Ronald Reagan on the gun debate… (part TWO)

Ronald Reagan believed not only in the greatness of our country, but also the supremacy of the individual. That explains his opposition to Socialism and Communism and, by definition, the loss of individual freedoms that such systems entail.

As a result, he was an unequivocal proponent of the 2nd Amendment. 

I mentioned this in an earlier post because that belief does not seem to be shared by our current Commander-in-Chief. This is also why I’m posting a column (below) written by Reagan waaaaay back in 1975, where he magnificently defended the virtue of our country’s historic stance on Gun Rights.

In light of President Obama’s recent power grab, it’s refreshing to read the thoughts of one of our country’s finest patriots on this subject.

The arguments against the 2nd Amendment are not new, just newly packaged. And the reasons they must be rejected are just as relevant today as they were 40 years ago, …or 240 years ago. 


Portrait Of Ronald Reagan


**Written by Ronald Reagan, from the September 1975 issue of ‘Guns & Ammo’ Magazine:

There are tales of robbery victims that are shot down in cold blood or executed “gangland style.” There are stories of deranged parents killing their children or deranged children killing their parents. There are reports of snipers. And now and then the headlines blurt out that an assassin has struck again, killing a prominent official or citizen. All of these stories involve the use of guns, or seem to. As a result, there is growing clamor to outlaw guns, to ban guns, to confiscate guns in the name of public safety and public good.

These demands come from people genuinely concerned about rising crime rates, persons such as Sheriff Peter Pitchess of Los Angeles, who says gun control is an idea whose time has come. They come from people who see the outlawing of guns as a way of outlawing violence. And they come from those who see confiscation of weapons as one way of keeping the people under control.

Now I yield to no one in my concern about crime, and especially crimes of violence. As governor of California for eight years, I struggled daily with that problem. I appointed judges who, to the best of my information, would be tough on criminals. We approved legislation to make it more difficult for persons with records of crime or instability to purchase firearms legally. We worked to bring about swift and certain punishment for persons guilty of crimes of violence.

2nd Amnd 3We fought hard to reinstate the death sentence after our state Supreme Court outlawed it, and after the U.S. Supreme Court followed suit, we won.

Now, however, the California court that sought eagerly to be the first to outlaw the death penalty is dragging its heels as it waits for the U.S. Court to rule. The Chief Justice in California, whom I appointed with such high hopes, in this regard has disappointed many of us who looked to him to help again make our streets, our shops and our homes safe. I find it difficult to understand persons like President Ford’s new Attorney General, Edward H. Levi. Attorney General Levi would ban guns in areas with high rates of crime.

Mr. Levi is confused. He thinks somehow that banning guns keeps them out of the hands of criminals. New Yorkers who suffer under the Sullivan Act know better, they know that the Sullivan Act makes law-abiding citizens sitting ducks for criminals who have no qualms about violating it in the process of killing and robbing and burglarizing. Despite this, Mr. Levi apparently thinks that criminals will be willing to give up their guns if he makes carrying them against the law. What naiveté!

Mightn’t it be better in those areas of high crime to arm the homeowner and the shopkeeper, teach him how to use his weapons and put the word out to the underworld that it is not longer totally safe to rob and murder?

Our nation was built and civilized by men and women who used guns in self-defense and in pursuit of peace. One wonders indeed, if the rising crime rate, isn’t due as much as anything to the criminal’s instinctive knowledge that the average victim no longer has means of self-protection.

ronald-reaganNo one knows how many crimes are committed because the criminal knows he has a soft touch. No one knows how many stores have been let alone because the criminals knew it was guarded by a man with a gun or manned by a proprietor who knew how to use a gun.

Criminals are not dissuaded by soft words, soft judges or easy laws. They are dissuaded by fear and they are prevented from repeating their crimes by death or by incarceration.

In my opinion, proposals to outlaw or confiscate guns are simply unrealistic panacea. We are never going to prevent murder; we are never going to eliminate crime; we are never going to end violent action by the criminals and the crazies–with or without guns.

True, guns are a means for committing murder and other crimes. But they are not an essential means. The Los Angeles Slasher of last winter killed nine men without using a gun. People kill and rob with knives and clubs. Yet we have not talked about outlawing them. Poisons are easy to come by for the silent killer.

The automobile is the greatest peacetime killer in history. There is no talk of banning the auto. With the auto we have cracked down on drunken drivers and on careless drivers. We need also to crack down on people who use guns carelessly or with criminal intent.

I believe criminals who use guns in the commission of a crime, or who carry guns, should be given mandatory sentences with no opportunity for parole. That would put the burden where it belongs: on the criminal, not on the law-abiding citizen.

ronald-reagan-Let’s not kid ourselves about what the purpose of prison should be. It should be to remove criminals from circulation so that they cannot prey upon society. Punishment for deterrent purposes, also plays a part. Rehabilitation, as many experts, including California Attorney General Evelle Younger, have discovered, is not a very good reason for imprisoning people. People don’t rehabilitate very well in prison.

There is an old saying that slaves remain slaves while free men set themselves free. It is true with rehabilitation, also. Criminals rehabilitate themselves, there is little you and I can do about it. But back to the purpose of this article which, hopefully, is to make the case against gun control.

