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Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House Urging Passage of an Effective Gun Control Law.

June 06, 1968

Dear Mr. President: (Dear Mr. Speaker:)

Today the Nation cries out to the conscience of the Congress.

Criminal violence from the muzzle of a gun has once again brought heartbreak to America.

Surely this must be clear beyond question: the hour has come for the Congress to enact a strong and effective Gun Control Law, governing the full range of lethal weapons.

I have sought--and fought for--such a law through all the days of my Presidency.

On occasions before, I have spoken of the terrible toll inflicted on our people by firearms:

--750,000 Americans dead since the turn of the century. This is far more than have died at the hands of our enemies in all the wars we have fought.

--sorrow and suffering that cannot be counted, and fear that cannot be measured.

Each year, in this country, guns are involved in more than 6,500 murders. This compares with 30 in England, 99 in Canada, 68 in West Germany, and 37 in Japan. 44,000 aggravated assaults are committed with guns in America each year. 50,000 robberies are committed with guns in America each year.

I have told the Congress and the Nation of the brutal loopholes in our laws. Two million guns were sold in the United States last year. Far too many were bought by the demented, the deranged, the hardened criminal and the convict, the addict, and the alcoholic. We cannot expect these irresponsible people to be prudent in their protection of us, but we can expect the Congress to protect us from them.

Weapons of destruction can be purchased by mail as easily as baskets of fruit or cartons of cigarettes. We must eliminate the dangers of mail-order murder.

The Congress has finally begun to take action. The Senate has passed a watered-down version of the Gun Control Law I recommended. The House has taken action on the Senate Bill.

But this half-way measure is not enough.

It covers adequately only transactions involving hand guns. It leaves the deadly commerce in lethal shotguns and rifles without effective control--fifty-five long months after the mail-order murder of President John F. Kennedy.

So today, I call upon the Congress in the name of sanity, in the name of safety--and in the name of an aroused nation--to give America the Gun Control Law it needs.

I urge the Congress to make it unlawful to sell rifles and shotguns--as well as hand guns--by mail order.

I urge the Congress to make it unlawful to sell rifles and shotguns--as well as hand guns--to persons who are too young to bear the terrible responsibility that is placed in the hands of a gun owner.

I urge the Congress to make it unlawful to sell rifles and shotguns--as well as hand guns--in one State to residents of another.

This will not prevent legitimate hunters or sportsmen from purchasing firearms but with this reinforced law we can give the States the proper incentive to shape their own gun control legislation, and the country can at long last have a network of systematic safeguards for all our citizens.

I am asking the Governors of the fifty States immediately and comprehensively to review their gun laws and to amend them where necessary to fully protect citizens of their States from deadly weapons in dangerous hands.

The voices of the few must no longer prevail over the interests of the many.

When I last appealed to the Congress on this subject again only a month ago, I asked this question: "What in the name of conscience will it take to pass a truly effective gun control law?"

In this new hour of tragedy, that question should at last be answered. Let us now spell out our grief in constructive action.



Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Hubert H. Humphrey, President of the Senate, and to the Honorable John W. McCormack, Speaker of the House of Representatives. The President also read the letter for radio and television broadcast.

The Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 which contains gun control provisions, was approved by the President on June 19, 1968 (see Item 320). The Gun Control Act of 1968 was approved by the President on October 22, 1968 (see Item 553).

On June 7, 1968, the White House released a telegram from Price Daniel, Assistant to the President for Federal-State Relations, to all Governors urging them to revise State gun laws for "the purpose of initiating any amendments that may be necessary to provide additional safeguards and protection against deadly weapons in dangerous hands." (4 Weekly Comp. Pres. Docs. p. 919)

Lyndon B. Johnson, Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House Urging Passage of an Effective Gun Control Law. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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