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MAIL ORDER GUN CONTROL
TUESDAY, JULY 2, 1968
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D.C. The subcommittee convened at 10 a.m. in room 210, Cannon Building, Hon. Robert N. C. Nix (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding
Mr. Nix. The subcommittee will be in order. Today the subcommittee is investigating the possibility of banning all firearms from the U.S. mail. The presence of over 100 million weapons in a society of 60 million homes is a fact that threatens our claim of being a civilized nation.
I have introduced a bill that would bar firearms and weapons from the mail, including so-called model guns which are really deadly weapons with plugged barrels and missing firing pins. There have been investigations by the Justice Department which show that anyone could become a gun dealer or gun runner by melting the plugs in the barrels of World War II weapons, including antitank guns, and restoring firing pins.
The death of Robert Kennedy coming on top of the assassination of Martin Luther King and President John F. Kennedy has of course stunned us. It has stunned us enough that we are willing finally to reexamine our institutions and our laws.
For instance, the Criminal Code of the United States, which governs the mailing of firearms, dates back to the 1920's. I refer to 18 U.S.C. 1715. This section refers only to weapons which are concealable. It does not refer to the rifles that in the hands of a sniper can strike terror into the hearts of our cities. Lee Harvey Oswald was able to kill the President of the United States with a weapon costing less than $20. He simply clipped an advertisement, mailed $18, and received in return a high-powered Italian Army rifle. The lethal but militarily outmoded hardware that Europeans have been dumping on our market since the end of the Second World War has finally made its potential for horror a reality. The American Rifleman magazine, the mouthpiece of the National Rifle Association, advertises weapons such as German Mauser rifles with which Hitler's army was equipped for $30 or less. There is also advertised the weapon described as "everybody's favorite”—the British jungle carbine No. 5, for $39 complete with flash eliminator so that enemy troops cannot fire back by sighting in on the flash. Of what use this is to a hunter is unrecorded unless there are those hunters who
fear that the deer are going to shoot back. This weapon also comes with a bayonet and scabbard for an additional $3.75. Nazi bayonets cost slightly less. What do hunters need bayonets for? What convenience does a bayonet serve? For a real bargain there is the British service rifle for $22.50, as advertised in Gun magazine.
The mail-order gun business is scattered throughout the United States. Oswald obtained his weapon from a Chicago mail-order house. He could have gotten any weapon he wanted from a Mr. Walter H. Craig in Selma, Ala. He could have obtained a carbine for about $20, but for really heavy work he could have obtained something that is very similar to a submachinegun for $100. This is the Spitfire semiautomatic. An American rifle, the M-1, would have cost him a little over $100 and the Springfield army rifle would have cost him $46. Oswald or Eric Starvo Galt could have bought a weapon called the “Enforcer” from Selma, Ala., for $100. It has what is called guerrillatype stock. Craig also advertises an antiriot gun for $75. There are two models, one of which has a rifle sight for pinpoint accuracy. Mr. Walter Craig of Selma, Ala., the seller of guerrilla-type weapons, antitriot guns, British Army rifles, and semiautomatics with submachinegun stocks, is a careful man. He asks that each purchaser sign a statement which reads as follows. And I quote:
I am a citizen of the United States over 21 years old, of sound mind, not a drug addict or habitual drunkard, not a fugitive from justice, I have never been convicted for a crime of violence and I am not under indictment for a crime punishable by a year or more in prison.
I have checked and I assure Walter H. Craig that there is no law in my State, county, or city that would prohibit him shipping me this order and I assume full compliance with all laws. I have read this carefully, I understand it perfectly and I sign.
That's the end of the quote. And there is a space for a signature and date.
I think Mr. Walter Craig has succinctly outlined for all of us the case for gun control. His weapons should not be in the hands of children, drunkards, drug addicts, lunatics, fugitives from justice, convicts or ex-convicts.
Senators Kennedy, Dodd, Tydings, and Congressman Celler are doing what they can about this. But I have looked at the bills being considered by other committees and I think that some questions remain.
Mr. Walter Craig has built a nationwide business out of the mailorder gun trade. Selma, Ala., is not a great industrial center. His business is a mail-order business, with the buyer and seller unknown to each other except for Mr. Craig's pious keepsake. There is nothing in the law today which would prevent Mr. Craig from arming the Ku Klux Klan, the Minute Men, the Blackstone Rangers, or anyone else at cutrate prices.
What is more, the bills under consideration in the Judiciary Committees of the House of Representatives and the Senate of the United States would not prevent Mr. Craig or other arms salesmen from decentralizing and by means of post office boxes continuing to mail arms intrastate through the good offices of the Post Office Department.
