This illustrated cover (created by iconic artist Roy Lichtenstein) had readers staring down the barrel of a revolver similar to the one that, just two weeks earlier, had been used to fatally gun down Senator Robert F. Kennedy at a Los Angeles hotel. The assassination was a tipping point for the American public to rally for gun control, but even in that era, partisan politics would prove a strong blockade. TIME’s cover story took up arms against the fragmented, rather lenient gun policies in the United States:
Though states and localities have a bewildering crazy quilt of 20,000 weapon laws, only two are on the federal books. One is the National Firearms Act of 1934, taxing interstate shipments of such gangster-style weapons as machine guns and sawed-off shotguns. The other is the pallid Federal Firearms Act of 1938, prohibiting interstate gun shipments to felons. In 30 years, Congress has failed to enact a single new gun bill, thus allowing, as the President declared, “the demented, the deranged, the hardened criminal and the convict, the addict and the alcoholic” to order weapons by mail with no questions asked.