Politicians responding to an invitation to express their views in a national magazine on the right of the people to keep and bear arms revealed much about their ignorance and outright unwillingness to be pinned down on the topic.
Rep. Ralph R. Harding, an Idaho Democrat, started off well enough:
I FEEL STRONGLY that the right of the people to keep and bear arms must be protected and guaranteed.
Unfortunately, Harding then felt it necessary to show everyone his big “but” with his qualification that firearm ownership should be “allowed” provided they are “in [the] home” and stored unloaded and apart from ammunition.
But it wasn’t just Democrats who proved unworthy of trust to safeguard rights. Rep. Garner E. Shriver, a Kansas Republican, gave one of the more inexcusable and pathetic responses:
SINCE I AM JUST beginning to fulfill my responsibilities as a Congressman, I feel that I must decline this opportunity to express my views on the Second Amendment at this time.
This evasion to address a fundamental guarantee enshrined in the Bill of Rights, part of the Constitution he swore an oath to support and defend, was echoed by Republican Senator Caleb Boggs of Delaware, who similarly weaseled out of an answer:
… AT THE PRESENT TIME my schedule and activities as a new Senator trying to get acquainted with my responsibilities combine to preclude the possibility of my devoting the time and thought which such a statement for your good publication merits. I would be glad, however, at a later date to cooperate with you and hope that I may have an opportunity to do so.
One might ask where the hell gun owners were when these swindlers were out there hawking their political snake oil in the hopes that enough rubes would swallow it to give them political power. And the answer is, for the most part, asleep at the wheel.
Because these responses were provided half a century ago, before a renewed push for citizen disarmament began, and most gun owners were content to collect, hunt and target shoot, and eschew self government by leaving such matters to the “professionals.” Regular Gun Rights Examiner readers know that every month, GUNS, the magazine I write the “Rights Watch” column for, posts the corresponding monthly issue from 50 years ago as a free download on its website, giving us a fascinating window into a past some of us are old enough to remember.
So we see then-Delaware Governor, Democrat Elbert N. Carvel maintaining “Delaware statutes, such as those restricting the carrying of concealed deadly weapons…help to curb abuses of this right,” and calling such restrictions “sensibl[e] and reasonabl[e],” and arguing against all sensible and reasonable logic that this would “help guarantee to future generations that this right to keep and bear arms will not be lost.”
We see Congressman David N. Henderson, a North Carolina Democrat, playing up sporting purposes and playing down any relationship of the right to a modern-day militia, evidently ignorant—and for a judge, that’s scary—of the recognition of the “unorganized militia” in U.S. Code.
And we see Republican Governor Norman A. Erbe of Iowa reduce an unalienable right to the mere “privilege” that “law abiding citizens should not be deprived of the opportunity of enjoying their avocations of gun collecting, hunting, and target shooting.”
These political creatures could not have gotten away with such a betrayal of founding principles had their constituents heeded Patrick Henry’s admonishment to “Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.”
Philosopher George Santayana observed “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Gun owners today would do well to observe how lack of vigilance on the part of an earlier generation left us to pay the price for their enabling, and to ask what we are doing to ensure our children are not left to pay the price for our apathy .
Click here to read the November 1961 issue of GUNS Magazine, as well as all editions posted since the magazine’s debut in January 1955.
- National Gun Rights Examiner GUNS Magazine archive
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