In October, 1970, this magazine carried an article by Professor Richard Hofstadter, a distinguished American historian who, we deeply regret to report, died on October 24 after a long illness. Mr. Hofstadter’s article evoked a large number of critical letters to the editor. The subject was “America as a Gun Culture"; the author’s thesis was that for various historical reasons our society is dangerously permissive about the ownership and use of firearms, and that stricter gun-control laws are needed. There was no suggestion that all guns be confiscated, but it was urged that careful and uniform registration of firearms is essential.
Many of the letters complained that Mr. Hofstadter’s article was “an editorial,” and out of place in a history magazine. The editors would like to state very clearly that no article in this magazine signed by an individual can be taken to represent the view of AMERICAN HERITAGE . History is controversial by nature: unless it is to become a dry academic exercise, the reinterpretation and re-evaluation of the past is essential to it. This is particularly true of historical circumstances that have brought about any controversial current situation. We have published many articles taking an unusual and arguable position on such a subject, and it has always been assumed that the opinions expressed were those of the author, and of course open to challenge. A striking recent example was Charlton Ogbum, Jr.’s free-swinging excoriation of the automobile as a major threat to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (“The Motorcar vs. America,” June, 1970). Probably gg per cent of the readers of this magazine own cars, yet the reaction was mild and scattered. It appears that the question of gun ownership is a more sensitive one.
The comments that follow were chosen to represent as fully as possible the range of opinion expressed by our readers.