The starting point must be the Constitution, because, above all, we are a nation of laws and the foundation for our laws, or lack of same, is the Constitution.


It is amazing to me how so many people pay lip service to the Constitution, yet set out to twist and distort it when it stands in the way of things they think ought to be done or laws they believe ought to be passed. It is also amazing to me how often our courts do the same thing.

The Second Amendment is clear, or ought to be. It appears to leave little, if any, leeway for the gun control advocate. It reads “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

There are those who say that, since we have no militia, the amendment no longer applies; they would just ignore it. Others say nuclear weapons have made the right to keep and bear arms irrelevant, since arms are of little use against weapons of such terrible destructive power. Both arguments are specious.

We may not have a well-regulated militia, but it does not necessarily follow that we should not be prepared to have one. The day could easily come when we need one.


The nuclear weapon argument is even more silly. Many wars have been fought since World War II and no nuclear bomb has been dropped. We have no assurance that the next world war will be a nuclear war. But, regardless of any possible merit they might have, both these arguments beg the question, which is Shall the people have a right to keep and bear arms?

There is little doubt that the founding fathers thought they should have this right, and for a very specific reason: They distrusted government. All of the first 10 amendments make that clear. Each of them specifies an area where government cannot impose itself on the individual or where the individual must be protected from government.

The second amendment gives the individual citizen a means of protection against the despotism of the state. Look what it refers to “The security of a free state.” The word “free” should be underlined because that is what they are talking about and that is what the Constitution is about–a free nation and a free people, where the rights of the individual are pre-eminent. The founding fathers had seen, as the Declaration of Independence tells us, what a despotic government can do to its own people. Indeed, every American should read the Declaration of Independence before he reads the Constitution, and he will see that the Constitution aims at preventing a recurrence of the way George III’s government treated the colonies.

PThe declaration states this plainly “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

There is no question that the first 10 amendments are a part of those “new guards” for their future security. And one of the most basic of those guards is the right to keep and bear arms.

There are those in America today who have come to depend absolutely on government for their security. And when government fails they seek to rectify that failure in the form of granting government more power. So, as government has failed to control crime and violence with the means given it by the Constitution, they seek to give it more power at the expense of the Constitution. But in doing so, in their willingness to give up their arms in the name of safety, they are really giving up their protection from what has always been the chief source of despotism–government.

Lord Acton said power corrupts. Surely then, if this is true, the more power we give the government the more corrupt it will become. And if we give it the power to confiscate our arms we also give up the ultimate means to combat that corrupt power. In doing so we can only assure that we will eventually be totally subject to it. When dictators come to power, the first thing they do is take away the people’s weapons. It makes it so much easier for the secret police to operate, it makes it so much easier to force the will of the ruler upon the ruled.


Now I believe our nation’s leaders are good and well-meaning people. I do not believe that they have any desire to impose a dictatorship upon us. But this does not mean that such will always be the case. A nation rent internally, as ours has been in recent years, is always ripe for a “man on a white horse.” A deterrent to that man, or to any man seeking unlawful power, is the knowledge that those who oppose him are not helpless.

The gun has been called the great equalizer, meaning that a small person with a gun is equal to a large person, but it is a great equalizer in another way, too. It insures that the people are the equal of their government whenever that government forgets that it is servant and not master of the governed. When the British forgot that they got a revolution. And, as a result, we Americans got a Constitution; a Constitution that, as those who wrote it were determined, would keep men free. If we give up part of that Constitution we give up part of our freedom and increase the chance that we will lose it all.

I am not ready to take that risk. I believe that the right of the citizen to keep and bear arms must not be infringed if liberty in America is to survive.

15 responses to “Ronald Reagan on the gun debate… (part TWO)

  1. I wish I’d appreciated Reagan more while he was in office. This is a splendidly-written, cogently-argued piece. Required reading on the issue. Thanks, bro!

    • My pleasure, Sis.

      I was 17-&-a-half when Reagan was elected for his 2nd term, which I recall royally ticked me off: I wanted to vote for him pretty badly.
      Thought he was cool then, and have realized how amazing he was by comparison ever since.

      It is not without reason that Conservatives today yearn for another “Reagan”. He was completely consistent with his reasoning, and could articulate it with unusual clarity.

      Well, we can’t find another Reagan.
      But what we CAN do is to locate successful people who have similar beliefs, have thought about and LIVED those beliefs, and are just as EFFECTIVE at espousing them.

      And we need to find those people yesterday…

  2. Grrreat post. Recycling and repackaging their arguments is what the left does best. But then along comes a guy named Barry who tries to compare himself to Reagan. (that takes the cake) We’re in unchartered waters.

    • . We don’t so much need another Reagan, what we need is a million.

      • I agree, BR, to a point.

        However, I’d clarify that: I think we HAVE a million Reagans.

        Heck, we have MORE than a million. You and I are just two: either of us would be vastly superior to President Palpatine, and that’s hardly a commentary on the two of US…

        What we need is more of us to get elected to OFFICE, and other influential areas in our culture…

    • Thanks, BR.

