Election-year return of gun question
Action on Candidate Safety During Campaign
A special fear haunts the campaign for the American presidency in 1972. It is a fear that somewhere on the campaign trail, when least expected, another shot will flash and once more a contender for high office will be transformed in an instant from a smiling champion to an inert, bleeding body. The horror of such an event goes beyond the personal tragedy to the victim and the loss to the nation of a political leader. Fear of assassination threatens the American way of choosing elected officials. It erects unwanted barriers between candidates and the electorate and it can discourage some potential leaders from running for office.
Security measures cannot guarantee political personages absolute safety from malcontents. President Kennedy was gunned down in 1963 despite the elaborate protection always accorded the Chief Executive. A similar fate awaited his brother Robert five years later, at a moment of triumph in his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, despite the presence of bodyguards. And on May 15, 1972, Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace, riding a high crest of popularity in his drive for the Democratic presidential nomination, was severely wounded at close range although he was the most heavily guarded of all the candidates.
What then is the answer? Should America give up its traditional practice of having aspirants for high office reach out personally to the people, mingle with crowds, shake the hands of strangers? Must the candidate in the flesh be replaced entirely by his shadow on a television screen? Some think the answer lies in gun control. They would strictly limit the right of ordinary citizens to acquire or keep a gun to reduce the chance it might fall into the hands of assassins, ordinary criminals or other irresponsible persons.