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February 6, 2013

Viewpoint: Arguments of 2013 much the same in 1938’s ‘New Guns for Old’ article

Just for a few minutes let’s look back in American history. Can homicides really be reduced with more gun laws and restrictions?

January 1938, The Commentator magazine, edited by Lowell Thomas, included an article by Homer Cummings titled “New Guns for Old.” 75 years ago. During that time the attorney general proposed a better registration system as the first step toward disarming the “underworld” and “mobsters.”

The writer discusses how a judge never thought he needed a pistol until threatened by a criminal soon to be released from prison. Here in America, the judge said, it never occurred to him to have a permit to purchase a revolver to protect himself. “In Canada only three out of 10 homicides were by guns. In America nearly seven out of 10 homicides were caused by firearms. Handgun permits were required in Canada,” Cummings wrote.

Cummings continues to discuss how the “underworld” traffic in firearms reached appalling dimensions. State laws that prohibited the carrying of concealed weapons had not been affective. “It is important to understand at the outset that federal action is not and should not be exclusive. It is limited and auxiliary for regulating commerce,” he said.

In 1921, Colt Patent Firearms Manufacturing Co. created 15,000 sub-machine guns. Over 6,000 were sold in the open market and not to the military. In the spring of 1934 the National Firearms Act began to take some action toward the “Tommy” gun. But, the control didn’t really affect the “gangster onslaught of violence.” In 1936 a bank robbery investigation netted two rifles, two shotguns, nine pistols, one revolver and one machine gun. Cummings comments, “It is folly to compel the registration of a short-barrel shotgun and at the same time exempt the modern high-powered rifles and revolvers.”

Cummings goes on to discuss how he urged Congress to adopt a measure which would extend the National Firearms act to include “all firearms.” Everyone must register any type of firearm and  give extensive identification and pay a tax. “No honest man can object. Show me the man who doesn’t want his gun registered and I will show you a man who shouldn’t have a gun.” Many would disagree.

There are now millions of guns in America. Purchases at various open markets and gun shows reflect some control while gun shop owners follow FFL and ATF rules. Many good gun owners for valid reasons do not want to register their weapons for fear of confiscation by the government or undue controls violating the Second Amendment.

Cummings ends his article of 1938 with the following paragraph. “These measures of registration will “be branded as a nuisance. It involves less red tape than securing an automobile license. We have a homicide rate in this country which runs annually between 11,000 and 12,000 victims a year. Almost 70 percent  of these deaths are due to firearms. Considering these facts, the “nuisance” argument has an empty sound, cites Cummings.

This article of 1938 sounds much too similar to today’s arguments. As a Vietnam veteran, I support the Second Amendment and the right to own and bear arms.  

While many people do not object to increased background checks and some limitations on weapons, most do not want changes. Can we really stop the criminal mind? The insane? Do we really think we can identify and collect all the types of weapons from the mentally ill?

They didn’t have violent video games and extremely violent graphic films then. While the movie industry  supports heavy restrictions on guns, they continue to want it both ways.

Let’s not forget that on May 18, 1927, in Bath, Mich., a part-time caretaker blew up a school killing 38 children, seven adults, himself and wounded 58 others. No guns were involved.

Many very good laws, both state and federal, exist and are enforced regarding weapons.

As Thomas Jefferson once said, “Those that sacrifice freedom for safety, deserve neither.” One thing is for sure, steps must be taken to protect our schools and reduce gun violence. I hope it’s possible.

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