The following is the text of a speech President Reagan will NOT deliver to the National Rifle Association meeting tomorrow in Pheonix.
Good afternoon. It is an honor to be here today. As you know, I have been a long-time supporter of the National Rifle Association, supporting you as you have supported me, but I think we have come now to a parting of the ways. Maybe you can understand. Your cause nearly killed me.
My concern is handguns. As you know, a certified psychotic named John Hinckley Jr. took a gun and tried to kill me. He had been under psychiatric treatment, yet he had no trouble buying a gun, taking it across the country and taking a shot at me.
No one asked him why he wanted to buy a gun. No one insisted on a license, on a cooling-off period, on a check of some sort to see why in the world he wanted a handgun. After all, you don't hunt animals with a handgun. Only people. It turned out Hinckley was hunting me. No one is to blame for that. But he took a shot at me. You have to share the blame for that.
Let me go on. Obviously, Hinckley was not successful. I was wounded and recovered, but others were not so fortunate. I am referring here, of course, to James Brady. He is the White House press secretary, but he is that in name only. He was seriously wounded in that assassination attempt and it is not clear yet whether he will ever be the same physically again.
The last time I saw Brady, I wanted to cry. He was sitting on the dais at some Washington event, his wife next to him, a big grin of his wide face. I hardly knew the man when I named him my press secretary, but I know him now. There is a sweetness in Brady that comes through in the smile, but the truth is that his life is not sweet. He is still partially paralyzed. There are lots of medical reasons for that, but one reason is that you people in the National Rifle Association have fought all attempts to regulate the sale or ownership of hand guns.
This sounds a bit harsh, I know. But I have thought it over and I just have to blame you for Brady--for all the Bradys. I have to blame you for Bradys who are not famous, who go out into the street and get shot by some kid who hasn't the slightest appreciation of either his own or anyone else's life. I blame you for every dumb domestic fight in which someone reaches for a handgun. I blame you for helping to turn the cities into metropolises of fear. I blame you for Robert Kennedy and George Moscone and John Lennon.
I blame you for 37 million gun-owning households--half the households in the country. I blame you for more than 11,000 murders a year and another 11,000 suicides or accidents. I blame you for the defeat of efforts to control this epidemic of hand-gun ownership, for the lobbying you do in Congress and for your misinterpretation of the constitutional right to bear arms--originally meant as a way of ensuring that there would be a militia. No militia uses Saturday night specials.
Now I'm going to tell you something. I know that if you banned handguns tomorrow, there would still be handgun killings. There are too many guns out there for any law to make a difference right at the beginning. And I know that the last people to turn in their guns would be the criminal element. But I know, too, that such a law would be a start. There will always be guns, just like there will always be illegal narcotics, but I do what I can to control drugs and keep damage to a minimum. I think we can do the same for guns. At least we could try.
The truth is that neither Nancy nor I can figure out why you NRA types are so crazy about handguns. You can't really hunt with them and if you want to target-shoot, fine--get a license. The only thing handguns are really good for is killing. This is why I thought that in the name of Jim Brady and all the other victims of handguns, I would come here today to say that I will now support a bill to restrict the ownership of handguns.
I have learned something the hard way. You people are right. Guns don't kill people.
Sometimes they just leave them maimed for life.