Democrats running for president may have realized they angered voters by calling for gun bans and confiscation earlier this year, because they barely mentioned the subject in their November debate. However, as Ecclesiastes 1:9 reminds us, “What has been is what will be . . . there is nothing new under the sun.”
In the post-bellum South, Democrats prohibited blacks from possessing guns outright or imposed gun prohibitions selectively enforced against blacks, leaving them vulnerable to the Democrats’ Ku Klux Klan. In District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the Supreme Court noted that “Blacks were routinely disarmed by Southern States after the Civil War.” In U.S. v. Cruikshank (1876), the court considered the convictions of white Democrats who had participated in the disarming and cold-blooded murder of at least 60 black Republicans in the infamous Colfax Massacre in Grant Parish, Louisiana.
In 1911 in New York, Democrats began requiring a selectively granted license to own a handgun, so the police could deny handguns to Italian immigrants in New York City. Not long thereafter came the most famous Democrat in history. As researchers Mark and Carol Leff described it, President Franklin D. Roosevelt campaigned for the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA) “with his characteristic flair for spotlighting the most sensational and villainous aspects of an issue.” Thus, when FDR claimed “Federal men are constantly facing machine gun fire in the pursuit of gangsters,” he was exaggerating.
The most famous “gangster” associated with machine guns by name, bootlegger and one-time kidnapper George “Machine Gun” Kelly, wasn’t interested in guns, but was given a submachinegun (a pistol-caliber, automatic rifle) and his nickname by his girlfriend. The ambitious gal also spread a story that Kelly had been an expert with real machine guns in World War I, hoping it would increase his stature in the underworld. Kelly never fired the gun in a crime and, when surrounded by FBI agents, gave up without firing any gun, surrendering with the plea, “Don’t shoot, G-men!”
Roosevelt supported a ban on fully-automatic firearms while governor of New York, thus with the NFA was trying to impose New York-style gun control upon the rest of the nation. But he was also doing the bidding of his attorney general, Homer Cummings, a former Democratic National Committee chairman who wanted the NFA to require people to register their handguns. Roosevelt was quite the storyteller, but so was Cummings, who claimed “there are twice as many people in the underworld today armed with deadly weapons, in fact, than there are in the Army and Navy of the United States combined.”
Banning Fully-Automatic Firearms Would Be Unconstitutional . . . in 1934
As originally envisioned, the NFA would have defined “machinegun” to include not only machine guns, but also fully-automatic rifles and even semi-automatic firearms capable of holding more than 12 rounds of ammunition. The final version of the legislation incorrectly included fully-automatic rifles, but correctly excluded semi-automatics by defining “machinegun” as a firearm that can fire “automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.”
The NFA would also have banned the possession of “machineguns” outright. However, the Department of Justice thought a ban would have violated the Second Amendment. The idea that banning fully-automatic firearms doesn’t infringe the right to arms would have to wait until 2008, when Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia would fabricate a rationale to that effect in Heller. The final version of the NFA instead required that “machineguns” be registered with the federal government and prohibitively taxed. To Cummings’ dismay, it didn’t require the registration of handguns. Roosevelt wasn’t finished disarming people, however. During World War II, he disarmed 120,000 Japanese-Americans by throwing them into concentration camps on account of their ancestry.
One Thing Can Lead to Another
Early in 1963, while Democrats still paid lip service to the Second Amendment, Sen. Thomas Dodd (D-Conn.) introduced legislation concerning the mail-order purchase of handguns, saying, “I want to emphasize that we do not intend to tamper with the constitutionally guaranteed right of a free people to keep and bear arms.” Not yet, he meant.
Of course, our president at the time was John F. Kennedy, an NRA member and owner of an M1, a semi-automatic rifle used by our troops in World War II and the Korean War, praised in 1945 by then-Lt. Gen. (later General) George S. Patton as “the greatest battle implement ever devised,” and today owned by hundreds of thousands of Americans.
