U.S. President Ronald Reagan carried a .38 caliber revolver with him at all times while he was in office, according novelist Brad Meltzer:
I write fiction for a living, but in my thrillers, I try to get the details right. So what better way to understand how a President lives for my newest thriller than by spending time with the Secret Service agents who spend so much time with him?
So there I was, on my tour of Secret Service headquarters. The agents had taken me into a small museum they have on the premises. It’s a room lined with photos of Presidents and archival exhibit cases filled with Secret Service artifacts. A newspaper with a “Kennedy Dead” headline. A replica of Lee Harvey Oswald’s rifle. The pistol used to try to kill President Gerald Ford. They even have the actual car door from the limo when Reagan was shot.
It was an eerie keepsake for sure. But not nearly as eerie as the next detail they told me. We were talking about Reagan and that day he was shot. Then one of the agents offered this secret: When Reagan was President, he carried his own gun.
I couldn’t believe it.
“It’s true,” they said. A .38. Reagan used to hide it in his briefcase and take it on Air Force One.
Whatever you think of Reagan, you have to admit, he had a black belt in badassery.
Many feel that the “great communicator” was easily the best of the post-WWII Presidents and it is rather difficult to dispute them, but purely from a Second Amendment perspective, his views that evolved over the course of a lifetime are a bit more nuanced.
In 1933 Reagan pulled a .45 revolver on an armed robber, saving a nursing student that was his target.
There is anecdotal evidence that he regularly concealed carried a .32 revolver for a period of time in his younger years after he stopped that robber. Meltzer’s story confirms that Reagan was a firm and life-long believer in carrying a concealed weapon for self-defense, even when afforded the protection of the Secret Service.
Unfortunately, Reagan’s views on the Second Amendment were not absolute. He supported gun control in other forms at various times, from outlawing the open carry of loaded firearms in 1967 while governor of California in reaction to the tactics of the Black Panthers, to supporting the Brady Bill that was largely a response to the 1981 assassination attempt on his life. He also supported the Clinton-era 1994 assault weapons ban. Support for both of these laws came after Reagan left office.
Those Second Amendment compromises aside, President Reagan was clearly a proponent of concealed carry for self-defense, and appears to have practiced it his entire life, across the nation, without a permit. I have to think that if he were alive today, President Reagan would be a firm supporter of national concealed carry reciprocity.
Let’s hope Congress will remember that, and advance the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act.