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In 1965, responding to a challenge from journalists, Mayor Frank X. Graves Jr. of Patterson, New Jersey, tested gun laws. He ordered a German-made .22-caliber revolver from a Chicago company’s magazine advertisement. When the company sent him the gun without running a required background check, Graves notified the Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, which investigated the matter.

Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration

Global Import Company advertisement for Deluxe .22 Caliber Revolver, <i>Firearms Magazine</i>, 1965

Juvenile Delinquency and Mail-Order Guns

President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 assassination with a mail-order rifle prompted the Senate Special Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency to investigate interstate gun traffic, a long-standing concern. The subcommittee chairman, Senator Thomas J. Dodd of Connecticut, proposed a gun-control bill, but the Commerce Committee deferred action. In 1965 a New Jersey mayor revived the issue when he demonstrated to the subcommittee that anyone, even a child, could purchase a mail-order revolver. In 1968 Congress passed two laws banning interstate commerce in firearms and sales of guns to minors.

The company that sent me this gun had no way of knowing whether I was a convicted murderer, what my intentions were or whether I was 5 years old or 105 years old.

Mayor Frank X. Graves Jr., “Mail Order Gun Sale Vexes Mayor,” Washington Post Times Herald, April 24, 1965