Kennedy couldn’t and wouldn’t be a Democrat today for numerous reasons, including his support of the right to arms. In 1960, he said:
By calling attention to a well regulated militia for the security of the nation and the right of each citizen to keep and bear arms, our Founding Fathers recognized the essentially civilian nature of our economy. Although it is extremely unlikely that the fears of governmental tyranny, which gave rise to the Second Amendment, will ever be a major danger to our nation, the amendment still remains an important declaration of our basic military-civilian relationships, in which every citizen must be ready to participate in the defense of his country. For that reason, I believe the Second Amendment will always be important.
After JFK’s assassination, the fake news media of the period blamed the crime on right-wingers. However, as Robert J. Kukla noted in Gun Control, “The villain became the gun when it was discovered [Lee Harvey Oswald] . . . was a communist.” Thus, over the next several years, Dodd’s bill was transformed into the vehicle for most of the federal restrictions on the manufacture, importation, sale, acquisition, possession, transportation, and shipping of firearms today.
Democrats portrayed the resulting law, the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), as a response to the assassinations of JFK, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy. However, some believed they imposed it for the same reason Democrats imposed gun control during the previous century. Journalist Robert Sherrill, a gun control supporter, wrote, “With the horrendous rioting of 1967 and 1968, [the Democrat majority] Congress again was panicked toward passing some law that would shut off weapons access to blacks.”
Before Fauxcahontas and Spartacus, There Was ‘Landslide’
During the Democrat presidential debate in September, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said “I like [gun] registration” and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said “I was the first person to come out for gun licensing.” However, President Lyndon B. Johnson beat Warren and Booker to the punch by 51 years. LBJ pushed for universal gun registration and gun owner licensing and, when he signed the GCA into effect, complained that it didn’t include those requirements.
Another example of how one thing can lead to another, Johnson would not have been president if he had not been vice-president, would not have been vice-president if not senate majority leader, not majority leader if not elected to the Senate, and not elected to the Senate if he had not stolen the 1948 Democrat Senate primary from Texas governor Coke Stevenson.
Stevenson defeated Johnson in the primary’s first round by 71,000 votes, but didn’t achieve a majority. In the ensuing runoff, Johnson should have lost again. But, as historian J. Evetts Haley explained in A Texan Looks at Lyndon: A Study In Illegitimate Power, “organized evil is never stupid, never lazy, never apathetic.” South Texas political boss George Parr, the Duke of Duval County, a felon Johnson had helped obtain a pardon from President Harry S. Truman two years earlier, helped engineer a 30-to-1 vote spread for Johnson in the South Texas counties where Parr held sway.
Still, Stevenson appeared to have won by 113 votes out of a million votes cast. But five days later, in Jim Wells County Precinct 13, within Parr’s sphere of influence, 202 new votes for Johnson turned up, all cast by folks buried in the local cemetery or otherwise not available to vote in-person on election day, all of whom had signed in at a single polling location, one after the next, in alphabetical order, with the same blue ink pen, in the same handwriting. “Landslide Lyndon” had “won.”
Later, the dead could not be reached to explain their votes, at least two of the other “voters” who had put Johnson over the top swore they had not voted, and some of the others predicted they would live longer if they kept their mouths shut. The episode wasn’t an outlier in LBJ’s political career. In 1941, when the government was looking for land on which to build an ammunition factory, then-Rep. Johnson pushed the government to purchase 8,000 acres from his father-in-law.
If You Can’t Ban Handguns, How About Rifles?
In 1974, civilian disarmament activists emboldened by LBJ’s and the Democrat Congress’ imposition of the GCA formed the National Coalition to Ban Handguns (NCBH) and the National Council to Control Handguns (NCCH). To avoid alarming millions of hunters and recreational target shooters, the groups pretended that the only guns they wanted banned were handguns.
NCBH said “rifles and shotguns serve a sporting purpose. . . . It is the concealable handgun that threatens and intimidates the citizens of this country—not the rifle and not the shotgun.” NCCH said “We’re not trying to deprive America’s hunters of their rifles and shotguns . . . . The handgun [is] the favorite weapon of the criminal.”
A decade later, with Congress and the states refusing to ban handguns, the activists and their allies in the media looked for a new issue. Their focus shifted to semi-automatic rifles in October 1985, when Newsweek published its “Machine Gun U.S.A.” issue.
