This gun law debate is exceedingly contentious, with people voicing their opinions on both sides of the issue. While everyone can agree, that safety and freedom are the main tenets of our nation, it can be difficult to legislate when terrible tragedies put these two ideals at odds. As complex as gun laws can be, many Vice Presidents have voiced their opinions rather vociferously.
Walter Mondale On Guns:
Our democratic 42nd Vice President, Walter Mondale, is famously quoted as saying: “Gun bans don’t disarm criminals. Gun bans attract them.”
Years later, when he was serving as U.S. Ambassador to Japan in 1994, he weighed in on the gun ban legislation following the Columbine massacre. He wrote an April 20th message from the American Embassy in Tokyo stating that a 20-member gang moved to Japan after finding criminal activity in America “too dangerous because of the prevalence of guns in the homes.”
He continued, “After two dozen successful burglaries in gun-free Tokyo, they managed to mail over 6 million dollars worth of stolen cash and jewels to conspirators in Colombia.” His message concluded, “As word spreads among the international criminal community, more foreigners (including more Americans) may well come to Japan for the easy pickings.”
- Pictured: VP John Nance Garner & President Harry Truman
Quotes About Guns From Vice Presidents of Old:
- Elbridge Gerry: “Self defense is a primary law of nature, which no subsequent law of society can abolish; the immediate gift of the Creator, obliges everyone… to resist the first approaches of tyranny,” said Madison’s VP.
- Thomas Jefferson: ”None but an armed nation can dispense with a standing army. To keep ours armed and disciplined is therefore at all times important,” said John Adams’ VP.
- Theodore Roosevelt: Avid hunter and VP to William McKinley believed: “The great body of our citizens shoot less as times goes on. We should encourage rifle practice among schoolboys, and indeed among all classes, as well as in the military services by every means in our power. Thus, and not otherwise, may we be able to assist in preserving peace in the world… The first step – in the direction of preparation to avert war if possible, and to be fit for war if it should come – is to teach men to shoot!”
What More Modern VPs Say About Gun Control:
- Hubert H. Humprey (38th VP): “Certainly one of the chief guarantees of freedom under any government, no matter how popular and respected, is the right of citizens to keep and bear arms,” said Lyndon B. Johnson’s #2 in command. “This is not to say that firearms should not be very carefully used and that definite safety rules of precaution should not be taught and enforced. But the right of citizens to bear arms is just one guarantee against arbitrary government, one more safeguard against the tyranny which now appears remote in America but which historically has proven to be possible.”
- Gerald Ford: “I had always opposed federal registration of guns or the licensing of gun owners,” said Richard Nixon’s second VP. “…At the same time, I recognized that handguns had played a key role in the increase of violent crime. Not all handguns-just those that hadn’t been designed for sporting purposes. I asked Congress to ban the manufacture and sale of these ‘Saturday night specials.’”
- Lyndon B. Johnson: As President, LBJ signed the Gun Control Act of 1968. As VP to John F. Kennedy, he stated: “Guns and bombs, rockets and warships, are all symbols of human failure.”
- Richard Nixon: “Guns are an abomination,” he told Journalist William Safire, adding that he favored making handguns illegal and requiring licenses for hunting rifles.
- Al Gore: “I know about fighting for gun control. I cast the tie-breaking vote to take on the NRA and close the gun show loophole. It took a hard fight to pass the Brady bill and make it the Brady law to establish the 3-day waiting period,” said Bill Clinton’s VP, during his subsequent presidential run. He added, “I want to go farther and completely ban Saturday night specials and junk guns and assault weapons and have what’s called super tracing so that when a gun is used in any kind of crime it can be immediately traced.”
- Al Gore: However, Gore also admitted that current attempts at legislation did not work. Thirty years after the Gun Control Act of 1968 made it illegal for anyone under 21 to buy a handgun from a dealer, Gore said: “Any 18 year old can walk into a gun store, pawn shop or gun show and buy a handgun.”
- Dick Cheney: In 2011, after the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, George W. Bush’s VP told NBC’s Jamie Gangel,“Whether or not there’s some measure there in terms of limiting the size of the magazine that you can buy to go with a semiautomatic weapon — we’ve had that in place before. Maybe it’s appropriate to re-establish that kind of thing, but I think you do have to be careful obviously. We’re looking for ways to make sure this never happens again, but you’ve still got to go back to the fact that it looks like the cause of this particular tragedy was this one individual who apparently has very serious mental problems.”
- Dan Quayle: “The quick fix artists are now in a frenzy over guns,” George H.W. Bush’s VP said after the shooting in Littleton, Colorado. He added, “Certainly there are things we can do concerning guns. The instant check system works. And we need to enforce the laws on the books that deal with gun violence. But the overriding issue isn’t really gun control, it’s self-control. A child who loves God, honors his parents, and respects his neighbors will not kill anyone. In our hearts we know that the answer to tragedies like Littleton is in changing the culture.”
- Joe Biden: In response to the Virginia Tech shooting, Obama’s VP explained: “In the so-called Biden crime bill, we put 100,000 cops on the street. I’ve worked with law enforcement for the past 30 years, with armor-piercing bullets, waiting periods, etc. But the one thing that’s clear: We should not have let the assault weapons ban lapse. We should close this so-called gun show loophole, so you can’t go into a gun show and buy a gun that you couldn’t buy walking into a gun shop. We have let the country down in the way in which we have not focused on mental illness. We should know that your kid is safe at college. If teachers determine that a child is a danger, the school should be able to take them off the campus.” Today, the VP is leading the panel on gun control, with 19 of his recommendations (along with 4 of Obama’s own) passed by executive order already.