The cost to gun dealers would be minimal. The cost to the Nation would be great. What is more, these merchants of destruction prefer
the fast and safe service of the U.S. mails. May I add, they prefer the unbelievably cheap service provided by the U.S. mails. It is bad enough that guns are mailable at all, let alone having the American taxpayer take care of part of the freight. This is particularly sad, since 70 percent of the American people have favored gun control for over 30
years. I think the American people have had enough. I know I have. I believe that firearms should be banned from the mail. Not only firearms but all weapons, including gas-fed guns that can put a .22 caliber pellet through a board or a man, such as the one recently advertised for $1.98 on page 46 of “New Man," one of the so-called girlie magazines that are so often directed at the young. This type of tasteless magazine regularly features such articles as "New Lust Technique of the Teenage Divorcees," “Wild Escape from China's She Demons of Lust" and “Helpless Nudes for the Blood Beast.” The pellet-firing weapon mentioned above, by the way, is not sold in New York City, according to the advertisements. It fires eight rounds which are shaped like bullets with a magazine clip. I don't suppose it is a firearm but juvenile delinquents from the eighth grade up might find it useful and quite within their means.
I say let's do something while we have a chance. Let's plug all the loopholes
. In short, there should be more law if we are to have order. Pointing our fingers at the poor in the ghettos and cursing poverty won't end disorder. We have to have the courage to do some very simple things. Mass distribution of deadly weapons is one service the 1.5. mails should not provide, nor should American taxpayers be forced to pay for such a service. The inconvenience of a very few people who collect deadly weapons does not weigh heavily in the balance against 6,500 deaths a year. The convenience of a few hunters should not cancel out both the will of 70 percent of the American people and the breakdown of law and order. It may be convenient and profitable for European arms distributors to unload their deadly military junk in this country while in their own countries guns are severly controlled. Gun control is as old in the United States as the covered wagon and the frontier sheriff's edict that guns would not be worn in town. Gun contro) is one of the prices we must pay for a civilized society. It's got to come and it's got to come this session.
I have a number of clippings that have been collected on this subject. And I must say that had I not been handed them, had I not the opportunity to have perused this stack of clippings, I would not have believed that they existed or that there were such wide and varied distribution of all possible types of deadly weapons.
It is just inconceivable that positive and constructive action has not been taken on this subject before, and it is equally difficult to understand the seeming reluctance on the part of so many people to come to grips with what I consider to be deadly peril.
Now I am deeply grateful that Mr. Timothy J. May, General Counvel for the Post Office Department, who has also responded and made notable contributions when we have asked him to come--this morning I welcome you and you may proceed.
(The bill, subject of this hearing, H.R. 17949, is as follows:)
(H.R. 17949, 9th Cong., second sess.) A BILL To extend the scope of nonmailable matter to all firearms Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That chapter 51 of title 39, United States Code, is amended by adding subsection (d) to section 4001 of title 39 to read as follows: "S 4001. Nonmailable matter
"(d) All firearms, destructive devices, and weapons, whether presently usable or not, and ammunition for same, are nonmailable and shall not be deposited in or carried by the mails or delivered by any postmaster, letter carrier, or other person in the postal service.
“Whoever knowingly deposits for mailing or delivery, or knowingly causes to be delivered by mail according to the direction thereon, or at any place to which it is directed to be delivered by the person to whom it is addressed, any firearm, destructive device, weapon, or ammunition declared nonmailable by this section, shall be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.”
TESTIMONY OF TIMOTHY J. MAY, GENERAL COUNSEL, POST OFFICE
DEPARTMENT, ACCOMPANIED BY HENRY B. MONTAGUE, CHIEF POSTAL INSPECTOR
Mr. May. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. It is a pleasure to be here. I have with me Mr. Henry Montague, Chief Postal Inspector.
Following my statement, Mr. Montague will detail for the committee some of the statistical data relating to crimes committed with firearms, the incidence of violence as we know it from the statistics that relate to the easily available firearms.
Mr. Nix. Thank you, Mr. May.
Mr. May. As you know, the Postmaster General is deeply concerned about the use of the mails as a vehicle to evade Federal, State, or local gun laws and ordinances.
The temporary regulations issued by the Department on June 12, 1968, have as their purpose the elimination of the postal service as a channel by which such legislation is evaded.
Until these regulations were put into force we had no statistical information on the volume of firearms mailings. We knew, however, that there were substantial numbers of firearms shipped through the mails. Since the issuance of our regulations we have been able to make a rough sampling which indicates that firearms mailings exceed 120,000 a year. Of course, this figure must be viewed with considerable reservation because the data was gathered hurriedly and we do not know whether the period used was a representative one. I believe, however, that the figure does indicate the general order of magnitude of the mailings.
There is a great variation in the extent to which manufacturers and distributors of firearms use the postal service. We have obtained estimates from a large number of enterprises in the firearms field. They have advised that the percentage of their sales vary from 2 to 98 percent. Prohibition of some firearms through the mails, therefore, would affect these enterprises unevenly.
Presently, only one law directly deals with transmission of firearms in the mails. This is section 1715 of title 18, United States Code, which makes pistols, revolvers and other concealable firearms non