USA – -(Ammoland.com)- “Why must all gun owners be classified as being pawns of, or brainwashed by, the NRA?” the “Trigger Talk” column in the October, 1968 issue of GUNS Magazine asked. “With one million members, the NRA still has little or no influence over the rest of the 20 million gun owners in the U.S. Why can’t the news media believe that 19 million people have minds of their own, and as much right to “lobby” as the members of the NRA?”
Probably because it’s easier to focus on a monolithic target and you don’t need to call attention to individuals the people you’re trying to influence live among. Otherwise they might catch on they’re being conned, and that the stereotypes being foisted on them bear little resemblance to the friends and neighbors being smeared.
Media hostility to and subversion of the right to keep and bear arms has only grown stronger and more pervasive over the last 50 years, and at the time this issue of GUNS hit the newsstands, Americans were about to have the greatest infringements since the National Firearms Act of 1934 forced on them by representatives capitalizing on media-fueled-political hysteria: The 1968 Gun Control Act was signed into “law” by President Lyndon Baines Johnson on October 22 (the semicentennial is today).
Due to magazine publishing lead times, that was still a few months away when this issue of GUNS came out, so reporting on that could not be included at press time. Still, it contained plenty more unique advocacy reporting on what the political establishment was up to. As such, the magazine was an early leader in mobilizing citizen activism in defense of the right to keep and bear arms.
“A total ban on all guns is in the final stages of enactment at this writing, Carl Wolff, who penned the regular “Our Man in Washington” column warned. The “no one is talking about taking your guns” lie is what the gun-grabbers have always been talking about. A Shooters Club of America alert in the January 1968 issue of GUNS warned its readers about GCA ’68 author Sen. Thomas Dodd:
“He has said, ‘I would be for abolishing all guns … I never saw any sense in guns anyway, and I do not go backward by saying so. I hope some day the world will say, ‘Destroy them all.’”
“Chances are that when Congress closes, all sales of so-called mail order guns will be stopped,” Wolff warned. And all out of state purchases of guns will be stopped.”
This is the kind of history that very few today, even in the gun owner rights advocacy community, are aware of. Fortunately for us, GUNS Magazine has seen the value of posting its past issues going back to Volume One, No. 1-1, from January 1955, archived on its website.
It’s been the source of remarkable historical finds over the years, all the more interesting because Democrats are now out of the closet as the party of citizen disarmament. Case in point, check out this quote in the “Know Your Lawmakers” feature from the April, 1960 issue by none other than John F. Kennedy:
By CALLING ATTENTION to ‘a well regulated militia,' the ‘security' of the nation, and the right of each citizen ‘to keep and bear arms,' our founding fathers recognized the essentially civilian nature of our economy. Although it is extremely unlikely that the fears of governmental tyranny which gave rise to the Second Amendment will ever be a major danger to our nation, the Amendment still remains an important declaration of our basic civilian-military relationships, in which every citizen must be ready to participate in the defense of his country. For that reason I believe the Second Amendment will always be important.
Then there’s this bit of wisdom in the February, 1960 issue from “liberal icon” Hubert H. Humphrey:
CERTAINLY ONE of the chief guarantees of freedom under any government, no matter how popular and respected, is the right of citizens to keep and bear arms. This is not to say that firearms should not be very carefully used, and that definite safety rules of precaution should not be taught and enforced. But the right of citizens to bear arms is just one more guarantee against arbitrary government, one more safeguard against a tyranny which now appears remote in America, but which historically has proved to be always possible.
Another article illustrating a “180” in attitudes paid tribute to J. Henry Fitzgerald, legendary “in two fields of gun wizardry: for his shooting, which was fabulous, and for his artistry with tools in making fine guns even better.” In addition to that, Fitzgerald “was ‘half cop’: Inspector-Instructor New York State Police School … Member New York State Police Chiefs Association.”
Compare his convictions with New York’s politically-motivated police chiefs of today when he advocated:
“If the good citizens of our country knew how to handle firearms properly, crime would decrease by half.”
Good stuff, and there’s more. Unlike today’s age of hypocritical Hollywood hoplophobia, it was quite common to find “A-list” celebrities showcasing their love of guns: The October ’68 issue includes a full-page ad for Mossberg, featuring beaming actor Robert Stack kneeling by his coyote kill. Imagine the Twitter death wishes that would “provoke” today.
Standing out on the cover of this issue is the title “Boy’s Rifles of Yesteryear,” taking us back to a time before school shootings, and recalling an even earlier time when a boy could earn a rifle by selling cards, salves and seeds. “Like the shaggy mutt, it was the boy’s constant companion,” the article remembered about a commonly accepted practice that today would more likely result in SWAT being deployed, depending on where you live.
Plus there are features one would expect to find in a gun magazine, the technical stuff on guns and ammunition, the reviews, and the ads with prices that illustrate the (intentional) devaluation of the dollar more than anything else.
I always get a kick out of introducing readers to these old issues – I find most had no idea digitally-archived copies even existed and it opens up a whole new and vast resource that will only grow as time goes on. As we prepare to note the passing of an anniversary that ought to be marked with infamy, we need to familiarize ourselves with what happened in the past so that we can apply its useful lessons to the present.
That is if we want to make the centennial a cause to celebrate a victory.
Disclosure: I’m a field editor for GUNS Magazine and write the monthly “Rights Watch” column.
About David Codrea:
David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating / defending the RKBA and a long-time gun owner rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament. In addition to being a field editor/columnist at GUNS Magazine, he blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” and posts on Twitter: @dcodrea and Facebook.