tv Reel America CBS News Robert F. Kennedy 1925-1968 CSPAN June 16, 2018 8:00am-9:00am EDT
50 years ago on june 5, 1968, senator robert f. kennedy was shot in los angeles after winning the california presidential primary. next on "reel america," robert 1968, 50y, 1925 to minute special report from the evening of june 6 after the senator died of his gunshot wounds. the report covers the life and assassination of the new york them up at and is anchored by walter cronkite. this is a cbs news special report. here is harry. >> good evening, the body of senator robert kennedy is in a
jet heading for new york from los angeles. before 4:30 this afternoon and will land in laguardia new york, and the body will arrive at 9:30 new york time tonight. tomorrow from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 10:00 p.m., itto will lie in state, and go by train from new york to washington, and in a motor procession from new york's union station to go by the senate office building, and by the justice department, where robert kennedy served as attorney general, before burial saturday afternoon in the same plot where john kennedy lies. already, there are people gathering by saint patrick' drill, waiting -- saint patrick's cathedral, waiting.
>> this has been the scene of the funeral of a great many public figures. be aturday, it is to likely mass for senator kennedy. the procession is to bring the body of senator kennedy here instant expected for -- isn't expected for another two hours, but already, there must be 1000 or 2000 people gathered on fifth which in front of stores, have the picture of senator kennedy on them. -- hisy will arrive near body will arrive in two hours, and will be met by terence cooke, the new archbishop of new york. and tomorrow, all of these people who are waiting to pay their last respects to senator kennedy, in the state from which
he was elected to the senate, will have a chance to view his body. the body of the senator will lie in state at st. patrick's all day before the mass on saturday morning. walter: we will be there when the plane arrives at laguardia and proceeds to st. patrick's cathedral. at this time, we would like to present a report on the life on robert f. kennedy. walter: these last few weeks,, robert francis kennedy was enjoying himself. there was a good fight to fight, and he was a fighter. ideals were at stake and he was an idealist, and for a man whose
demeanor reflected a boy's shyness, he loved getting out a moment people and enjoy e physical contact. he refused political that she refused police protection -- he refused police protection and the people did not want to hurt him. he went to areas where most people didn't not want to go to -- he went to areas where people steered cleared of. he has -- he had come into his own. night was a particularly joyous night. robert kennedy was 42 years old and had just won the presidential primary, and spoke to his supporters, and invited them to chicago. senator kennedy was a happy man as he made his way --
he was hit two bullets and five others were injured as bullets sprayed the kitchen. for the senator was critically hurt. police identify the alleged assailant as a 24-year-old, and native jordanian who came to the country 11 years ago. his brother gave the name to police, and fingerprints confirmed the identification. wasg the things discovered a newspaper clipping criticizing senator kennedy's support of the aide to india.s he would not tell them his name. robert kennedy was shot at 12:15 a.m. pacific coast time. the end of a brilliant, political and public career at the age of 42, robert francis kennedy was dead. kennedy, borncis
november 20, 1925, stands behind his father, joseph patrick kennedy, and this 1934 family portrait. he was eight years old, the third of four dels sons and a family of nine children. the oldest son was killed in world war ii. john fitzgerald kennedy was assassinated in 1963, 3 years after becoming president of the united states, the former rose fitzgerald. mr. and mrs. kennedy hold a fourth sun, edward, nelly senator in massachusetts. joseph pete kennedy went to london in 1937 as an ambassador to great britain. robert, then 11, is on the far right. in outbreak of world war ii 1939 brought most of the ambassador's family back home. killed in an air
crash in 1948. during vacations in the early 1940's, robert relaxed with the family at their winter home in palm beach, florida. he is shown here with his sister eunice and jane. he entered harvard in 1943, but left to join the navy where he served aboard the newly forissioned destroyer named his brother joe killed in action the year before. back at harvard in 1946, robert posed on the steps of the varsity club with three fellow members of the football team. after graduating in 1948, he entered law school at the university of virginia. the at aage came in 19 ceremony -- his marriage came in 1950 at a ceremony.
