A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from January 31, 2013
“When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns”

"When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns” is a popular anti-gun control message. Under gun control, honest people who follow laws won’t have guns, but criminals who don’t follow laws will still have their guns. “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have them” has been cited in print since at least December 1967, when the saying was printed on a bumper sticker.

A parody takeoff of “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns” is “When marriage is outlawed, only outlaws will have in-laws.”

[This entry was prepared with research assistance of the Quote Investigator.]


Old Fulton NY Post Cards
21 December 1967, Tonawanda News (North Tonawanda, NY), “Sportsmen’s News and Views” by Ken Sprenger, pg. 12, col. 1:
BUMPER STICKERS: We received a call asking where the bumper stickers can be purchased that have the words, “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have them.”

23 February 1968, Oneonta (NY) Star, pg. 5, col. 4:
Think piece
A thought to ponder showed up on a poster opposing mandatory gun registration in New York State. The poster said, “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”

13 April 1968, Warren (PA) Times-Mirror and Observer, “Sports Ramblings,” pg. 5, col. 1:
A THOUGHT
A thought provoking bumper sticker seen around the area reads as follows: “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”

14 July 1968, The Sunday Oregonian (Portland, OR), pg. F7 ad:
ARGUMENTS AGAINST ADDITIONAL GUN CONTROL LEGISLATION
1. The Constitutional right to bear arms provided by the Bill of Rights would be infringed by proposed federal legislation.
2. Guns don’t kill people—people kill people.
3. When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.
(Harlan Griffith Ford—ed.)

Google News Archive
13 September 1968, Spartanburg (SC) Herald, “Gun Registration Goes Slow Under ‘Frisco New Law “ (Associated Press), pg. 28, col. 6:
Not all San Franciscans agree, as evidence by numerous car-bumper stickers reading: “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”

Google Books
Economic Foundations of Political Power
By Randall Bartlett
New York, NY: Free Press
1973
Pg. 137:
Vast numbers of bumper stickers appeared telling the electorate that “When guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns.”

Google Books
August 1974, Texas Monthly, pg. 58:
Bumper Stickers
If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns

Google Books
The Murderers
By Emanuel Tanay and Lucy Freeman
Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill
1976
Pg. 31:
“When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns” is a slogan used by opponents of gun-control legislation.

Google Books
Reality Is What You Can Get Away With:
A Screenplay

By Robert Anton Wilson
New York, NY: Dell Pub.
1992
Pg. 1:
Close ups of bumper stickers on cars:
IF GUNS ARE OUTLAWED, ONLY OUTLAWS WILL HAVE GUNS
(...)
IF MARRIAGE IS OUTLAWED, ONLY OUTLAWS WILL HAVE INLAWS

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Thursday, January 31, 2013 • Permalink