Ronald Reagan entered the 1980 presidential campaign as a supporter of the Second Amendment and its right to keep and bear arms. In a Guns and Ammo magazine issue in 1975, Ronald Reagan wrote:
In my opinion, proposals to outlaw or confiscate guns are simply unrealistic panacea.
His ideology was that violent crime would never be eliminated, with or without gun control. He was in favor of laws that targeted those who misuse firearms. He added:
The Second Amendment leaves little, if any, leeway for the gun control advocate … the right of the citizen to keep and bear arms must not be infringed if liberty in America to survive.
...As governor of California for eight years, I struggled daily with that problem. I appointed judges who, to the best of my information, would be tough on criminals. We approved legislation to make it more difficult for persons with records of crime or instability to purchase firearms legally. We worked to bring about swift and certain punishment for persons guilty of crimes of violence. We fought hard to reinstate the death sentence after our state Supreme Court outlawed it, and after the U.S. Supreme Court followed suit, we won. … I find it difficult to understand persons like President Ford's new Attorney General, Edward H. Levi. Attorney General Levi would ban guns in areas with high rates of crime. … Mightn't it be better in those areas of high crime to arm the homeowner and the shopkeeper, teach him how to use his weapons and put the word out to the underworld that it is not longer totally safe to rob and murder? … Criminals are not dissuaded by soft words, soft judges or easy laws. … In my opinion, proposals to outlaw or confiscate guns are simply unrealistic panacea. We are never going to prevent murder; we are never going to eliminate crime; we are never going to end violent action by the criminals and the crazies--with or without guns. … It is amazing to me how so many people pay lip service to the Constitution, yet set out to twist and distort it when it stands in the way of things they think ought to be done or laws they believe ought to be passed. It is also amazing to me how often our courts do the same thing. … We may not have a well-regulated militia, but it does not necessarily follow that we should not be prepared to have one. The day could easily come when we need one. … There is little doubt that the founding fathers thought they should have this right, and for a very specific reason They distrusted government. All of the first 10 amendments make that clear. Each of them specifies an area where government cannot impose itself on the individual or where the individual must be protected from government. …
The gun has been called the great equalizer, meaning that a small person with a gun is equal to a large person, but it is a great equalizer in another way, too. It insures that the people are the equal of their government whenever that government forgets that it is servant and not master of the governed. When the British forgot that they got a revolution. And, as a result, we Americans got a Constitution; a Constitution that, as those who wrote it were determined, would keep men free. If we give up part of that Constitution we give up part of our freedom and increase the chance that we will lose it all.
Misconceived that after Reagan was shot he supported the Brady Bill, which was enacted after he left the office of the President. What he supported that the ban be only enacted by state governments, if they chose to do so, and not at the national level. Automatic weapons were the target and nothing more. The Politifact article left out that important part of the issue. Indeed, he disagreed with his former Vice President who became President of laws that would punish lawful citizens instead of the target being criminals. What he favored was a national background check that would do away with the need for a the seven-day waiting period that President GHW Bush has pushed for. With the speed of computerization linked with the FBI, background checks no longer take 24-48 hours, so the original reason for the waiting period remains moot.
When Governor of California he signed into law the Mulford Act that prohibited carrying loaded firearms in public by citizens who were not law enforcement. However, the law did not prevent any citizen from obtaining a permit to carry a loaded firearm. The Black Panther organization and its associates complained that it was racism being enacted because the law was passed because Black Panther members had been involved in shootings and killings. However, the law did not pinpoint any specific group of citizens and included all citizens to obey the law.
Read the truth about Ronald Reagan and firearms at On the Issues.
These things written about Reagan is because anti-firearm advocates want to use the icon of conservatism and constitutionalists as cannon fodder in the war against the Second Amendment. The major issue with Reagan was making it harder for criminals to obtain firearms for illegal use without transgression against the Second Amendment that would also punish lawful citizens from exercising their rights.
Reagan wanted machine guns and automatic weapons removed from public access and remember, when mentioning an AK-47, this was before the production of semi-auto versions were manufactured. Therefore he was for banning auto weapons, but not "assault" weapons in general - and more than once he has mentioned that citizens have the right to protect themselves with firearms, not just for hunting.
However, Mr. Reagan was not without mistakes, such as amnesty 1984, regardless of good intentions. Indeed, few politicians since have learned from that lesson, and as Reagan said part of the problem is that presidents do not enforce immigration laws ...