eunice kennedy was to marry sargent shriver is that the right. robert received his law degree in 1951 and became widely known in the years immediately following, first as a council member investigating subcommittee in the senate, and later, chief counsel for the subcommittee. he raised a family during the years -- during those years. one of the most controversial was his in his career service as assistant counsel to the mccarthy committee. ,his was 1953 when mccarthy after rocking the nation with charges of communism, became embroiled in a battle with army officials represented by an attorney. the hearings which arose from across the's claims of subversion at an army camp, led to the eclipse of senator mccarthy's career and to the resignation of robert kennedy. kennedy had been feuding with
mccarthy's chief counsel. for kennedy was to return to the committee as counsel for the democrats, and he succeeded as chief counsel and staff director. in 1957, kennedy stepped into a role-his reputation as a tough investigator. chief counsel for the senate brackets committee. he began an investigation into the teamster's union. exchanges were abrasive. >> to find out whether these vocals were gangster-run, whether racketeering was going on. responsibility in the new york area to do anything, and the general --cedent >> off the charge kennedy was conducting and then data -- a
vendetta against him, and it kennedy himself joked about. he was often described as a kind of lightning rods during the successful 1960 presidential campaign of his brother john f kennedy. it was robert who handled the tough jobs and took the criticism, leaving his brother to accept the adulation of the crowd. robert kennedy ran a tireless campaign that year, working behind the scenes to persuade the politicians to support his brother, while john kennedy went to the people. recently, thesaid one major drawback in robert kennedy's presidential campaign was he did not have anyone to do the kind of job he used to do for his brother. over robert kennedy's objections, but at the assistance of his brother and father, robert kennedy was named attorney general and his brother's cabinet. joe kennedy said, nepotism my
foot, why would anyone think bobby needs a job? president kennedy said, i cannot see it is wrong to give him a little legal experience before he practices law. attorney general kennedy was a member of the national security council and a trusted advisor to his brother. some say it was he who came up with the diplomatic ploy that solved the cuban missile crisis. the two brother stood together during integration battles. president kennedy confided in his younger brother. others admired him, but he made enemies during those days. in the south, in the unions, and in big this nest during the 1962 steel price -- crisis dispute. robert kennedy toward the world in 1962 is the second most important man in american government and met a kernel who wanted to take new guinea by force.
ethel kennedy's appearance came later. the kennedys visited the quiet trine in japan -- quiet shine in japan. at japanese schools, robert kennedy was mobbed like a teenage idol. he told his hose that he wanted that she told his host -- he told his hosts he wanted to minimal -- brought him together with a vast mob of students. there were as -- there were bruising encounters with japanese businessmen. the japanese protested high tariffs.
kennedy talked about american worries over competition from cheaper, foreign labor and our own unemployment problems. from tokyo, the kennedys went to hong kong with a saw thousands of refugees, primarily from red china and congested apartment buildings. kennedys also took to the streets and was mobbed by hundreds of young chinese. the kennedy visit to vietnam was a visit to the airport in saigon. at the time, in 1962, there were far fewer americans there then there are now. on the island of bali, the kennedys moore traditional -- the kennedys wore traditional flower lays. on his arrival to west berlin, kennedy was met by the mayor,
and they reviewed -- he called the berlin wall shocking and shameful. before he left the city, he recorded a message, citing the difficulties under which the residence lived. rome, the kennedys were granted a private audience with the pope. in his visit ady year later, met with pope paul. those for the thousand days of the kennedy administration, the spirit of what was called camelot, a young president pledged to get the country moving again. but it ended that terrible november day in dallas. cbs news correspondents pick up the story of the body of president kennedy was returned to washington.
in 1960 four, kennedy won the democratic nomination for u.s. senator for new york. >> i accept her nomination gratefully. >> his critics called him an interloper, running for office in new york, although he lived in virginia and voted in massachusetts. the kennedy insisted the basic question was, who was best suited to represent the state of new york? he found many were pleased that he had changed his locale. bobby!ant >> president kennedy said we have the capacity to make this the best generation in the history of mankind. togetherll of us join could make that happen. [applause] can't we go down a few blocks
and register? >> we want bobby "world war ii , we shalll overcometor>> day ♪ e, one [applause] [speaking spanish] >> they said that was very good. my accent is there a good, everybody. i think the effort we are making against poverty, i think the war on poverty can have an effect here. many of the parts of the war on poverty came out in the department of justice.
