A Brief History
On September 15, 1966, President Lyndon Johnson, in a now all too familiar response to a mass shooting incident at the University of Texas, called on Congress to enact “Gun Control” legislation that would have absolutely nothing to do with preventing such incidents.
On August 1, 1966, mentally disturbed Charles Whitman killed his wife and mother, then went to the University of Texas where he climbed up to the 28th floor observation deck and proceeded to shoot and kill 14 more people and wound a further 32 before he was finally killed by a police officer. Whitman’s main weapon was a bolt action Remington 700 rifle in 6mm caliber, a gun he used as a sniper rifle, a typical deer hunting type rifle not vilified by the anti-gun movement. His initial murders, of his mother and wife, were stabbing with a knife.
Whitman’s first victim at the University was butt stroked with his rifle, cracking her skull. His next few victims were shot while he was on his way to his sniper’s perch with a normal 12 gauge shot gun that Whitman had illegally modified by sawing off much of the barrel and stock. The rest of his victims were shot with his scoped rifle.
Police had a hard time fighting back as they lacked the sniper/anti-sniper equipment now common to police departments. This incident was one of the major reasons police departments have become better equipped to deal with special situations.
Whitman had been armed with additional guns, including a .357 magnum police type pistol, a German Luger, a .25 caliber semi-automatic pocket pistol and an M-1 Carbine, guns that apparently played no role in the tragedy.
Texas Governor John Connally empanelled a commission to study the event, and the report included information that Whitman had seen 5 doctors and a psychiatrist in the year prior to the incident. The commission recommended medical mental health measures be taken to aid the victims, but those actions were never taken. The autopsy revealed a brain tumor in Whitman’s head, which could possibly account for his complaints of headaches and possibly his murderous actions.
Under President Johnson’s leadership, Congress passed the Gun Control Act of 1968, legislation that would have had no effect at all in preventing the University of Texas incident. We still have politicians attempting to ram “gun control’ legislation through the legislatures and Congress in response to highly publicized incidents that would in fact have had not one bit of a preventative effect on the evil act. What we do not see, is a movement to identify mentally ill people or those experiencing a mental/emotional crisis and a mechanism for removing guns from their possession, until they can be deemed over their problem. The law currently preventing mentally ill persons from possessing or owning firearms has an extremely high standard of “proof,” that being the person declared mentally incompetent by a court. Thus, people well known to friends, relatives and co-workers as seeming to be dangerous, making overt or veiled threats and the like, are not covered.
President Johnson noted that there were around 160 million guns in private hands in the US back in 1968, and today there are somewhere between 300 million and 420 million guns in our country, and yet gun murders have declined! Obviously, it is indeed not the guns, but disturbed people that are the problem. Question for students (and subscribers): Obvious to the author, how about you? Please feel free to add your thoughts on the subject in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Lavergne, Gary M. A Sniper in the Tower: The Charles Whitman Murders. University of North Texas Press, 1997.
The featured image in this article, a photograph of President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Gun Control Act of 1968 into law, is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code.