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Thread: Gun control article from March 1969

  1. #1
    Regular Member buster81's Avatar
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    I recenlty came into possession of several items belonging to a dead relative. Among them, I fould the following article. I thought it might provide some interesting reading. I split it up into several posts.

    This is taken from the March 1969 issued of Playboy magazine. The author, Joseph Tydings was a Democraticmember of the US Senate, representingMaryland from 1965 to 1971. His stance on gun control and crime cost him cost him re-election in 1970.


    An article by U.S. Senator Joseph Tydings, a deeply committed legislator and longtime sportsman-hunter offers a rational, viable method of controlling – not eliminating – this country's vast civilian arsenal.

    “Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.

    “I've had nothing yet,” Alice replied in offended tone, “so I can't take anymore.”

        • - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

    There is a tendency to feel that way about gun control.

    Our fight began in March 1964, after President Kennedy was killed by a sniper in Dallas, using a rifle bought by mail from Chicago. The case was irrefutable. A man clearly deranged should not be able to buy a gun, and certainly not by mail from another state. Indeed, there could be no effective state gun-control laws unless interstate shipments were controlled.

    So for years, a small group of us in Senate and an even smaller group of Congressmen attempted to persuade our respective judiciary committees that gun-control legislation - in the most modest for imaginable – should be cleared for floor action. We were not successful. (We did manage to get in interstate-mail-order handgun-sale provision into the Omnibus Safe Streets Act, but only after we served notice that no bill would emerge from the judiciary committee without it.)

    Then, during a 60-day period last year, the debate was shifted. Assassins killed a Nobel Prize winner and a United States Senator who might have become the President; and we were no longer satisfied to fight so hard for the most modest of laws.

    “A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all therunning you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.”

    We tried to run twice as fast as before – but it just wasn't fast enough. The opponents of effective gun control ran as fast as we did.

    That there is public support for real gun laws is clear. Polls show that as much as 80 percent of the American people support them. Two thirds to 73 percent, the Harris and Gallup polls show, support registration and licensing of all firearms and licensing of gun purchases. And yet, the Senate voted 55 to 31 against registration and licensing.

    The attacks on our proposals had an Alice in Wonderland quality perhaps unique in modern legislative history. The Constitution, opponents said, protects from Governmental interference in the “right of the people to keep and bear arms.” It did not matter that every constitutional scholar, the U.S. Supreme Court, the Attorney General of the United States and most law-school professor one cares to consult agree that there is no constitutional impediment to firearms-crime-control legislation. Indeed, they agree, the Constitution refers to the public's collective right to a citizen militia or a National Guard. The Congress, if it chooses, has the constitutional authority to outlaw entirely private ownership of guns, although I would oppose this.

    Opponents said that the registration and licensing proposals – indeed, and gun-control proposal – are a plot to disarm the lawful. Criminals, they said, will not register their guns – only the law abiding will. Of course, confirmed criminals might not register their guns. But so what? If caught with an unregistered gun, the criminal or would-be criminal will go to jail. And registration records are immensely useful in tracing stolen weapons and in tracing guns to criminals, even if those guns are not registered in their names. As New Jersey Attorney General Arthur J. Sills testified last summer before our Senate subcommittee on juvenile delinquency:

    Returning briefly to the efficacy of firearms registration, there is not doubt that such a program would be of immeasurable value to the police in solving gun crimes. It would also be valuable to the police in other respects. For example, it would allow the police to trace a firearm to the original owner if stolen or lost. Furthermore, a gun, once registered, would make the owner aware of his responsibility and would discourage an indiscriminate resale.

    When a crime is committed by the driver of a car – in a hit-and-run accident or by fleeing the scene of a crime – the police have a good change of identifying the owner of that car through his license plate. But when a gun is found near the scene of a crime, there is little change in most states of identifying the owner, because the possession of that gun is not kept track of once it has been sold. Charles O'Brien, chief deputy attorney general of California, called his state's record of handgun sales “one of the most valuable aids to law enforcement in the solution of gun crimes throughout the the 58 counties of the state.”

    Disarm the law-abiding? We didn't want to disarm anyone except criminals. We wanted only to deny the privilege to possess firearms to rehabilitated felons, mental incompetents, addicts and alcoholics, and to juveniles who did not have a parents consent.