Semi-automatic firearms were invented in the late 19th century and can fire only one shot when you pull the trigger, so they are not machine guns. But Newsweek—in a single article—characterized them as “machine guns,” “automatic weapons,” “assault weapons,” “rapid-fire weapons,” “military guns,” “exotic military guns,” “military-style assault guns,” “sophisticated paramilitary guns,” “paramilitary ‘grease guns,’” “modern combat weapons,” “maxi-violence weaponry,” “exotic weapons,” and “the mainstay of commandos.”
In 1988, a new gun prohibition group put together by a former NCBH employee who had also been an activist with Amnesty International, a major player in the international civilian disarmament movement at the United Nations, proposed that domestic disarmament activists pursue a “new topic” to “strengthen the handgun restriction lobby.” It said, “Efforts to restrict assault weapons are more likely to succeed than those to restrict handguns” and “[t]he public’s confusion over fully-automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons—anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun—can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons.” (A representative of the group was a Democrat witness during “assault weapon” hearings held by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., in September.)
The Fake Media Portray Semi-Automatics As Machine Guns
In 1968, in support of LBJ’s push for universal gun owner licensing and gun registration in the GCA, Time magazine dutifully said “licensing for the owner, registration for each of his firearms . . . would hardly be an outrageous imposition.” In 1981, when anti-gun activists were calling for a ban on handguns, the magazine again got on board, saying “the solution is not tighter controls but an outright ban. . . . A nationwide ban on private possession of handguns . . . would be a start – a movement in the direction of common sense and responsible social policy.”
On February 6, 1989, when the activists were campaigning against rifles, Time got with the program again, calling for a ban on “the import or sale of paramilitary weapons to civilians” and a ban on private sales of firearms, as proposed today in “universal background checks” legislation, which—demonstrating there is nothing new under the sun—is intended to lay the groundwork for the registration requirement Democrats began imposing in 1934 and tried to expand in 1968. Two days later, communist-linked Democrat U.S. Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (Ohio) introduced S. 386, a bill to ban semi-automatic firearms branded as “assault weapons.”
The following month, “CBS 48 Hours” and Dan Rather ran their “Armed and Deadly” episode, which showed fully-automatic firearms being fired while talking about semi-automatic firearms. NBC’s “Today Show” and Matt Lauer did the same thing in 1993, just before the Senate passed the final version of the legislation (sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein D-Calif.), and again in 1994, just before the House passed it as well.
CNN reporter John Zarella and Ken Jenne, then the Democrat sheriff of Broward County, Florida, did the same thing in 2004. Jenne was thereafter convicted of mail fraud and sentenced to prison, while Zarella bragged on his website that he had “authority” and “trust.”
In 2009, NBC-5 Chicago’s Kim Vatis teamed with Andrew Traver, then of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE), in a similar deception. As video footage of an overseas battlefield rolled with machine guns being heard in the background, Vatis talked about semi-automatic rifles. Then, at a shooting range with Traver standing by, Vatis held the trigger down on one of BATFE’s fully-automatic rifles, waving the gun back and forth, spraying bullets wildly for theatrical effect. The same year, the Associated Press gave Vatis a “Best Reporter” award for “Excellence in Journalism.” Several years later, Traver became director of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).
In 1993, President Bill Clinton said the country “can’t be so fixated on our desire to preserve the rights of ordinary Americans to legitimately own handguns and rifles.” The following year, Clinton signed into law Feinstein’s “ban” on “assault weapons” and “large” magazines, passed by a Democrat-majority House and Senate.
As I noted here, Feinstein’s “ban” allowed owners of “banned” guns and magazines to keep them and allowed the continued manufacture of the same guns in slightly modified form and the importation of the magazines in their original form. The anti-gun Washington Post admitted “no one should have any illusions about what was accomplished. . . . The provision is mainly symbolic; its virtue will be if it turns out to be, as hoped, a stepping stone to broader gun control.”
This year, several Democrats running for president have explained what “broader gun control” means, saying they support confiscating semi-automatic firearms and ammunition magazines. And nowadays when Democrats talk about confiscating guns, they don’t mean “only from blacks.”