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Were Guns "Much More" Strictly Regulated in the 1920s and 1930s?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Were Guns "Much More" Strictly Regulated in the 1920s and 1930s?

This week, Time magazine published a piece that pushes the narrative that today's firearms laws are permissive in comparison to those of the early 20th century. Titled, "Guns Were Much More Strictly Regulated in the 1920s and 1930s than They Are Today," the piece contends that "Those who look to America's past to extol a time when nothing stood between an American and a gun need to look again." The obvious goal of the work is to convince the uninformed that any notions they might have about America's long-standing culture of gun ownership should pose no barrier to future restrictions, particularly on the ownership of semi-automatic firearms.

The piece was written by long-time anti-gun author and SUNY Cortland Political Science Professor Robert J. Spitzer. Since the 1990s, Spitzer has been writing columns and books advocating for gun control; often focusing on semi-automatic firearms. In these pieces Spitzer pushed - now mostly recognized as silly – misconceptions about popular semi-autos, such as "The lighter weight, compact design, and pistol grips give the ability to 'spray fire' - often from the hip," and, "Their concealability adds to their criminal appeal."

Further, Spitzer advocated for the - now thoroughly rejected - notion that the Second Amendment does not protect an individual right to bear arms. In his 1995 book, The Politics of Gun Control, Spitzer claimed, "The desire to treat the Second Amendment as a constitutional touchstone by gun control opponents is understandable… Such claims are, however, without historical, constitutional, or legal foundation."

However, the thesis laid out in the column's title only works if one completely ignores the federal government's entrance into the field of firearms control, and subsequent restrictions on firearms enacted in several states. In the 1920s and 1930s, Americans purchasing firearms could simply order rifles or shotguns by mail right to their front door. The Gun Control Act of 1968 brought about much of the modern federal gun control regime, including federal prohibitions certain categories of persons from purchasing or possessing firearms, importation restrictions, and the licensing and regulation of firearms dealers. The Brady Bill was passed in 1993, which requires background checks on those purchasing a firearm from a dealer. In the 1990s and 2000s, several states restricted access to semi-automatic firearms, and some states have continually expanded their categories of prohibited persons. A quick glance at two of BATFE's publications, the "Federal Firearms Regulations Reference Guide," and "State Laws and Published Ordinances," makes it abundantly clear that 2015 America isn't some sort of unfettered gun rights utopia in comparison to the early 20th century.

Perhaps most bizarre about Spitzer and his work is that even after decades of advocating for gun restrictions, the professor still appears to know little of the firearms he seeks to ban, botching terminology at every turn. In his latest piece, Spitzer notes that modern hunters are likely to use something he describes as a "semi-automatic long barrel gun." Later, he claims that in the early 20th century states had little patience for "semi-automatic firing married to the ability to fire multiple rounds without reloading." Anyone with a cursory knowledge of firearms would know that the latter characteristic is a prerequisite of the former. Further on, Spitzer uses the term "large capacity bullet magazines."

Over the years Spitzer has been wrong on the history of gun control, wrong on the Second Amendment, and displayed a severe lack of basic firearms knowledge. Unfortunately, when it comes to an anti-gun periodical like Time, the ability to further the publication's political agenda, rather than accuracy, appears to be the chief requirement for publication.

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California: DOJ Issues “Notice of Modification” to Proposed Ammunition Background Check Regulations

Thursday, April 18, 2019

California: DOJ Issues “Notice of Modification” to Proposed Ammunition Background Check Regulations

Today, the California Department of Justice issued a “Notice of Modification” to their proposed regulations regarding the soon to be implemented ammunition background check procedures. As a result of these changes, a second 15-day public ...

Heeee’s Baaack: Bill Clinton Peddles Gun Control on a Wish and a Lie

News  

Friday, April 19, 2019

Heeee’s Baaack: Bill Clinton Peddles Gun Control on a Wish and a Lie

Proving there is no statute of limitations on political opportunism, this week former President Bill Clinton used the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the tragic school shooting in Littleton, Colo. to pen an op-ed pushing ...

Maine: Firearm Seizure Bill Heads To Judiciary Committee

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Maine: Firearm Seizure Bill Heads To Judiciary Committee

On April 22nd, the Maine Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Legislative Document 1312, which would allow for firearms to be seized and Second Amendment rights to be suspended without due process. 

New York Times Admits Privately-Funded “Gun Violence” Research is a Thing

News  

Friday, April 19, 2019

New York Times Admits Privately-Funded “Gun Violence” Research is a Thing

The New York Times – the “paper of record” – reports that “Gun Research is Suddenly Hot.” While we’re happy to see the Times has finally acknowledged that “gun research” can survive federal restrictions on taxpayer funded gun control ...

Media Continues to Cause Distorted Fear of School Violence

News  

Friday, April 19, 2019

Media Continues to Cause Distorted Fear of School Violence

When it comes to the wellbeing of today’s youth, one would think that all could agree that provoking unnecessary fear should be avoided. That apparently is not the case, however, when it comes to pushing ...

California: Legislature Returns from Spring Break

Sunday, April 21, 2019

California: Legislature Returns from Spring Break

The California Legislature returns from spring recess this week and seven different committees are considering bills that could impact your rights. 

Indiana: Important Self-Defense Bill Passes Legislature, On to Governor

Monday, April 22, 2019

Indiana: Important Self-Defense Bill Passes Legislature, On to Governor

On April 22nd, both chambers of the Indiana General Assembly voted to concur with the amendments made to House Bill 1284 during the conference committee process.  HB 1284 has been amended to now include many ...

Pittsburgh Residents Seek Preliminary Injunction Against Ban on Standard Capacity Magazines

News  

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Pittsburgh Residents Seek Preliminary Injunction Against Ban on Standard Capacity Magazines

With support from the NRA, gun owners challenging Pittsburgh’s ban on publicly carrying loaded magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds filed a motion today seeking a preliminary injunction. If the motion is granted, ...

Texas: House Passes Evacuation Carry Bill

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Texas: House Passes Evacuation Carry Bill

On Thursday, the Texas House gave final approval to House Bill 1177 by a vote of 102-29.

NRA Statement on New York City's Desperate Attempt to Avoid Supreme Court Review

News  

Friday, April 12, 2019

NRA Statement on New York City's Desperate Attempt to Avoid Supreme Court Review

NRA reacts to New York City's attempt to avoid having the NRA-supported Supreme Court case N.Y. State Rifle & Pistol Association, et al. v. City of N.Y., et al heard in DC. 

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NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.