i am in favor of expanding it. [applause] >> i don't fit it been elected to the senate will make these problems disappear, but i think we can continue the same effort that was made in 1961. [cheers and applause] [speaking spanish] [cheers and applause] >> robert francis kennedy was like a prism, the college he gave off dependent on how you helped him to the light. he gave everyone a choice. there was a robert kennedy to love, and a robert kennedy to hate. the robert kennedy to trust. a robert kennedy to suspect. his idolaters were matched in
the intensity of their affection for him. not aeasier to say who is great memento is. the all the stealth greatness quicker on our artists and politicians. history will find it someplace robert kennedy. he was at a time or physical comfort was the object of desire, a hard driving and phyllis adventurer whose relentless energy to go to the tops of mountains. through dangerous rapids. down snow-covered slopes on excursions into the african bush. to riskd driven by nerd his life on frequent -- he seemed driven by an urge to risk his life. whose political realist relentless aggressiveness was relieved by a sometimes irrepressible sense of humor, which he employed at his own expense. >> i asked my wife as i was
coming down to think of a joke. said, if they look at the top of your head, they will laugh and -- they will laugh. >> he was a political apostle who offered hope there was worldly pleasure to be taken from noble actions. be at a place for i can stand and move the world. you may say it is futile, what difference can one individual make? how can he change the world? what role can he play? but if we look at the history of this country and the world, we know the difference in individual can make. >> this was the face that launched a thousand magazine sales, and the publishing houses put forth books with that saleable based on the country -- on the cover. butphenomena came and went,
he made another speech critical of vietnam and wrote a letter to a democrat, made a remark in a press conference, or took a kayak trip up a creek and the whole nation was caught up in his specialness. it was always the assumption of this great popularity both by his friends and his enemies. they assumed he would someday reach the white house. yet, no politician in modern times experienced such distrust. it was a probability because factors, some particular to american life, some peculiar to his life. working to his advantage and his disadvantage. there was a public identification with his brother, john f. kennedy. he was associated with the glamour of the early 1960's when the white house had use, style, a great chef.
followers in barest him are running ahead. we cannot find answers completely, but at least we will make progress. >> his appeal was most obvious for the country's use, particularly college students. he said they must participate even though their elders did not trust them. he trusted them. have much greater stake in any of the rest of us because you have the least highest of the past and the greater stake in the future, much more within government. the decisions we make obviously have the greatest effect on all of you to make your voices heard, and to work for policies and programs you're interested in. not just to leave this school and turn your back on all of
these matters. i think it is essential. i don't have an easy way that it will be accomplished, but it can make a difference. >> robert f. kennedy joked about warring the voting age to 12. -- lowering the age to 12. his identification with the young was a personal one because he was young, he looked young, and acted as if he would always be young. many of those who worshiped john kennedy worshiped robert. robert was a strange hero. most american heroes have given up something important to obtain their goal -- money, pleasure, pride, or power. he seemed to renounce none of these. based aty of 10 were the hickory hill estate most of the year, what ethel calls bobby's backyard. thats a selfless father took an interest in each child, whether it was the baby's first
attempt at swimming, or the eldest son's choice at the school. he was not too busy to know , the dogs, the horses, and the rabbits, turtles and the geese. there will be another child he will never know. kennedy's wealth estimated at $10 million, his energy and his youth provided him with great mobility. it was hard to tell where he would turn up next. they had one time in the upper reaches of the hudson river. seven of their 10 children and a station wagon full of nieces and nephews, the senator and his wife led an expedition of rubber rafts, canoes, and kayaks into the stream and had a ball.
