Skip to main content

The Guns Of February/march

July 2024
1min read

John G. Mitchell’s article on the history of the National Rifle Association and its stand on the right to bear arms (“‘God, Guns, and Guts Made America Free,’” February/March, 1978) engendered a respectable amount of mail, some of it quite heated. One reader, for example, maintained that the article was “about as subtle and unbiased as a bullet fired in anger,” and went on to declare that “guns truly represent an American heritage. I get pretty annoyed with these selfappointed do-gooders who want to classify me with crazies, nuts and murderers and take away my heritage.”

A cooler reaction came from Robert B. Meredith of Tiburon, California: “I have a weapon because in my home I want the option of deciding whether to be the victim or defendant.… Contrary to many people … who own weapons, I do support registration for two main reasons: (1) I feel law officers should have the right to know if there are any registered weapons in a house they may be required to approach together with the nature and calibre of those weapons, and (2) knowing [that] a weapon [is] registered is a deterrent to its unlawful use and a spur to the reporting of its theft or loss.”

Other readers, while not taking sides on the issue of gun control, did object to the article on the grounds that it was a piece of contemporary journalism which had no place in a magazine of history. In response, editor-in-chief Alvin M. Josephy, Jr., had this to say: “What has emerged today is a very healthy rebirth of interest in American history, an interest in the various phases of our national life that connect the present to the past and even, sometimes, to the future. The American heritage thus becomes not alone the dictionary definition of history, but something that is ongoing. We today are the inheritors of the past and are building on it and adding to the heritage of the future. Thus, the National Rifle Association and the constitutional right to bear arms is an appropriate subject for us, we think. The question of the right to bear arms goes back to the founding of the Republic, and the role of the NRA yesterday and today is of major historical interest. We were not partisan in the article and hope that all our readers enjoyed it.”

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.