Read this: Ronald Reagan's pro-gun control editorial from 1991


On March 30, 1981, John Hinckley Jr. attempted to kill President Ronald Reagan using “a Saturday-night special—a cheaply made .22 caliber pistol—purchased in a Dallas pawnshop by a young man with a history of mental disturbance.” All told, Hinckley shot and seriously injured four people that day, including Reagan’s press secretary Jim Brady.

Ten years later, a bill named after Brady was before Congress, and Reagan took to the pages of the New York Times to urge the House and Senate to pass the Brady Bill in a passionate opinion column.

This nightmare might never have happened if legislation that is before Congress now — the Brady bill — had been law back in 1981.
Named for Jim Brady, this legislation would establish a national seven-day waiting period before a handgun purchaser could take delivery. It would allow local law enforcement officials to do background checks for criminal records or known histories of mental disturbances. Those with such records would be prohibited from buying the handguns.

The bill called for waiting/cooling-off periods, both so background checks could be conducted and so that guns bought “in the heat of passion (to settle a quarrel, for example) or at times of depression brought on by potential suicide” didn’t immediately get into the hands of someone unstable. Waiting periods are strongly opposed by the gun lobby. The signed law used a five-day waiting period until November 30, 1998 when the National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) was implemented.

Reagan closes with a very logical response to critics: that even though laws like this would not stop all gun violence, they would at least represent a start.

This level of violence must be stopped. Sarah and Jim Brady are working hard to do that, and I say more power to them. If the passage of the Brady bill were to result in a reduction of only 10 or 15 percent of those numbers (and it could be a good deal greater), it would be well worth making it the law of the land.

After passing in both houses of Congress, President Clinton signed The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act into law on November 30, 1993. And while a lot of the credit goes to Jim Brady and his wife Sarah for their efforts in reducing gun violence, as Clinton himself says…

…Reagan’s editorial helped. It’s another example of Reagan supporting causes that the modern GOP seems to have forgotten about.

So this meme?

Not entirely true.

Read the full editorial here.

David Matthews operates the Wayback Machine on—hop on. Got a tip? Email him: [email protected]

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