As we read stories of violent protests and watch racial agitators continually act lawlessly accountable, we need to understand we are are in a place we’ve been before. We were here in 1968, where protests dominated the news, and where the result was the passage of sweeping gun control in the form of the Gun Control Act of 1968.
Then, as now, we had a Democratic president. President Lyndon Baines Johnson was more than happy to sign the measure that outlined categories of regulated firearms, made it illegal for a law-abiding citizen to buy a handgun in person from a retailer outside his or her state of residence, and placed new taxes on firearm importers, manufacturers, and dealers, among other things. In other words, he was more than happy to punish American society as whole, and shackle law-abiding citizens, rather than confront the lawlessness where it was and as it was.
Then, as now,the Second Amendment Foundation shows polls were being used to say the American people were open to gun control while Senators and Representatives were simultaneously being bombarded by mountains of mail and constituent contacts opposing gun control.
Then, as now, the debate leading up to the passage of gun control lasted years–and those supporting it kept up just enough pressure that when high-profile, public incidents likes the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. (April 1968) and Robert Kennedy (June 1968) occurred, they were able to push gun control over the top.
Finally, then, as now, the gun control proposed — and passed in 1968 — did not stop the very actions at which it was aimed. The goal of keeping guns out of the hands of protesters, Black Panthers, and others, traveling state-to-state and contributing to unrest actually turned into a reality where a law-abiding citizen from one state was barred from purchasing a handgun for self-defense from a retailer in another.
In other words, the vulnerable were made more vulnerable while the government that refused to confront lawlessness was able to use that very lawlessness as an excuse for more laws.
The gun control proposed today by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) would not achieve its stated goal; Manchin admitted as much. Gun trafficking laws and online gun sale regulations Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly called for would come up short as well, because we already have gun trafficking laws and online gun sale regulations.
Unlike citizens in 1968, we have to be smart enough to keep the pressure on our Senators and Representatives so they know we are not looking for a crackdown on guns, but a crackdown on lawlessness.
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at email@example.com.