    But, said opponents, people commit crimes, guns do not. Although we proponents of gun control may be dense in the eyes of some, I don't think that any of us believes that guns alone commit crimes. But we do know that crimes are committed by people using guns. And, as 22 of the nations most noted criminologists wrote to me in a jointly signed letter, “The availability of guns contributes to the incidence of murder, serious assault and other crimes of violence . . . Effective gun-control legislation could reduce the availability of guns and therefore the incidence of crimes of violence.”

    A University of Chicago study of homicides in that city showed that the death rate is about five times greater in gun attacks that it is in attacks by knife, the second most dangerous weapon. A very substantial percentage of Chicago's homicides are the result of attacks that may not be motivated by the desire to kill. Therefore, the deadliness of the weapon becomes a key determinant of the homicide rate. The Chicago study concluded, “The absence of firearms would depress the otherwise expectable homicide rate. . .” So it may be true that people, and not guns, commit crimes; but the FBI reports that people commit more than 130,000 crimes with guns each year; and when they do, they are likely to cause somebody's death. Just as in the case of automobiles (which don't cause crimes, either), we must control the weapon to reduce the problem. Just as we forbid a blind man to drive a car, we must forbid lunatics and dangerous criminals to posses guns.

    Present laws would be adequate, said the opponents, if they were enforced. We don't need more laws; there are already too many laws in this country for the good of freedom. Lets just enforce the ones already on the books and then see if we really need Congress' intervention.

    So we looked at the laws on the books and we discovered that, in truth, many are not being enforced. But somehow, we couldn't bring ourselves to issue an appeal to Texas to enforce it's law forbidding carrying of a gun in a saddlebag except when traveling; and to Vermont to enforce it's law forbidding children from having guns in their schoolhouse; and to Arkansas to enforce it's law forbidding possession of a machine gun for offensive or aggressive purposes. Try as we might, we could not believe that vigorous enforcement of these laws would significantly reduce crime. So we continued the fight.

    “Stop interfering with the rights of honest Americans,” said the opponents. “If you want to do something about gun crimes, stop harassing honest hunters and start really punishing criminals. Stiffen sentences, throw them in jail – that's the way to control crime.”

    Certainly, a lot of people believe in that - President Nixon, for one. Unfortunately for those who advocate this simplistic approach, it cannot be shown, in most categories of crime, that stiffened sentences, mandatory minimums and the like have an appreciable effect on crime rates. Heavier penalties for gun crimes already exist. Armed robbery is a more serious offense than simple robbery; aggravated assault is more heavily punished than simple assault; murder is the most serious crime of all. But heavy penalties have not prevented rises in criminal statistics. Quite the contrary. Since 1965, the gun-murder rate has increased 47 percent; aggravated assault by gun is up 76 percent; and armed robbery by gun is up 58 percent.

    Heavy sentences may be desirable. They may have some deterrent effect we don't yet know about. And, in fact, I cosponsored an amendment to the gun gill that authorized penalties up to life imprisonment for gun crimes. But my amendment would not help solve gun crimes and help prosecutors secure convictions, as registration would. And it would not prevent criminal access to guns, as licensing would.

    The most hysterical argument of the gun lobby is that put forward by the National Rifle Association: “No dictatorship has ever been imposed on a nation of free men who have not previously been required to register their privately owned firearms.”

  2. #2
    Regular Member buster81's Avatar
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    This argument, ludicrous as it is, was so widely spread during the legislative fight on gun-control legislation that I asked the Library of Congress to research it for me. Here is what the library reported:

    We can make no positive correlation between gun laws and dictatorships, as the following examples will show: First, four countries were examined that are democracies now, but in recent history came under Nazi dictatorships (Germany, Italy, France and Austria). One may reasonably assume that if gun-registration laws constituted a primary factor in the rise of dictatorships, these countries would have since revised their laws to prevent future dictatorships.

    This has not been the case. The four countries today have substantially the same gun laws as those in force prior to the advent of dictatorship. In fact, in Italy, where gun laws were relaxed by Mussolini, they have recently been restrengthened approximately to their pre-Mussolini level.

