Gun Control: Recurrent Issue

July 19, 1972

Report Outline
Election-year return of gun question
Existing U.S. Regulation of Firearms
Debate Over Legislative Proposals
Special Focus

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.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Gun Control and the Second Amendment
Aug. 05, 2022  Gun Violence
Jul. 27, 2018  Gun Violence
Jan. 27, 2017  Guns on Campus
Mar. 08, 2013  Gun Control
Oct. 31, 2008  Gun Rights Debates Updated
May 25, 2007  Gun Violence
Nov. 12, 2004  Gun Control Debate
Dec. 19, 1997  Gun Control Standoff
Jun. 10, 1994  Gun Control
Mar. 22, 1991  Reassessing the Nation's Gun Laws
Nov. 13, 1987  Gun Control
Dec. 13, 1985  Guns in America: the Debate Continues
Jul. 19, 1972  Gun Control: Recurrent Issue
Nov. 11, 1959  Firearms Control
Gun Control