In Part 2 of our History of American Gun Control series, Matt talks about the turn of the century and the Progressive Era, a sea change in American governance, spearheaded by an alliance of social gospel do-gooders and big business oligarchs that led to massive intervention by the state in every sphere of private life. He spends some time on this subject first because it shows us how many of the theories on the role of government which led to gun control first came to be.
Progressivism caused some of the turmoil that plagued early 20th century America, and was a reaction against these events as well. Bank panics, organized crime, a world war, Prohibition of alcohol, central banking and the Great Depression all led to an environment where violent crime reached epidemic proportions. Battles over illicit liquor market share led to shootouts between gangs in many major cities, citizens cried the all-too-common refrain of “We must do something!” meaning “use the force of the state”.
Federal gun control, which would have been unthinkable in America’s early republican era was now appealing due to the influence of Progressivism. The 20s and early 30s culminated in the attempted assassination of President-elect Roosevelt and Congress passed the National Firearms Act of 1934, the basis of all Federal gun laws since. This law has changed American gun ownership on a fundamental level and destroyed the limits on state power. It was upheld in the landmark Supreme Court case United States v. Miller in 1938, which we also cover.
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