      Yep, no new ideas: just the same attacks on the ideas that formed our country, wrapped in a shiny new package.
      You gotta love the Left: who HAVEN’T they compared Obama to at this point?
      Lincoln, FDR, Reagan, Gandhi, Jesus…

      Good grief, it reads like an ‘Onion’ piece, except that it’s true.

  3. I love how this issue brings out words like liberty, freedom, rights, etc. You all realize that while you’re squabbling over magazine capacity, the rest of your rights, you know, the important ones that matter, have already been suspended or taken away, right? You have no right to privacy anymore, you know that, don’t you? The government can read all you emails, tap all your phone calls, monitor all your mail, all your text messages, all your web browsing. They can track all your movements using satellites and your cell phone. They can wiretap whoever they want whenever they want. But that’s all OK so long as everyone can own a gun, isn’t it?

    And for the record, I’m a liberal firearms owner that voted for Obama.

    • Ryan,
      My apologies for not responding sooner. I didn’t see your note ’til just now…
      But, first and foremost I’d like to thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

      Now, your comment has me somewhat confused. Is your assertion that because I’m discussing one subject that, by extension, I do not care about any of the other items which you listed?
      That is plainly illogical and an obvious red herring.

      Debate rule 101: stick to the subject at hand.

      This is hardly “squabbling” over “magazine capacity”, any more than the HHS mandate is about “access to health care”, or the EPA’s attack on coal is about Global Warming, or any of a hundred other items.

      This is about power and control.

      You may go right ahead and vote for Obama: that’s YOUR legal right.
      I have no interest in denying you that right. But as you mentioned, OUR rights are being stripped away from us everywhere, daily. If you’d bothered to take a peek at any of the hundreds of posts on our site, you’d quickly see that I do not wish to see ANY of our freedoms disappear…which incidentally was why I did NOT vote for Obama.

      But the right which I was discussing CURRENTLY is our 2nd Amendment right. And if it is taken openly, brashly, boldly, ….then we’ll have given implicit permission courtesy of folks like you to do it again and again. All that needs to be done in that case is to gin-up a vocal minority to cheer on the ‘outrage’.

      There are any number of fronts in our constant battle for freedom, a battle which has waged since our country’s founding. That’s what the whole “…A Republic, if you can keep it” quote was about, after all.

      What is happening today is hardly a new concept: more power and more control being consolidated by the State has happened for more years than I can count.
      It just has new proponents and, as evidenced by you, new signers-on.

      ‘Cause the TRULY sad thing is: no matter how important those other abuses are which you mentioned, without winning THIS battle, the rest really won’t matter much.


      • I guess I’m just a little unclear on how guns ensure any sort of freedom for the average citizen.

        • Heaven forbid that you have to explain that to your family at the same time there is someone armed and ready to break into your home to commit a crime. You need to protect your freedoms.

          • Self defense against an armed burglar is different than thinking that owning a gun prevents the government from taking away your constitutional rights, which seems to be the argument a lot of people are making.

            • God-given rights, that is upon what the Constitution is founded. Let me also quote John Locke (I believe Reagan did as well) ‘if a government persecutes its people with “a long train of abuses” over an extended period, the people have the right to resist that government, alter or abolish it, and create a new political system.’
              BTW, it is believed that Jefferson derived many of his ideas, when drafting the American documents for government from Locke.
              The purpose of government, Locke wrote, is to secure and protect the God-given inalienable natural rights of the people.

  4. Someone should put this on Obama’s teleprompter!
    The ‘new’ laws that are being passed, or by Executive Order, are like locks…. They only affect the honest.

  5. livinrightinpgh

    A LOT of issues these days tend to bring out the words “Liberty, Freedom, Rights, etc”, mostly because these areas have been under attack longer than most of us have been alive. It’s not a “stand alone issue” here, and another “stand alone issue” there type of situation.

    Ryan, you seem to indicate that the Second Amendment argument going on is somehow moot, since the other rights you mention (and correctly so), have been taken away. I think it’s exactly because these other rights you mention HAVE been taken away, piece by piece, that the rights guaranteed in the Second Amendment are SO important.

    Obama isn’t the first President who has acted AGAINST the Constitution that he swore to uphold. But, to his credit, he may be the absolute BEST fear mongering person to occupy the Oval Office. It takes a particularly warped sense of chutzpah to stand on the graves of the innocent victims of gun violence perpetrated by criminals and the mentally deranged and call for a ban on all weapons. (And please, don’t EVEN try to tell me that he’s only after the “assault weapons”. Go back and read HIS writings and listen to HIS speeches.) He KNOWS exactly why an armed citizenry is a problem to the vision he has for this Country. He’s stated, OPENLY, that he dislikes Constitutional amendments that limit the government. But you’ll only hear of the egregious use of weapons, and NEVER hear about the Mom who saved her children by shooting an intruder. I guess some “children” matter more than others.

    Frankly, I’d rather see him stand on the graves of the hundreds who died, including a United States Federal Employee, and explain “Fast and Furious”…..

  6. Pingback: Senator Feinstein: “C’mon, you don’t really NEED these 150 types of guns, do ya’?” | Two Heads are Better Than One

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