing firearms owners to travel between States without being exposed to States’ restrictive gun laws
- Prohibited the US Government from keeping records of gun sales or maintaining a gun registry of American Citizens
FOPA was signed by Ronald Reagan in response to, and in support of, the NRA’s allegations of abuse by ATF agents. As related by Wikipedia:
In the Report of the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, 97th Congress, Second Session (February 1982), a bipartisansubcommittee (consisting of 3 Republicans and 2 Democrats) of the United States Senate investigated the Second Amendment and reported its findings. The report stated:
“The conclusion is thus inescapable that the history, concept, and wording of the second amendment to the Constitution of the United States, as well as its interpretation by every major commentator and court in the first half century after its ratification, indicates that what is protected is an individual right of a private citizen to own and carry firearms in a peaceful manner.“
It concluded that seventy-five percent of ATF prosecutions were “constitutionally improper”, especially on Second Amendment issues.
So, FOPA was signed into law by Reagan to leash the Federal Government, specifically the ATF, in its abuse of our Second Amendment Rights. Said abuse being confirmed by a bipartisan Committee of Democrats and Republicans. This was back in the day when Democrats still believed in the Constitution.
It’s noteworthy that the Hughes Amendment, banning automatic weapons, was carried by a controversial “voice vote” as decreed by Charlie Rangel (D-NY), who was presiding as Chairman over the proceedings. Immediately, House members pleaded with Rangel to take a a recorded vote. Rangel ignored this plea. The ban on “Machine guns” was carried by a a raucous and controversial voice vote that many maintain would not have held had the vote been recorded.
As for the Brady Bill, courtesy of Wikipedia:
Jim Brady was press secretary to President Ronald Reagan when both he and the president, along with Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy and District of Columbia police officerThomas Delehanty, were shot on March 30, 1981, during an assassination attempt by John Hinckley, Jr. Brady was shot in the head and suffered a serious wound that left him partially paralyzed for life.
Ronald Reagan, by then retired from Office, clearly felt sympathy for Jim Brady, and he did support the Brady Bill. As enacted, it simply states:
That background checks be conducted on individuals before a firearm may be purchased from a federally licensed dealer, manufacturer or importer.
A couple of facts about the effectiveness of The Brady Bill:
- From 1994 through 2009, over 107 million Brady background checks were conducted. During this period, only 1.8% of attempted firearm purchases were blocked by the Brady background check system.
- Prosecution and conviction of violators of the Brady Act, however, is extremely rare. During the first 17 months of the Act, only seven individuals were convicted. In the first year of the Act, 250 cases were referred for prosecution and 217 of them were rejected.
And what about the Mulford Act?
There’s a lot of urban legend that swirls around the Mulford Act. The truth is, it is an innocuous piece of legislation as defined by two sections of the California Penal Code, 12031 and 171c. It basically states that you cannot carry a loaded weapon in public in plain view, or concealed without a concealed weapons permit, or on State Capitol property, period. It was introduced in California in 1967 and signed into law by California Governor Ronald Reagan. The Mulford Act was widely recognized as a response to Black Panthers intimidating police by gathering with loaded rifles and shotguns as police attempted to arrest blacks in their communities.
The political drama aside, Mulford says nothing more than you can’t carry a loaded weapon in plain view. And that you can’t carry it concealed without a permit. And that you can’t carry it, period, on State Government property. Nearly every State in the Union currently has laws that accomplish the same thing. Relative to exhibiting Reagan as a progressive gun control proponent, it’s a dud.
So, where does all of this leave us?
Did Reagan believe in some gun regulation?
- No question. But the gun regulation that Reagan espoused was codified into law under the Mulford Act, the Firearm Owners Protection Act and The Brady Bill. Each of these laws have been in force for more than 20 years.
Would Reagan oppose the NRA?
- Ridiculous. He was a celebrated Lifetime Member of the NRA.
Would Reagan support the kinds of gun control legislation that progressives are proposing, and for which they are citing Reagan as a supporter?
- There is no evidence that Reagan believed in more gun control than what he supported and passed.
Actually, the record shows that Reagan would be strongly opposed to the kinds of gun control currently being proposed by the Left. I’ll let him make the case in his own words:
“In my opinion, proposals to outlaw or confiscate guns are simply unrealistic panacea.”
The Second Amendment “leaves little, if any, leeway for the gun control advocate,” he added that “the right of the citizen to keep and bear arms must not be infringed if liberty in America is to survive.”
“You won’t get gun control by disarming law-abiding citizens. There’s only one way to get real gun control: Disarm the thugs and the criminals, lock them up and if you don’t actually throw away the key, at least lose it for a long time… It’s a nasty truth, but those who seek to inflict harm are not fazed by gun controllers. I happen to know this from personal experience.”
And, my favorite:
“There are those in America today who have come to depend absolutely on government for their security. And when government fails they seek to rectify that failure in the form of granting government more power. So, as government has failed to control crime and violence with the means given it by the Constitution, they seek to give it more power at the expense of the Constitution. But in doing so, in their willingness to give up their arms in the name of safety, they are really giving up their protection from what has always been the chief source of despotism — government.”
Ronald Reagan … anti-gun, anti-NRA, anti-Second Amendment?