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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

Jayne: Reagan was woke on weapons

By Greg Jayne, Columbian Opinion Page Editor
Published: October 28, 2023, 6:02am

“You know, he may have been right,” Biff said, metaphorically casting a line.

“Who may have been right?,” Bubba replied, taking the bait like a famished salmon.

“Reagan. Ronald Reagan. He may have been right.”

“You bet he was. Reagan was right about a lot of things. About peace through strength and about government being the problem and about fixing the ozone. Although he was way off about tax cuts paying for themselves.”

“That’s for sure.”

“But which one are you talking about? The shining city on a hill?”

“About guns. Reagan may have been right when he said, ‘There is absolutely no reason why out on the street today a civilian should be carrying a loaded weapon.’ ”

“What? Why would Reagan say that? He was a Republican! He was a defender of personal freedom! He was a real American!”

“That may be. But he was also a pragmatist. He said those words as governor of California when members of the Black Panther Party were carrying guns on the grounds of the state Capitol.”

“Black Panthers? Oh, that explains it.”

“But you know,” Biff added, setting the hook, “that’s not all …”

“Uh-oh, what else?,” Bubba asked, bracing himself.

“After he left the White House, Reagan supported a ban on assault weapons.”

“You don’t say.”

“As an ex-president, Reagan signed a letter to members of the House saying a ban on assault weapons was ‘a matter of vital importance to the public safety,’ or something like that.”

“Are you sure? That doesn’t sound like the freedom-loving, stick-it-to-the-Commies Reagan that I know.”

“Let me call it up … Yup, he wrote, ‘while we recognize that assault weapon legislation will not stop all assault weapon crime, statistics prove that we can dry up the supply of these guns, making them less accessible to criminals.’ ”

“You’re telling me that Reagan was woke?”

“He co-signed the letter with former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. They wrote, ‘We urge you to listen to the American public and to the law enforcement community and support a ban on the further manufacture of these weapons.’ ”

“Obviously, nothing came of that.”

“Actually, we had a national ban on assault weapons for 10 years. Then Republicans allowed it to sunset in 2004.”

“Unconstitutional! Second Amendment rights!”

“Well, it seems like the ban Reagan supported stood for 10 years. So it probably was constitutional.”

“But why would Reagan do that?”

“Because it’s common sense.”

“Yeah, maybe. There was another mass shooting this week with an assault weapon.”

“Yep, at least 18 dead in Maine. Don’t you think it’s un-American to not do something about a national crisis?”

“Yeah, but mental illness has something to do with it. Why don’t the bleeding hearts do something about that and stop blaming the gun?”

“Good point. But can’t we do both? It doesn’t have to be either/or.”

“I suppose.”

“It just seems like a high percentage of these mass shootings are carried out with assault-style weapons, and that we are the only country where such shootings routinely occur. If we had airplanes crashing into mountains on a daily basis, wouldn’t we demand that Congress do something about it?”

“Yeah, but Republicans are dead set against gun control.”

“You mean the party of law and order?”

“I mean the party of personal freedom.”

“Freedom like trying to roll back gay rights and abortion rights and transgender rights?”

“What’s wrong with standing up for traditional morals?”

“While supporting Donald Trump? Seems a bit hypocritical.”

“Maybe. But what’s this got to do with Reagan?”

“Well, it seems that the Republican Party has abandoned much of what it once stood for. And sometimes, you know, Reagan was right.”