Address on gun control

May 27, 1968


Roseburg, OR

This speech was delivered on May 27, 1968, by Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. To learn more about our work to carry out his vision of a more just and peaceful world, read our latest thought leadership here.

Click here for our President, Kerry Kennedy’s, statement regarding her brother Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s presidential campaign, and here for her statement regarding Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s comments about COVID-19.

All [the legislation] requires is that when somebody purchases a gun through a mail order or you send a gun or a rifle across a state line that you abide by the law of a particular state…At the present moment, a person who is insane, a man with a long criminal record of having killed a dozen people, can go in an buy a rifle. Now if you think that makes sense for all of us…A person who us four years old can but a rifle now…A man on death row in Kansas, who had killed a half a dozen people, and someone there sent for a rifle through the mail from Chicago, for him to have a rifle while he was waiting on death row, after killing people…and the rifle was sent to him.

Now, does that make any sense, that you should put rifles and guns in the hands of people who have long criminal records, or people who are insane or people who are mentally incompetent, or people who are so young they don’t know how to handle rifles and guns? I’d just ask you.

I just present the case—it’s presented to you, and I know that it’s presented on the radio here, and—[gesturing] I’m not making any reflections on this gentleman—is presented by the John Birch Society as somebody who is going to come in, the federal government is going to come in and take your guns away and take your rifles away. Nothing is going to happen about that. Anybody can have—just as you can have an automobile. I hear that…here in this community, it’s described as the way Nazi Germany started. Well you can say that registering an automobile is the way Nazi Germany started.

All we are talking about is having guns not in the hands—anybody can have a gun, anybody can have a rifle—but a person who’s got a criminal record or is in an insane institution or is mentally incompetent shouldn’t have a rifle or a gun. Is there anybody out here that thinks those people should have rifles or guns?

That’s all the legislation does. It doesn’t stop anybody from having a rifle or a gun, so [your sign] PROTECT YOUR RIGHT TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS is misleading the American people and is misleading everybody else.

Nobody is going to come in and take your guns away.

…With all the violence and murder and killings we’ve had in the United States, I think you will agree that we must keep firearms from people who have no business with guns or rifles.