    Secondly, two democracies were examined that have not suffered dictatorships in recent history (England and Switzerland). Switzerland, has had gun-registration laws since 1874; England since 1831.

    Even if lists of firearms owners would be useful to an enemy of the United States, undoubtedly the single largest and most useful list would be the membership list of the N.R.A. itself. That mailing list of more than 1,000,000 names and addresses is conveniently maintained on computer cards at N.R.A. Headquarters in the heart of Washington.

    It all seems now like some strange, unbelievable fantasy. It is difficult enough to believe that we lost, but it is impossible to believe that we lost because of such arguments as these. But, if not, why did we lose? The fight began with so much promise; we had so much hope.

    I appeared the Sunday after Senator Kennedy's death on Meet the Press, to talk about the gun problem. I said, in response to a question:

    Nothing is going to move the state legislatures across the country expect a most tremendous outpouring of demands from the citizens of this country. It is only the people who are going to do it. The Congress is not going to change; we are not going to get a bill though the Senate unless the people themselves get on the telephone and get hold of their Senators and say, “We demand action.”

    No one, least of all me, was prepared for the response that followed. Letters began pouring into my office at the rate of 1200 a day. They filled every corner of my office and were stuffed into boxes, which, for a time, threatened to crowd out my staff. We began storing them in the corridors outside our suite, until, finally the Senate's sergeant at arms complained about the mess in our halls. It was the greatest volume of mail on any Senate issue since the McCarthy censure fight.

    Other Senators had a similar response. Western Senators who, for years, had been receiving a steady trickle of mail that was 12 to 1 against and form of gun control suddenly began to receive mail in a ration of 25 to 1 for it. A few, looking at their mail and at their consciences, announced that they could no longer oppose all gun controls. Senator Warren Magnuson of Washington, for example, who had previously opposed gun-control legislation, told his constituents, “For me, this have become a matter of deep conscience.”

    And the majority leader, Senator Mike Mansfield, told the Senate, “I know, as much as anyone else in this chamber, what voting on this bill means. But I believe that those of us who come from rural West have an obligation to the rest of the country; that all of us, regardless of where we come from, have an obligation to cut down on crime.”

    I felt that the time had arrived to work for the most effective law-enforcement tool – not to mere restriction on the interstate-mail-order sale of long guns but registration and licensing. And I introduced my National Gun Crime Prevention Bill to establish mandatory registration of all firearms and licensing of gun owners. It would have been done by the states. But if they did not act, the Federal Government would do it.

    The response continued. Citizens wrote, called and wired their support. Celebrities asked to help. Senators, led by the majority leader, decided to cosponsor my bill. At the vigorous urging of Attorney General Ramsey Clark, President Johnson submitted a similar bill. Two advertising agencies volunteered their time and talent to the effort. Young mend and women, many of whom had been student leaders in Robert Kennedy's campaign, mobilized to help. And the Emergency Gun Control Committee was formed, with Colonel John Glenn as chairman.

    As the bills worked their way through the Congressional process, spectacular new crimes demonstrated more clearly the need for firearms control. In a Maryland suburb of Washington, a man, enraged by an argument with his wife, fired 15 shots from his second-floor apartment. In New York's Central Park, a man barged into a women's lavatory, killed a young girl he had never met, then climbed to the roof to fight it our, wounding two policemen and killing and old man who happened to be nearby. The robber of a sandwich shop in Baltimore made four people lie face down in a row on the floor. None of them resisted him. He shot each one in turn and went back to shoot each one again.

    One might reasonably have expected that with 80 percent of the public behind us, with so great an outpouring of support, with volunteers helping in every conceivable way and with a new atrocity in each morning's paper, we would have achieved our objective – passage of a strong and effective firearms-control law. But we did not. We failed to get more that the absolute minimum – restrictions on the interstate sale of long guns.

    It is difficult to explain our failure. In the House, we were defeated overwhelmingly, 68 to 172. in the Senate, we were unable to enact the most minimal licensing provision – a compromise that would have required that three years after the passage of the bill, a license would be necessary to purchase a handgun or to carry one away from home or business.

