Reagan on Gun Control and Self-Defense


ACRU Staff


April 25, 2007

My thanks to blogger Mark Alexander and his Patriot Post for digging up this great quote from our last truly great president, Ronald Reagan, concerning gun control:

“You won’t get gun control by disarming law-abiding citizens. There’s only one way to get real gun control: Disarm the thugs and the criminals, lock them up and if you don’t actually throw away the key, at least lose it for a long time… It’s a nasty truth, but those who seek to inflict harm are not fazed by gun controllers. I happen to know this from personal experience.”

It seems to me that Reagan would have known all too well how to relate to last week’s massacre at Virginia Tech. After all, he said those words in 1983, after surviving John Hinckley’s assassination attempt in 1981.

Indeed, Reagan wasn’t a newcomer to his conviction. Back in 1975, then-Governor Reagan wrote:

“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.”

Yet, time after time, we Americans will cede our responsibility — and our rights — to the government in a desperate attempt to guarantee our safety. But the tradeoff is an illusion: we do not become more safe, and it is not free.

Again, Reagan speaks to this fact:

“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.”

It may be that Americans are waking up to the Pyrrhic nature of gun control laws and will instead reassert their right to keep and bear arms in self-defense. The State of Tennessee has certainly moved in the right direction here.

But as Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) recently put it, it is still likely that some sort of “people control” will be sought as a result of this latest travesty. “Whenever something terrible happens,” Paul explains, “people reflexively demand that government do something. This impulse almost always leads to bad laws and the loss of liberty.”

Do we really want security cameras and checkpoints to fill every corner of America? Do we really want extensive intrusion into our medical records and the risk of involuntary internment in medical asylums?

As Reagan often said, “Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem.” Government is the problem here for the very reasons Reagan states above: its promises of security actually make us less secure.

The solution — as much of a solution that can reasonably be expected in a fallen world where evil people will always seek to do evil things — is personal responsibility. It is the exercise of self-defense — by exercising our right to bear arms, of course, but also through use of common sense and appropriate caution. And, as ACRU Policy Board member Walter Williams explained so well, this personal responsibility has to include appropriate parental oversight.

In the wake of yet another massacre in a “gun free” zone, we could use some of Ronald Reagan’s wisdom. Perhaps then we — as individual Americans and not as the state collective — can avert or lessen such senseless travesties.



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