Nixon Wanted Total Handgun Ban, White House Records Show

Nathan Francis

Richard Nixon wanted a total handgun ban and refused to gave in to the powerful handgun lobby National Rifle Association, White House records show.

A collection of previously unreported Oval Office recordings and White House memos show Nixon as an otherwise conservative president who had one of the hardest stances for gun control of any American president. While in office Nixon banned the sale of Saturday night specials, a cheaply made type of handgun, and wanted to ban all handguns.

"I don't know why any individual should have a right to have a revolver in his house," Nixon said in a taped conversation with aides. "The kids usually kill themselves with it and so forth." He asked why "can't we go after handguns, period?"

Even some of Nixon's advisers were against the handgun ban.

"Let me ask you," Nixon said to Attorney General John Mitchell in June 1971, "there is only one thing you are checking on, that's the manufacture of those $20 guns? We should probably stop that."

When Mitchell said that the gun lobby would stand in the way of such a ban, Nixon was ready to counter their attack.

"No hunters are going to use $20 guns," Nixon countered.

"No, but the gun lobby's against any incursion into the elimination of firearms," said Mitchell.

Nixon never made his wish for a handgun ban public, but worked with Congress at various measures of gun control. On the recordings, Nixon said adding new gun control would have been difficult, but he stuck by his view that "people should not have handguns."

"I know the rifle association will be against it, the gun makers will be against it," Nixon said.

The recordings come out at a time when gun control has again become a hot topic. In the wake of the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, there has been a push both on the nationwide and state levels to add new measures of gun control.

Nixon's support of a handgun ban was timely as well. Some of the remarks released were from May 16, 1972, the day after a would-be assassin shot and paralyzed segregationist presidential candidate George Wallace.