>> and when they skied at sun valley, the hills were covered with happy kennedys. bobby would take any help, and his form was this described -- and his form was described as not graceful, but aggressive. >> it must have seemed to many that kennedy's life was a merry-go-round of a life were no moment was left unfilled, but these were the event that filled the cracks in his life. his life was made up of work,
and he loved to work and he loved play. is some small consolation to know that he lived more life and 42 years than most would live in 80. the critics saw much of this as money too obviously enjoyed, millions expended for fun, political power, and public image, but his life was not a life of theatrical happenings. he state new ground on public policies, and have spoken often on the three most inflammatory issues in american life -- vietnam, civil rights, poverty. each time he took what was at the time he to become a minority position. he should be satisfied in the patient, which is neither true or realistic. [applause] >> and if any man claims that
need grows should be content or wouldied, let him say, he be willing to change the color of the skin and go to live in the negro section of any of our major cities. [applause] i have some differences of -- that are unimportant with the administration of vietnam. but i do not think the answer for the solution of vietnam is to question the patriotism. beendo not think we have putting enough of our resources and to the fight against poverty in the last few years. undoubtedly, the reason is because the cost of the war of the win, but we spent last year againsterty, a war
poverty. we spent the equivalent of 2.5 weeks on the war of vietnam. we can do better than that. >> the word ruthless was applied years ago when he was in the senate rackets committee. .is style seemed tough it seemed too self-confident, too sophisticated. he pursued the demons of segregation, racketeering, and price rigging and a manner many thought too seles. listening to people talk about robert kennedy, it was hard to believe they were talking about the same man. >> he looks too oppressive and is much too rude. he is too concerned about the people around him. he is concerned about people in general. he has been built up with this sort of idolatry, and i guess he shouldels that everybody
do what he wants and accept his judgment of all problems. >> i think it stems mostly from the fact that he has had the courtesy his had the kurds to ds right and take it head on. -- the courage to take it head on. i would describe bob as dedicated and loyal. saying qualify that by that bob believes so strongly in the ends that he is pursuing that he has not over scrupulous about the means that he employs. >> he is a strong individual in the sense of character and determination. i don't think he is ruthless, if that is what you mean. determined. persistent.
>> ethel kennedy was asked if it ever hurt. >> when somebody says something about him that is not very pleasant to hear. >> he talked to cbs news correspondent roger mudd. am i being nice to you? >> very nice. most people have the public view, but they leave that there is an old terry l motive. -- and all terrier motive -- an ulterior motive in what you do. is that -- is that accurate? >> no. what did you think i was going to say? >> is this something that has gotten started that you can't stop? the public image that you have? how did it get started? >> i don't know. i don't know. i don't know.
i don't know. >> the mccarthy thing and the hoffa thing and the campaign? >> i suppose i've been in positions which -- but i don't know exactly. i don't know. >> but robert kennedy had many constant reminders of his great popularity, his importance and the significance of his life. he received an average of 50 speaking invitations a day six days a week. it was not unusual for him to receive 2,500 letters in a single day. robert kennedy used every minute of his day. he walked from his office to the capitol in all weather, not for exercise or recreation. it was five minutes away from 2,500 letters a day. hearings occupied much of robert kennedy's time but did not satisfy his full range of interest or curiosity about the subject.
>> do you know anything about the poverty program? >> no. >> ever heard of head start? >> no. >> nice to see you. >> kennedy worked hard for his new state, new york. he earned the grudging respect of many of his colleagues who opposed him in 1964. in his first year in senate, he compiled a remarkable record for a senior senator and he was only a freshman. no matter what he accomplished, it was too little to satisfy his soaring ambitions to do and to move and to make things go. he was asked whether the senate was a satisfying place to be. >> i think it is at time frustrating that you can't get more done and you find there are matters that really require immediate attention and urgency -- and emergency matters and that you feel stngly that the country or an area of the
country would be better off or a group of people or part of our society would have better lives if we took a particular course of action and to see it go on day after day and that's frustrating. if you're in the executive branch of the government or the governor i suspect, it is much more possible to take an action and see some results from it immediately. that is not possible in the united states senate so i think that part of it is frustrating. >> just watching the senate in action, it occurred to me that senators have one characteristic in common. that's vanity. is that an accurate observation? >> well, somebody once said about the fact, you know, the providing officer is called the president, when somebody says mr. president, 100 pairs of eyes look up. i don't know. to some extent you begin to think what you say is important and significant. and because people clap at the
beginning when you stand up and they clap at the end. >> do you think about running for president? >> i'm not being morbid about it. i not making any plans to run or am making a decision that i will run or knowing that at some future time in the history of the united states i'm going to run for president, i don't. quite frankly, i don't. just because i don't think you can plan the future at all. >> on march 16, senator kennedy had made up his mind to make the race for president. >> i run for the presidency because i want the democratic party and the united states of america to stand for hope instead of despair, for reconciliation of man instead of the growing risk of world war. i run because it is now unmistakably clear that we can
change these disastrous, divisive policies only by changing the men who are now making them. i cannot stand aside from the contest that will decide our nation's future and our children's future. the remarkable new hampshire campaign of senator eugene mccarthy has proven how deep are the present divisions within our party and within our country. until that was publicly clear, my presence in the race would have been seen as a clash of personalities rather than issues. but now that that fight is won over policies which i have long been challenging, i must enter that race. the fight is just beginning. i believe that i can win. i do not lightly dismiss the dangers and the difficulty of challenging an incumbent
president. but these are not ordinary times and this is not an ordinary election. at stake is not simply the leadership of our party and even our country, it is our right to the moral leadership of this planet. >> it was just four days after senator mccarthy's stunning performance in new hampshire that senator kennedy set out to capture the democratic nomination. he was criticized by those who said he should have gone into new hampshire himself and by those who said he should not have stolen the spotlight so abruptly from mccarthy, but kennedy said the crucial issues of war and poverty dividing the country made it essential for him to run and he said the people would understand his message. although kennedy was privately a rather shy and reserved man, he relished the almost bruising contact with the crowds that swelled and roared around him as they had for his brother.
