Background to Gun Control in America

Most Americans understand the importance of the right of the individual to keep and bear arms while at the same time most Americans also understand the need for moderate regulations. Fully automatic weapons were not invented at the time of the founding of the American Republic and, as such, most people understand that such weapons pose a threat to pubic safety. At the same time, most Americans are not comfortable with a disarmed society especially in light of the statistical increase in violent crime in societies that have disarmed their citizens.

Americans have always viewed the right of the individual to keep and bear arms as a sacred right and as a fundamental element in a system of checks and balances. The American Revolution, the battles of Concord and Lexington in 1775, the famous “shot heard around the world” at the Concord bridge was fired by a patriot, a citizen militia member, was an attempt to stop an order issued by British General Gage for the British occupying force in Boston to confiscate the weapons of all citizens.

At the time of the crafting of the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights, 1788-1789, the founders and the American people viewed the right to keep and bear arms as a natural check against the power of the Federal Government, as intrinsic a part of that balance as the relationship between the three branches of government and between the states and the Federal Government. The Civil War was concluded in 1865 at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia only when Union General Ulysses S. Grant agreed with Confederate General Robert E. Lee that the Confederate Army regulars were to be permitted to return to their homes in possession of their side arms. The Tulsa Race Riot 1921 was triggered by an attempt to disarm the Black population of Greenwood, known at the time as Negro Wall Street. 

Those who seek to protect gun rights today accurately point to examples where the gun rights of citizens have been taken away and the result has been totalitarianism and genocide. The most famous example of this was the confiscation of firearms by the German Weimar Republic, which enacted the 1928 “Law on Firearms and Ammunition” which was conducted in the name of preserving law and order. Once Hitler was elected in 1933, and once he consolidated his power over Germany and established a National Police, the Gestapo, the police knew that they could break down the door of a Jewish family or that of anyone deemed to be an enemy of the state without worrying that someone on the other side of the door might stop them with a gun. The Soviet Union and Communist China also ban private ownership of guns thus their respective national police agencies are free to operate with impunity.  
The “National Firearms Act” of 1934 mandated the registration of firearms by local communities and county sheriffs. The act also mandated that transfer of ownership of a firearm be registered with a Federal NFA agency and that the transport of a firearm across state lines be reported to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The purpose of the act was to restrict “gangster weapons” as personal firearms were exempted at the time.

The gun control debate continues with the majority of Americans supporting the right to keep and bear arms. The gun control advocates would accomplish more if they did away with their false utopian view that the society would benefit by an outright ban on firearms ownership and instead focused on reasonable and rational control.