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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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Kentucky: Committee to Consider Firearm Seizures Without Due Process

Friday, November 15, 2019

Kentucky: Committee to Consider Firearm Seizures Without Due Process

On Friday, November 22nd, the Kentucky state Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary will consider so called “red-flag laws.” Though no legislation has been introduced, such laws usually allow for Second Amendment rights to be suspended ...

Virginia Police Chief Advocates Ban on All Guns at U.S. House “Assault Weapons” Hearing

News  

Friday, September 27, 2019

Virginia Police Chief Advocates Ban on All Guns at U.S. House “Assault Weapons” Hearing

On Sept. 25, the Democrat-led U.S. House Judiciary Committee held a 3 ½ hour “hearing” entitled “Protecting America From Assault Weapons.” That framing of the issue underscored the erroneous notion that Americans need protection from ...

Bloomberg Bought Virginia Legislators Introduce Confiscatory Gun Ban

News  

Monday, November 25, 2019

Bloomberg Bought Virginia Legislators Introduce Confiscatory Gun Ban

Michael Bloomberg’s bought and paid for Virginia legislators have wasted no time introducing legislation that would make the Old Dominion’s gun laws worse than those of the billionaire’s home state of New York.

NRA's Statement on Second Amendment Sanctuaries

News  

Friday, December 6, 2019

NRA's Statement on Second Amendment Sanctuaries

Read the NRA's statement on Second Amendment sanctuaries. “It is the tyrannical nature of politicians that triggers sanctuary, not the other way around...”

Background Checks for Family Members?! Bloomberg-Bought Virginia Legislature Seeks to Ban Private Firearms Transfers

Friday, December 6, 2019

Background Checks for Family Members?! Bloomberg-Bought Virginia Legislature Seeks to Ban Private Firearms Transfers

Michael Bloomberg’s bought-and-paid-for new Virginia majorities have wasted no time introducing an extremist bill that would make the Commonwealth one of the most hostile states for law-abiding gun owners.

NRA-Supported Case Heard by Supreme Court

News  

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

NRA-Supported Case Heard by Supreme Court

The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) says this week’s Supreme Court hearing on a New York City gun control law could ultimately strengthen the ability of law-abiding citizens to exercise their Second ...

Joe Biden Wants to Ban 9mm Pistols

News  

Monday, November 25, 2019

Joe Biden Wants to Ban 9mm Pistols

A week after he told voters that the Second Amendment doesn’t protect “a magazine with a hundred clips in it,” 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden offered supporters more of his singular brand of anti-gun ...

NRA Files Joint Legal Challenge Against Firearm Storage Initiative Petition

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

NRA Files Joint Legal Challenge Against Firearm Storage Initiative Petition

On Friday, the National Rifle Association announced the filing of a joint legal challenge with the Oregon Hunters Association to contest Oregon Initiative Petition 40, which seeks to impose sweeping restrictions on the storage of ...

It’s Never Enough: Gun Control Advocates Won’t Ever Be Satisfied With Marginal Changes to Our Gun Laws

News  

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

It’s Never Enough: Gun Control Advocates Won’t Ever Be Satisfied With Marginal Changes to Our Gun Laws

When seeking to pass whatever the anti-gun flavor of the month is when it comes to gun legislation, anti-gun advocates often claim to be seeking only “reasonable” solutions. They often claim that if just one ...

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

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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.