occasionally in all the public affection, he lost a tie clip, a handkerchief, even a shoe. anything his admirers could get their hands on. but he smiled through it all. some said he needed physical proof of his popularity. tangible evidence that he was the candidate for the people. this was a campaign in which he seemed more relaxed and good humored than ever before. a time at which he could laugh at himself in the charges with his critics that he was too ambitious. he had to be as the seventh of nine children to be able to survive. he developed a battering style -- a bantering style with his audiences. >> will you give me your vote? will you give me your hand? are we going to win on tuesday? and we will win the chicago convention in august? and we will win the election in
november. and we'll make a difference for our citizens here in the united states of america. >> if i had hair like that i , could get elected any place. >> throughout the campaign, he emphasized concern for the poor, the forgotten in a rich country. he said that ghettos must be transformed into places that human beings could live decently, that the rich must be taxed more heavily to help pay for a better society. that the great divisions of class and color must be bridged over. he portrayed himself as the candidate of peace and reconciliation. and of a youthful questing spirit. the spirit of a new style of politics. his wife ethel was frequently with him contributing to the image of youth and high spirit. those close to kennedy said it disturbed him that mccarthy had won the allegiance of so many of the young but kennedy too was the favorite of so many young people who whom he directed his primary messages to peace in vietnam and the rest of the world and injustice at home. this was a campaign of early triumphs for kennedy.
in indiana and nebraska and then defeat in the oregon primary. the first time a kennedy had lost an election, but then the tide turned for him in south dakota and california. he talked confidently about chicago and the convention. >> tuesday night began as the high point in kennedy's campaign. he won the california primary, the one he had to win to stay in the race but the victory statement turned out to be his last speech before disaster. cbs news correspondent terry drinkwater reports. >> what i think is quite clear is that we can work together in the last analysis and what has been going on within the united states over the period of the last three years, the division, the violence, the disenchantment with our society, the division, whether it is between blacks and whites, the poor and the more affluent, the age groups or the war in vietnam, we can start to
work together. we're a great country, an unselfish country, a compassionate country. i intend to make that my basis for running. [applause] so my thanks to all of you and now it is on to chicago and let's win there. [applause] >> kennedy left the platform quickly to escape the pushing, shoving celebrating admirers. he went through a side door into a pantry next to the hotel kitchen and there it happened. this next film begins perhaps five seconds after the shots were fired. >> look out in the back. >> a doctor. [shouting]
>> five others were also wounded. none is in critical condition. >> is there a doctor? >> the suspect, now identified as sirhan sirhan was grabbed by the two kennedy men and then he was led by police through the ballroom and the hotel. some of the officers had to protect him from the crowd. there were several kennedy supporters and bystanders who were close to hysteria at this point and there was concern for the suspect's safety. [screaming] in his pocket officers found newspaper clippings attacking kennedy. sirhan is the man in the blue shirt, dark complexion on the far side of the squad car.