    One reason we failed is that the gun lobby, led by the extremist bureaucracy of the National Rifle Association, was able to generate a grass-roots political vendetta that for outlasted the spontaneous expression of public concern. It managed its effort in a professional, effective campaign of misrepresentation and callous disregard of the public interest.

    The N.R.A.'s leadership, which has an economic stake in this fight, is only the most visible part of a lobby that included some gun manufacturers, large surplus-gun importers and some wildlife organizations. But, as the leader of the gun lobby, the N.R.A. Must bear the major responsibility for the defeat of sane gun legislation.

    The National Rifle Association is a very special organization. Classified by the Internal Revenue Service in 1938 as an organization “exclusively for the promotion of social welfare,” the N.R.A. Has been permitted a luxury given to few organizations or individual – a blank check to lobby as much as it chooses, without registering as a lobby and without paying taxes levied on other lobbies.

    The N.R.A. Has never registered, on the grounds that its functions are primarily educational and that it legislative activity is not a “substantial” portion of its total activity. But, of its seven stated purposes, three are: (1) to inform the general public on the various aspects of Federal, state and local firearms legislation: (2) to increase the prestige of public acceptance of the N.R.A. In its various programs; and (3) to identify the N.R.A. as the authority on guns and shooting sports.

    Whenever firearms legislation is introduced in a state legislature or a major city council, the N.R.A. sends a bulletin to whatever portion of it's 1,000,000 members is necessary for effective action against the proposal. It gives the N.R.A. opinion of the legislation, lists relevant legislators and city officials and asks member to write to them.

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    Regular Member buster81's Avatar
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    In addition, its official organ, The American Rifleman, carries a monthly legislative report. The N.R.A. also sent 9000 newsletters each month in 1967 and distributed 297,877 legislative folders. By its own count, it devoted 76 columns on The American Rifleman to legislative news, sent one special bulletin on proposed legislation to all N.R.A. members in areas where crucial firearms legislation was being considered.

    “In addition,” as the N.R.A.'s annual report put it, “special legislative bulletins, memorandums and direct contact by mail, telephone, telegram or personal conversation are utilized . . .”

    There is no way to calculate the true amount the N.R.A. spends on lobbying. It sent 1,000,000 letters and hundred of telegrams in June 1968 alone. That mailing, with its telegrams, cost in the neighborhood of $60,000. There is no way to tell how many of the special releases, stories, promotional material and articles it “plants” are devoted to defeating firearms control. It is impossible to estimate how much of the time of its six full-time field representatives is spent on legislation.

    Suffice to say that the N.R.A.'s expenditures in 1967 were $5,7000,000; it has 1,000,000 members; and it can turn on the heat like no other private organization in the nation.

    Staff members of North Advertising, a small Chicago agency, voluntarily prepared six dramatic ads urging control use for use in newspapers, magazines and on television. Each of them ended, “Write your Senator . . . while you still have a Senator.” The Advertising Industry's magazine, Advertising Age, volunteered to distribute the ads free, which it did to more than 700 newspapers, national magazines and television stations. Then The American Rifleman published an article on the ads and listed seven clients of the agency, clearly inviting retaliation. Letters began to flow to the clients, warning that either they stop using North or the writer would stop using their products.

    An N.R.A. spokesman explained:

    We consider those ads misleading at best, and vicious at worst. One of them even says that guns are just for killing – which, of course, is ridiculous.

    By listing North's clients, we believe we provided a service to N.R.A. members, identifying the companies that would retain an outfit like North.

    Frankly, I'd have been surprised and disappointed if people hadn't written those advertisers. That's their right, you know.

    All this would be at worst improper, if it were not for the fact that the N.R.A. consistently and intentionally misrepresents firearms legislation. According the the authoritative and objective Congressional Quarterly, for example, the major N.R.A. letter commenting on the mail-order-sales provision, “by any accounting was replete with distortions of the fact.”

    Moreover, the N.R.A. conducts campaigns of intimidation, while insisting that minimal controls are a steep toward confiscation of firearms. Here, for example, is what Harold Glassen, president of this “social welfare” organization, told an N.R.A. meeting in Boston on April eighth of last year;

    The intense interest of its members in everything that N.R.A. does, and what is said about the association, clearly shows that its 1,000,000 members are a unified force to be reckoned with in every corner of America.

