Takes: A Gun-Control Debate, Forty Years Ago
Seventy-one per cent of the people in this country want strict controls over all privately owned guns. That figure, which was recently published by the Gallup Poll, represents all regions, and all age groups and all kinds of people, including gun owners. Their common desire for limits on the possession of firearms is not a sudden, nervous desire set off by the assassination attempt on Governor George C. Wallace or by the latest alarming statistics on the crime rate. Rather, polls taken over the past generation show that around three-quarters of the public has consistently felt this way. Though it is true that a democracy moves sluggishly in response to the push and pull of contending factions, a full generation seems a long time for a demand by the American public to go unmet…
According to the recent Gallup Poll on gun control—again substantiated by many years of similar results—only twenty-five per cent of the public at large opposes gun controls. It is in this group that the “gun nuts,” as they have actually come to call themselves, are to be found. There are a lot of them—somewhere between ten and twenty million—and they stand, grim-visaged, hand on hip, ready to protect home and hearth, and, along the way, to enrich the gun manufacturers, gun advertisers, gun publicists, gun-magazine publishers, and gun sellers, which is to say the gun lobbyists who have made suckers out of them and victims or prospective victims out of the rest of us… Now and then, a politician from an urban area, where control of firearms is essential if the place is to be habitable, will stand up and ask that we civilize ourselves by restricting our savage freedom to wield guns at will. But year after year the result is the same: nothing, or next to nothing, happens. And things will go on this way until the remaining three-fourths of the nation’s citizens speak out, clearly and repeatedly, to Congress, demanding their right to live in the kind of reasonable security that any society owes its members.
—Richard Harris, Comment, August 5, 1972.