In the wake of the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, many conservatives have shown little inclination to consider new legislation on gun access. Those of us on the right who have expressed receptiveness to new proposals have been criticized within our own ranks.
By the standards of certain modern-day conservatives, however, even
Reagan is fondly remembered as a defender of the Constitution and of gun rights. However, while remaining true to that underlying belief, Reagan, before, during and after his presidency, supported common-sense gun restrictions that were compatible with the Second Amendment.
While still president in 1986, Reagan signed into law the Firearm Owners Protection Act, which was hailed by gun rights advocates because it included numerous protections for gun owners. However, it also banned ownership of any fully automatic rifles that were not already registered on the day the law was signed.
Then, in 1991, four years after the controversial Brady Bill was introduced in Congress and with passage again in doubt, Reagan penned an op-ed in
Regarding handguns, Reagan stated, "This level of violence must be stopped … If the passage of the Brady bill were to result in a reduction of only 10 or 15 percent of those numbers (and it could be a good deal greater), it would be well worth making it the law of the land."
Finally, in 1994, Reagan successfully threw his support behind the Assault Weapons Ban in a joint letter to the
Was Reagan a heretic, an apostate, an unprincipled Constitution shredder, an inauthentic conservative, as some have accused me of being after I suggested recently that we should support sensible gun restrictions? Of course not.
Reagan appreciated that Second Amendment does not say whatever you want it to say and that there was nothing incompatible with those rights and appropriate safeguards. Reagan also appreciated that, politically, doing nothing in the face of carnage was unacceptable.
The brilliance of Reagan's leadership was that, although he was a conservative, he was willing to compromise and be pragmatic. That didn't make him unprincipled or insincere. Then again, as
So, for conservatives so quick to accuse some of us as being insensitive to the Constitution or inauthentic in our conservatism, I say, do your homework and remember the Gipper.