Last week, Representative (and Senate candidate) Beto O’Rourke (TX-16) shared a clip of Ronald Reagan discussing gun control in 1989, and the clip has been making the rounds on social media since – typically accompanied by a comment along the lines of “even Ronald Reagan supported banning these dangerous weapons.”
Ronald Reagan on the idea of selling military weapons to the public pic.twitter.com/2AH0QZqT0s
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) February 27, 2018
However, this clip isn’t a slam-dunk, regardless of how many times people claim it is.
In the clip, Reagan specifies that he is referring to machine guns, not AR-15s or other semi-automatic firearms.
Semi-automatic firearms (which include AR-15 rifles but also most modern firearms) shoot one bullet per one trigger pull. Automatic weapons (which are machine guns) continuously fire rounds as long as one pulls the trigger and there is ammunition.
The gun debate today centers around semi-automatic weapons. Many people don’t realize that because they don’t know the difference just as they don’t know gun laws or history.
Automatic weapons have been highly regulated and severely restricted since 1986 under the Firearm Owners Protection Act (FOPA). It is only legal for private citizens to possess them after obtaining approval from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) in a process that includes a thorough criminal background check and a federal tax payment. Furthermore, FOPA amended the 1934 National Firearms Act (NFA) and 1968 Gun Control Act (GCA) to make it illegal for any private citizen to own any fully automatic weapons manufactured after May 19, 1986. Add to that, the weapons are costly, running into the tens of thousands of dollars.
The statement Reagan makes in the clip is merely stating support for the law as it exists today. People using this video clip do not realize they are advocating for laws already in place!
And it’s not just O’Rourke. One day after his tweet, the verified Facebook account for U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT, though in 2016 he ran for the Democrat nomination for president) shared a version of the video as well, with the following caption: “Even President Reagan agreed that civilians do not need to have access to assault weapons in America.”
However, Sanders took it one step further, as the video Sanders posted was edited to change what Reagan said. The video Sanders shared was edited to remove “a machine gun” after he says “AK-47,” so the sentence changed from “I do believe that an AK-47, a machine gun, is not a sporting weapon or needed for the defense of a home” to “I do believe that an AK-47 is not a sporting weapon or needed for the defense of a home.”
Someone should inform the congressmen, and those sharing their tweets and videos, that that is already law.
They should also be made aware of the fact that Ronald Reagan also said the following things in support of gun rights:
“You won’t get gun control by disarming law-abiding citizens.”
“In my opinion, proposals to outlaw or confiscate guns are simply unrealistic panacea.”
“The Second Amendment leaves little, if any leeway for the gun control advocate… the right of the citizen to keep and bear arms must not be infringed if liberty in America is to survive.”
“There are those in America today who have come to depend absolutely on government for their security. And when government fails they seek to rectify that failure in the form of granting government more power. So, as government has failed to control crime and violence with the means given it by the Constitution, they seek to give it more power at the expense of the Constitution. But in doing so, in their willingness to give up their arms in the name of safety, they are really giving up their protection from what has always been the chief source of despotism — government.”
I admit that I very much enjoy watching people on the Left praise Ronald Reagan, though.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.