[screaming] two of the others who were hit were brought back to the ballroom. by then most people knew what had happened. seven minutes before this room was the place of senator kennedy's finest political triumph. at this moment, kennedy was being taken on a stretcher from the hotel to an ambulance. [shouting] >> if there is a doctor in the house, i want to see him right here. everybody else, please stay back. >> the ambulance bearing senator kennedy arrived first and then three of the other wounded were brought in. doctors inside discovered for the first time the critical nature of kennedy's wound. they quickly decided to transfer him to good samaritan hospital where the facilities were better for delicate brain surgery. [muttering]
>> hold it, guys. hold it. --[whistle] >> mrs. kennedy was with him all of the time riding in the ambulance now from one hospital to the other. [muttering] >> please stand back. >> please stand back. [siren] there is a cable there, backup. [siren] >> the clergy and the statesmen from their pulpits and podium speak of the violence that racks our world. they speak of robert francis kennedy. but they speak too, of every man. the people weep for the kennedys. perhaps they too should weep for
themselves. this is walter cronkite reporting. we will return in five seconds after station identification. this is cbs. >> the plane carrying the body of senator kennedy has passed pittsburgh and heading for new york. at laguardia airport is martin dean. >> the hot springs sun has just begun to disappear from the sky and the crowds have begun to arrive here at the private aviation section of la guardia airport. the long flight from los angeles, the four-hour flight will soon be over. the presidential jet, air force 1 is expected sometime here within the hour. the boeing 707 carries the senator's body, his wife and
three of the 10 kennedy children and some 70 friends of robert kennedy, many familiar names in government, the arts, show business and sports. from kennedy airport, the funeral cortege, or rather from lauaiairport, kennedy airport named after the late senator's brother john f. kennedy several miles from here and serves the metropolitan new york area, but here from la guardia, the funeral cortege will travel and it should take approximately 40 minutes. the body will lay in state at st. patrick's cathedral. the magnificent cathedral on fifth avenue in midtown manhattan. security here is very extensive. uniformed and plain clothed policeman from all levels of government from police forces on all levels of government, new york city, the state, some security agents from washington will also here. are also here.
the credentials of press people being checked very, very carefully. the crowd being restricted to an area beyond the fence. the crowd will be some oh, 50 to 75 yards from air force 1 when it lands here at la guardia. once again the plane is due here sometime within the hour. morton dean. cbs news at la guardia airport. >> following the requiem mass saturday morning in new york and the train trip, the body will be taken through the streets in washington and past buildings which played a part in his career. cbs news correspondent bruce morton traces the route. >> this is washington's union station where the train bringing the body of senator robert kennedy from new york will arrive. from here the procession will depart for arlington cemetery. it will not be elaborate. it will not be military but it will as it travels these familiar washington streets echo much of robert kennedy's life. just a few blocks from union
station are the senate office buildings. in the old office building here is the big caucus room where robert kennedy first gained fame as the counsel for senator john mcclellan's labor rackets committee where he fought his battles with teamster leader james hoffa. as a senator of course, robert kennedy came back to a suite of offices in the new senate office building. he liked a breath of fresh air during a working day. and in good weather and bad, he used to enjoy the walk from the office building back and forth to the capitol, even though he was often stopped, besieged by tourists wanting a picture or an autograph. the procession, the motorcade pierre salinger called it, will swing next down pennsylvania avenue, past the rows of government office buildings, past the justice department where robert kennedy served as
attorney general during his brother's administration. years of controversy and landmark decisions in the field of civil rights. the avenue swings up past the treasury department, almost the reverse of the route taken during a presidential inaugural. past the white house where senator kennedy then attorney general remembered the late nights during the cuban missile crisis. the white house, which he had hoped this year to claim in his own right. then the motorcade will head south past the lincoln memorial, past resurrection city, home of the poor people who in an almost personal way were the special constituency for this man. so driven by compassion for the poor and the disadvantaged in the country. and so across memorial bring to
bridge to arlington national cemetery. robert kennedy's life since 1963 has echoed through that earlier tragedy in dallas. those echoes, that sense of history re-enacted grew with kennedy's decision to seek the presidency. grew during the campaign as a voice with a familiar accent, a familiar cadence, stirred crowds to memory and to new enthusiasm. so it is fitting that the journey should end here at the grave of the late president where the terrible echo sounds the loudest, where past and present violence will meet. bruce morton, cbs news, arlington national cemetery. >> this is dan rather at the white house. president johnson signed into law a new bill authorizing secret service protection for all presidential candidates and their families. congress agreed finally on federal gun control legislation. but the bill is primarily deals with handguns.
