Repeating History: America as a Gun Culture

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As this issue goes to press, Governor George Wallace of Alabama lies gravely wounded by bullets fired from the handgun of a would-be assassin while he was campaigning for the Presidential nomination in Maryland. It made us think, sadly, of this passage from an essay we published in October, 1970, by the late Richard Hofstadter, called “America as a Gun Culture”:

“In 1968, after the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., there was an almost touching national revulsion against our own gun culture, and for once the protesting correspondence on the subject reaching senators and representatives outweighed letters stirred up by the extraordinarily efficient lobby of the National Rifle Association. And yet all that came out of this moment of acute concern was a feeble measure, immensely disappointing to advocates of serious gun control, restricting the mailorder sales of guns. It seems clear now that the strategic moment for gun controls has passed and that the United States will continue to endure an armed populace, at least until there is a major political disaster involving the use of guns.”