by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The horrific shootings at Uvalde Elementary School have once again brought gun control into the national debate. The political divide remains the same; with Republicans defending the Second Amendment and Democrats demanding more stringent gun control to allegedly stop such shootings from occurring in the future.
This issue is so partisan that it is hard to remember that once upon a time there wasn’t such a clear divide between right and left.
In 1934, crediting trigger-happy bank robbers such as Bonnie and Clyde, newly elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed and signed into law the first federal gun-control act. The bill involved the national registration and taxation of all firearms.
Republicans and Democrats in Congress were alarmed about this threat to gun rights, and gutted the bill to taxing only shotguns and machine guns — weapons at that time only used by criminals. They protected the rights of pistol owners from registration and taxation, asserting that rural landowners did not have quick access to police protection and thus needed to defend their homes. …
… But what is most surprising about the history of the gun control debate isn’t that once upon a time Democrats and Republicans banded together against gun control legislation or that Heston, once the most public face of gun rights, supported restrictions on gun ownership by an uber-liberal president. It is that many on the left, in contrast to those today who line up en masse for gun control legislation, have supported the Second Amendment.
Given the police and vigilante violence against the civil rights movement in the 1960s, support of the Second Amendment was one matter that united Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., who otherwise differed considerably. Malcolm X asserted that American blacks should own a weapon, as did King, who owned a gun and traveled with armed guards.
Even white socialists, in contrast to the Democratic Socialist Party today, opposed gun control.