    I should think our political enemies would keep this in mind when they're dreaming up some of those things they say about us. We're all voters, and I'm sure they're going to hear from us at the polls in November.

    The N.R.A. fights the most reasonable legislation as unconstitutional. And it appeals to the basest, most irrational prejudices of its members.

    For example, an editorial in The American Rifleman last year titled “Who Guards America's Homes?” asked what would happen if a race riot broke out in your community while every American combat unit and the entire National Guard “were overseas in a major war.” What of “the fate of citizens who may be trapped and beleaguered by howling mobs that brush police aside”?

    The radical right's philosophy, fears and militant racism pervade the gun lobby. Those who believe that foreign influences are already taking over in America naturally believe that they must have guns to protect themselves. Those who hate or fear blacks, and who worry about reports of armed African American groups, naturally believe they must keep guns for protection.

    This thinly veiled racism, common in the extremist publications of the gun lobby and recurrent in Congressional mail opposing gun laws, is, no doubt, in part responsible for the domestic arms race in our cities.

    Freud wrote about masculine connotations of guns., The the fear of castration also underlies the attitudes of some gun-control opponents. A man writing to a Salt Lake City newspaper said, “The gun is a part of our historical tradition, associated in actuality and fantasy with the masculine American image. To touch on this role is to affect a vigor that is uniquely and appropriately American.”

    This masculinity argument also emerges from time to time in the literature of the gun lobby. Franklin Orth, executive vice-president of the N.R.A., in his testimony before a Senate subcommittee last year, quoted and English gun enthusiast:

    And yet there is a very special relationship between a man and his gun – an atavistic relation with its roots deep in prehistory, when the primitive man's personal weapon, so ofter his only effective defense and food provider, was nearly as precious to him as one of his own limbs.

    And in the Virginia legislation recited:

    Whereas, from the landing at Jamestown to the expansion of this nation to the Pacific Coast, a peaceful society developed in the area that was wrested from the wilderness by sturdy riflemen armed with their personal weapons and skilled in the their use.

    We were defeated in part by the right wing and their racist and supermanly recruits. But together, as loud, ignorant and fearful as they are, they were not enough to account for the overwhelming defeats we suffered. I think that our failure was is attributable to three additional factors.

    The first of these was the success of the gun lobby in confusing the issues. The entire point of my bill was to enable the police to keep a registry of serial numbers and other identification of guns in private possession to help solve crimes and to deny access to firearms to very special categories of dangerous people. No citizen over the age of 18 without a criminal record, afflicted by alcoholism, narcotics addiction or mental illness, could have been denied a permit to purchase a gun. He would have been required only to obtain an automatically issued license to own one and to register it at no cost to himself. A license could not be denied to a law-abiding citizen.

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    Regular Member buster81's Avatar
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    It seemed a reasonable demand. There are in this nation more guns than families, more guns than automobiles, perhaps more guns than people. Most of them are capable of killing. We want the police to be able to trace their ownership when they are stolen or used in crime.

    The gun lobby turned this provision into an imminent threat to the freedom of every American citizen; and many honest, sincere Americans were confused. They wrote to ask, “Does your bill really permit the police to confiscate my rifle?” “Does your bill really required me to pay an annual fee to keep my gun collection?” I answered the letters as time would allow, but I couldn't answer them all in time. And thousands of people didn't write. They just believed what the gun extremists told them.

    The second reason for the success of the gun lobby, I believe, was its powerful voice in political structures of its communities and states. As Senators and Congressmen returned to their constituencies, they were told by prominent figures in their state political machines, “You cannot vote for gun control.” When enough people known to Congressmen and Senators as party leaders, supporters and contributors say that, a politician begins to wonder. I know that this happened and I know that some of my colleagues felt they could not take the risk.

    Finally, the gun lobby, like any other extremist, single-issue organization, was able to make its voice heard louder and longer than any other group. Supporters of reasonable gun control tend to be multi-issue people, willing to judge their representatives on a variety of issues. But the gun extremists, it is widely believed, make their judgment on the gun issued alone. And single-issue people frighten officeholders more than any other threat.

