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History

Watch Robert F. Kennedy Push for Tougher Gun Laws in Roseburg, Oregon 47 Years Ago

"With all the violence and murder and killings we’ve had in the United States," the Democratic candidate said, two weeks before his death, "I think you will agree that we must keep firearms from people who have no business with guns or rifles.”

More than 47 years before last week’s shooting at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon, Senator Robert F. Kennedy passed through the town on a presidential campaign stop and spoke about the need for stricter gun control measures.

He appeared on the Douglas County Courthouse steps on May 27, 1968, before a crowd of about 1,500. Protesters who opposed Kennedy’s position on gun control carried signs instructing others to “protect your right to keep and bear arms.”

“All this legislation does is keep guns from criminals and the demented and those too young,” Kennedy told a protester who stepped forward to voice opposition to a bill that had recently passed the Senate. “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.”

The bill in question prohibited these three groups from receiving guns via mail order. His brother, President John F. Kennedy, was killed with a gun purchased through the mail. Robert Kennedy was also shot and killed, less than two weeks after his appearance in Roseburg.

Prior to the shooting at Umpqua last week, the Roseburg area had been the site of two other school shootings within the past two decades. In 1998, a teenager in a town an hour north of Roseburg walked into his high school cafeteria and shot 26 students, killing two. In 2006, a boy shot another student at the local high school four times in the back.

[Photo: Library of Congress]