By: Marc Kelley
Syndicated by; Montana News
During the 1960's, our country was experiencing a great deal of civil unrest as we attempted to wrestle with the problems of social injustice and racism. Much like today, there was a group of people who simply would not accept the will of the people and in the wake of their own personal struggles, turned to violence as a way to express their frustration.
The use of firearms, by this small group of mentally ill individuals, sparked a national outcry for ideas which would stem the flow of violence and senseless killing in our country. True to their colors, our politicians, knowing virtually nothing about firearms, set out to legislate civility in our country by enacting new laws. Just as it is today, the solutions of 1968, put forth by the political class would do nothing to stop the violence, only restrict the lawful ownership of firearms by law abiding citizens. One of the firearms to come under scrutiny in 1968, was a small, semi-automatic, Beretta, manufactured under the model 950B.
The Beretta 950B was manufactured in Italy and imported into the U.S. beginning in 1952. It is a simple blowback pistol with a single action trigger mechanism and a unique tip-up barrel. The pistol is chambered in 6.35 mm or what we know as 25 ACP. In order to understand why this little pistol has such a rich and well deserved place in history, you must look at the time period when it was made and examine the ideology which was driving the events of of the day. The mid 1960's were a very tumultuous time in our country. We divided along racial lines, violence had permeated our society and much like today, hate was in the forefront of the news. Nothing could illustrate this point more than the assassinations of some of our country's greatest leaders. Starting with John F. Kennedy in 1963, followed by Malcolm X in 1965, and then in 1968, Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., also fell as victims to senseless violence, driven by hate. The U.S. was fighting a war in Southeast Asia and many of our citizens had lost faith in our Governments willingness to tell us the truth.
On one side, the conservative population felt their way of life was under attack and conversely, the liberals felt all of the countries problems could be solved by expanding the governments role, in our daily lives.
In 2019, the current division in our country has taken a very similar path to the days of the 60's. Hate has been allowed to foment and in some cases seems to be driven by the very leaders of our country. And sadly, those leaders are once again, offering their same old tired solutions; bigger government, more control and less transparency. In 1968, it was this ideology, which resulted in the 1968 Gun Control Act, signed into law by then President, Lyndon B. Johnson.
The 1968 GCA was heralded as the answer to the violence in our country, by regulating the interstate commerce regarding firearms (crossing a state line with a firearm). Prior to this legislation, anyone could order a firearm through the mail and have it delivered directly to their home. Passage of the 1968 GCA required individuals and companies who were engaged in the business of selling firearms, to become licensed as a Federal Firearms Licensee. This law also required all firearms have a permanent serial number stamped into its frame; as well as, mandating certain safety features. Additionally, this law also defined persons who would be prohibited from possessing firearms on the basis of a felony conviction, drug use and those people who had been adjudicated (found by the courts) as mentally ill.
The law was proclaimed as comprehensive and the solution we needed to bring an end to gun violence in our country, once and for all. However, as has been proven by several successive laws, the 1968 GCA, simply was not the answer. The reality of the government attempts to regulate firearms has always resulted in the same outcomes. Criminals will always have access to firearms, because by the very definition, "criminals", do not follow societies laws. It is very difficult to quantify what, if any effect, the 1968 GCA had on reducing violence in our country. What is very clear, and very well documented, this legislation did nothing to prevent prohibited individuals from acquiring firearms and using them in their delusional state, against innocent, law abiding people. Once again, bolstering the notion, the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.
Given the history behind our governments multiple attempts to regulate firearms, I am struck by the belief, our law makers have no critical thinking skills and are unaware of the concept of second order consequences. Beginning with the passage of the 1934 National Firearms Act, the value of lawfully owned, regulated firearms saw a huge increase in value. Virtually overnight the price of a foreign made machine-gun, saw a 100% increase in its value. It was still legal to own such weapons, once you paid your $ 200.00 tax and filled out your government paperwork; yet, criminals did not come forth, as our liberal friend Beto suggests, to turn in their weapons, thus leaving these weapons on the street and for sale on the black market.
As an unintended, second order consequence, the passage of the 1968 Gun Control Act created a new subset of firearm collectors. Many people, now collect pre 1968 GCA firearms, both because of the history behind them and a way to remember just how far our government will go in their attempt to legislate civility and ameliorate the evil in our society. Now regulated by Gun Control Act of 1968, the Beretta 950B fell under the scrutiny of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. This early model Beretta has the unique feature of not being able to be cocked by the traditional method of working the slide, as is found with most semi-automatic pistols. Rather, this pistol requires that a round be placed in the chamber and the hammer be cocked in a single action manner. It is the resulting blowback of the fired cartridge which cycles the action and produces the semi-automatic feature of this weapon.
Additionally, and most problematic for the BATF; is the fact, this firearm has no safety switch and utilized a half-cock notch on the hammer as its only safety feature. As a result of what our law makers saw as a design flaw, the importation of this gun into the U.S. was banned. In response to this action, Beretta redesigned their pistol and incorporated a thumb safety. This new "American version" post 1968, was given the designation, Beretta 950 BS, with the S for "safety". Many gun enthusiasts find the BS designation ironic, for collectors, this story makes this gun more interesting and therefore it adds value and collectability.
As a validation of the appeal of this firearm, numerous credits can be found in Hollywoods usage of the Beretta 950B and 950BS. This pistol can be seen in at least 4 James Bond films including: Octopussy, Man with the Golden Gun, Thunderball and the Spy who Loved me. Most notably in my humble opinion, a suppressed 950B can also be seen in the 1967 movie, The Dirty Dozen, as it is used by the films character Joseph Wladislaw, played by Charles Bronson. The pistol also makes numerous appearances in several television series including: CSI: Miami, The Closer and Criminal Minds.
Without a doubt, the Beretta 950B, is one of the pre-1968 GCA firearms, most cherished and valued by collectors If you ever get a chance to get your hands on one, you too may find yourself searching the gun shows and your favorite gun dealers inventory for these iconic firearms. Most of them are not the high dollar items most often associated with speciality guns; but rather, their value comes from the history and the stories behind how our government came to view them as evil.
The Montana News would like to suggest another gun magazine called Gunforest.com. Gunforest.com has published a comprehensive article on "Bullet Size Chart" which all gun owners would appreciate. You can check it out here: https://gunforest.com/guides/bullet-ammo-size-chart/