    We did lose the fight – this time. But the debate and the education have begun. We insisted that the Senate, at least, come to a record vote on registration and licensing; and we did better than wwe had done last spring. We know that some of the opponents will retire; others, hopefully, will listen to the facts. We can only hope that none will be the victim of an assassin's bullet. But I fear that this may happen. The question is, how many assassinations, how many murders will we tolerate before the gun extremists are ignored and the public will be obeyed?

    Idon't know. I do know that every American is 35 times more likely to be murdered by gun that is a Briton, a Dane, A German or a Swede. I know that since 1900, 800,000 Americans have been killed by guns – more than have been killed in battle in all our wars, from the Revolution to Vietnam. And I know that every day, 21 Americans will be murdered by gun, 150 will be robbed by gun,. How many Presidents, Senators, Nobel Prize winners and honest citizens must die before we act?

    Sincere sportsmen, in whose ranks I count myself, must realize that eventually, when enough gun atrocities are committed, the public will demand legislation so strong that our pleasures really will be endangered. No organization, not even one as powerful as the N.R.A., serves its members ill when, instead of seizing the opportunity to help write gun-crime regulation, it opposes all effective gun-control proposals.

    Sincere Americans who believe that they must resist all efforts to enact any gun-crime controls should consider their responsibility for the 7600 victims of gun murder in this country last year.

    They should reflect that in the first two years after New Jersey enacted registration and licensing, gun permits were denied to more than 1600 convicted criminals, who otherwise would have acquired guns. But the number of hunting licenses granted increased substantially.

    I am prepared to register my firearms and to secure a license to own them., knowing that it will be immeasurably less difficult than registering a car or securing a driver's license. Can any of us refuse to bear such an inconvenience and deny law-enforcement officers a tool to save thousands of lives each year?

    How selfish and stupid are we?

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    I made it to about the fourth or fifth paragraph when the writer mentions the AG from New Jersey and California. As if they're not going to support gun control.

    Licensing and registration are bad juju. I'm sure the Europeans didn't think it was such a big deal till they were disarmed at the hands of invaders.

    I wonder if he'd be willing to get a license and register his typing device in order to write this article? I bet he would. I bet he'd get a license and register his house so as not to have troops quartered there (3rd amendment) and to keep the police from searching his house (4th). He'd probably get a license and register his mouth so he could stay silent when questioned (5th).

    I don't care what anyone else does or is willing to do. Register yourself as long as I don't have to register myself.

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    Regular Member SouthernBoy's Avatar
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    Back in the mid 60's, a book came out called "No Right to Bear Arms" by Bakal Carl. I bought it and read part of it. This book quickly became a cult reading for the new and fledgling anti-gun movement in the country. In fact many believe it to be the inspiration for the beginnings of that movement.

    Back then, I was left-leaning and liberal in my politics (really pretty young so also pretty easily "lead" by others). My conversion into what I would now consider Constitutionalism took perhaps 4 years and didn't really begin until my early 20's.

    Anyway, this book starts off relating a suicide which took place during the early morning hours of a November day in 1963. I remember that day and being awakened by the sirens racing through Falls Church, Va to what I later learned was the site of this suicide. The day? Friday, November 22, 1963.

    I relates another incident regarding a murder/suicide which took place not too far from Seven Corners Shopping Center in Fairfax, Va. The mother killed her four children, then herself. The father's name was Thomas Cox; he was my fifth and sixth grade principal and the date was Valentine's day, February 14, 1964. The house, just off of Sleep Hollow Road on Caroline Drive, was later sold to a family who had a son my wife dated.

    I never finished the book because I started to get interested in guns and I saw a conflict of interest brewing. But I still have the book in my basement. It is interesting to see what was written then and what we see today.

    In the final seconds of your life, just before your killer is about to dispatch you to that great eternal darkness, what would you rather have in your hand? A cell phone or a gun?

    Si vis pacem, para bellum.

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    We can make no positive correlation between gun laws and dictatorships, as the following examples will show: First, four countries were examined that are democracies now, but in recent history came under Nazi dictatorships (Germany, Italy, France and Austria). One may reasonably assume that if gun-registration laws constituted a primary factor in the rise of dictatorships, these countries would have since revised their laws to prevent future dictatorships.


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