Earlier this month Rachel Maddow told the little-known story of how Senator John F. Kennedy introduced legislation to ban the importation of weapons produced for foreign armies, only to be thwarted by pro-gun legislators. Then, on November 22, 1963, Maddow said, Lee Oswald used an Italian-made military rifle to shoot and kill President Kennedy. For the popular MSNBC anchor, this story illuminates the enduring and pernicious effects of the gun lobby from Dallas to Newtown.
As a contemporary polemic, this novel interpretation of JFK’s assassination — the Gun Lobby Did It — is strong. As history it is weak. It’s hard not to agree with Maddow’s broad point: the gun manufacturers and gun violence have had a pernicious effect on American life for a long time. She is correct that an Italian-made rifle, cheap and easily obtained under permissive U.S. gun laws, played a central role in the JFK assassination story.
But her implication that the gun lobby, as a power sector in American politics, was an important causal factor in enabling JFK’s assassination is not founded in historical fact. Read more