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Conservatives tend to lionize anyone associated with their ideology. Fewer politicians have been more ingrained in conservative mythology than Ronald Wilson Reagan. Rush Limbaugh explained:

He was optimistic and happy. He was infectious. He dared to embrace big ideas. He dared to do big things to overcome huge obstacles in the midst of all kinds of experts telling him it couldn’t be done, in the midst of all kinds of criticism, in the midst of all kinds of personal insults.

He rejected Washington elitism and connected directly with the American people who adored him. He didn’t need the press. He didn’t need the press to spin what he was or what he said. He had the ability to connect individually with each American who saw him. That is an incredible — I don’t even want to say “talent.” It’s a characteristic that so few Americans have, so few people have, but he was able to do it. He brought confidence; he brought vigor, and he brought humility to the presidency, which had been missing for years, and this profoundly upset his political and media adversaries to no end, and Reagan enjoyed that. Ronald Reagan rejected socialism; he rejected big government. He insisted on returning as much government back to the people as was possible.

Some of this is certainly true. On the surface Reagan seemed like a true American President in the most realistic and patriotic ways. Compared to his two immediate predecessors he seemed like one of the Founders returned to save the day. Compared to the last two occupiers of the Whitehouse it would almost seem that Reagan came down from Olympus. It is understandable why so many cite him their favorite president of all time or call him the greatest conservative. However, as sometimes happens, the facts get in the way.

Reagan cut tax rates but he also increased taxes – 11 times during his Presidency. On his watch the federal debt tripled. Bush (43) was only able to double the debt, Obama being on a similar trajectory. Amateurs. Reagan grew the government, both in terms of spending and in overall scope. Reagan, while opposing Soviet intervention throughout the world, engaged in extreme levels of foreign meddling, some (like the Taliban) with lasting consequences.

Reagan also gave amnesty to 3 million illegal aliens. His law was sold to the public as a crackdown on immigration but only deepened the problem for future generations. He also successfully sold gun control under the guise of firearms protection. Reagan was a gun grabber.

I was reminded of this when I saw a pro-Reagan/pro-gun, “conservative ” meme posted on Facebook:

Conservatives Today

On March 30, 1981 John Hinkley Jr. shot Reagan outside the Washington Hilton with a .22LR revolver. The President made a full recovery. Press Secretary James Brady was not as lucky, being paralyzed by a head shot. Brady and his wife Sarah founded the Brady Campaign against guns. As Reagan did not immediately react by joining with the Bradys many believe him a full proponent of gun rights – thus, the above meme.

Conservative forget that after leaving office Reagan supported the Brady Bill: “Still, four lives were changed forever, and all by a Saturday-night special — a cheaply made .22 caliber pistol — purchased in a Dallas pawnshop by a young man with a history of mental disturbance. This nightmare might never have happened if legislation that is before Congress now — the Brady bill — had been law back in 1981.” Ronald Reagan, Why I’m For the Brady Bill, New York Times, March 29, 1991.

The now-expired/obsolete Bill did little to nothing to stop violent crime. Had it been law in 1981 it might have saved Brady and Reagan and two others from being shot. It was law in 1999 and did nothing to prevent the Columbine tragedy.

Reagan never had a chance to support or sign the Bill while in office. He did, however, sign the Firearm Owner’s Protection Act (FOPA) into law in 1986. Like Reagan’s immigration “crackdown”, the Act’s name is a misnomer. FOPA, 100 Stat. 499, amended 18 U.S.C. § 921, et seq. (and related laws) in an overhaul of the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), 82 Stat. 1213-2.

Had Reagan been a friend of the Second Amendment he would have attempted to repeal the GCA and the National Firearms Act (NFA). He did not; he added more controls. FOPA had two effects. One, it shuffled around ATF regulations and procedures in response to complaints of arbitrary and redundant policies. However, the “loosening” of some regulations came with a steep price. The second part of FOPA essentially banned the sale to and possession of machine guns by civilians.

(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), it shall be unlawful for any person to transfer or possess a machinegun.

(2) This subsection does not apply with respect to—

(A) a transfer to or by, or possession by or under the authority of, the United States or any department or agency thereof or a State, or a department, agency, or political subdivision thereof; or

(B) any lawful transfer or lawful possession of a machinegun that was lawfully possessed before the date this subsection takes effect.

The machine gun “ban” was not actually a total bar. In reality did two things: it created onerous requirements for ownership, and; it limited the supply of available guns. Current estimates of the number of fully automatic weapons available to the public are somewhere around 180,000 units. This limitation caused the price of the guns (not including the taxes and procedural costs of ownership) to skyrocket.

The military or a police agency can purchase a new Heckler and Koch MP5 9mm sub-machine gun for somewhere south of $3,000 (well equipped). A citizen can buy the same thing for north of $30,000 before taxes. And, the citizen gets a reconditioned pre-1986 model. It’s like the government’s stupid “cash for clunkers” program that dried up the supply of used cars and forced more people into buying more expensive newer cars; except, here, the people are left with only a supply of outrageously overpriced used vehicles.

Now, many folks do not like the idea of any automatic weapons in the hands of the commoners. Liberals use “machine guns” as a rallying cry to describe just about any gun – from a Daisy BB rifle to a single-shot 12 gauge. Even people on the right are often opposed to the concept. I’ve been at several NRA functions and similar events where gun lovers would tell me, when prompted or on their own, that “no one needs a machine gun”.

Really? Then just how did the nation survive from the invention of the machine gun (call it Maxim in 1883) until 1986 without total calamity? It’s the same reason “assault rifles” pose no danger – criminals don’t use them. Criminals prefer handguns like Hinkley’s .22 plinker. Of the 8,124 murders committed in 2014 with firearms, only 248 were committed with any kind of rifle. In the same year 435 people were murdered by baseball bats and hammers while 660 were killed by punches and kicks. Automatic weapons appear nowhere in the statistics even though there are about 180,000 of them out there.

This is the way it’s always been. In years past and in a freer America anyone could purchase any type of weapon with no government interference at all. This included machine guns. Then, as now, there was no problem or epidemic associated with these dread devices. That’s because they are really only good for engaging large numbers of hostiles at once. Even combat soldiers rarely resort to fully automatic firing. In war machine guns are usually used in concentration against hardened positions, armor, or against massed enemy troops. Before 1898 and the Spanish-American War the American military had almost no machine guns at all. The Rough Riders had to rely on civilian-donated guns to attack San Juan Hill. That means for about 15 years machine guns were only in private hands – with no reported problems.

Well, we had it…. izquotes.com

Now, you might be thinking, “if machine guns are only useful in extreme circumstances in war, why bother having them?” The truth is most people would not own them even if they were completely unregulated. It’s the freedom, the option to have them that matters. Given that we have a government which raises taxes, increases the debt and burden on the people, stirs up terrorists, and imports aliens (including terrorists) – often while lying about it all – perhaps this is an option the people need.

Like them or not, these weapons are “arms” protected by the Second Amendment and by the Natural Law theory of self-preservation. These are part of the citizen gun rights in need of protection. Ronald Reagan didn’t do it regardless of what the Facebook conservatives think.