it is not nearly as strong as what president johnson had been suggesting, however before the shooting of senator robert kennedy, president johnson thought it was possibly the best he could get this year. now he thinks they can do better. this afternoon, he wrote a letter urging, demanding might be the better description. much more sweeping gun control legislation. >> today i sent the following statement to the speaker of the house and to the vice president, the president of the senate. today the nation cries out to the conscience of the congress. criminal violence from the muzzle of a gun has once again brought heartbreak to america. surely this must be clear beyond question. the hour has come for the congress to enact a strong and effective gun control law.
governing the full range of lethal weapons. i have sought and i have fought for such a law through all the days of my presidency. on many occasions before, i have spoken of the terrible toll inflicted on our people by firearms. 750,000 americans dead since the turn of the century. this is far more than have died at the hands of all of our enemies in all of the wars that we have fought. sorrow and suffering that just cannot be counted and fear that can never be measured. each year in this country, guns are involved in more than 6,500 murders. this compares with 30 in england, 99 in canada, 68 in
west germany and 37 in japan. 44,000 aggravated assaults are committed with guns in america each year. 50,000 robberies are committed with guns in america each year. i have told the congress and i have told the nation of the brutal loophole in our nation's laws. two million guns were sold in the united states last year. far too many of those guns were bought by the demented and the deranged, the hardened criminal and the convict, the addict and the alcoholic. we cannot expect these
irresponsible people to be prudent in their protection of us. but we can and we have a right to expect the congress of the united states to protect us from them. weapons of destruction can be purchased by mail as easily as baskets of fruit or cartons of cigarettes. we must eliminate the dangers of mail-order murder in this country. congress has finally begun to take some action. the senate has passed a watered-down version of the gun control law. i sent to the congress sometime ago with my recommendations. the house has taken action on the senate bill. but this halfway measure is not
near enough. it covers adequately only transactions involving handguns. it leaves adlythdeommerce and lethal shotguns and rifles without effective control. 55 long months after the mail-order murder of president john f. kennedy. so today, i call upon the congress in the name of sanity. i call upon congress in the name of safety. and in the name of an aroused citizenship. to give america the gun control law that american citizens need. i urge the congress to make it unlawful to sell rifles and shotguns as well as handguns by mail order.
i urge the congress to make it unlawful sell rifles and -- unlawful to sell rifles and shotguns as well as handguns to persons who are too young to bear the terrible responsibility that is placed in the hands of a gun owner. i urge the congress and plead with it to make it unlawful to sell rifles and shotguns as well as handguns in one state to the residents of another state. this will not prevent legitimate hunters or sportsmen from purchasing firearms, but with this reinforced law, we can then give the states the proper incentive to shape their own gun control legislation and the country can at long last have a network of systematic safeguards for all of our citizens. and today i am asking each of the governors of the 50 states
to immediately and to comprehensively review their gun laws and to amend them where necessary and rewrite them in order to fully protect the citizens of the states that they serve. protect them from the deadly weapons that are now in dangerous hands. the voices of the few must no longer prevail over the interests of the many. when i last appealed to the congress on this subject and that was only a month ago, i asked this question. what in the name of conscience will it take to pass a truly effective gun law in the congress? and now in this new hour of tragedy, that question should at
last be answered. so let us now spell out our grief in constructive action. >> part of what the president has in mind is a minimum age of 18 for the purchase of rifles and shotguns, 21 already is the suggested age by congress for the purchase of handguns. a white house aide said he has never seen mr. johnson more disturbed than the president has been over the failure of congress to enact stronger gun control legislation. mr. johnson now is hoping that public pressure, renewed pressure in wake of senator robert kennedy's death will prompt congress to come up with a stronger bill. dan rather, cbs news, the white house. , 1968,nine week series
america and turmoil is available as a podcast. you can find it on our website, c-span.org/history. >> not long after midnight on june 5, 1968, u.s. senator robert kennedy was shot and mortally wounded. he had just delivered a victory speech. he died the next day. next on "american history tv" a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the assassination. former president bill clinton delivered remarks to an audience that included rfk's family.