Other White House officials also argued against doing much, including Tom C. Korologos, a White House deputy assistant for legislative affairs who later was an outside lobbyist for the NRA and ambassador to Belgium under President George W. Bush.
"The thing that worries me is that the president's hard-core support comes from the gun-folk and obviously we need support these days," Korologos wrote in an Aug. 31, 1973 memo, referring to the Watergate scandal that would undo Nixon's presidency.
"Lurking in the background is the president's personal statement: 'I'm a liberal on gun control,'" Korologos said. Nixon might have made this statement privately; there is no record of him saying it publicly.
Korologos' conclusion: "I vote for a 'talk' meeting and then 'tough it out' by doing nothing and hope nobody gets shot in the next three years."
The effort to ban Saturday night specials receded in recent decades as the focus of gun control advocates shifted to rein in more powerful weapons.
Nixon's focus soon shifted, too.
In June 1972, a little over a month after his chat about banning handguns, Nixon had a recorded conversation that showed him trying to get the FBI to stop investigating the break-in at Democratic offices at the Watergate office building by burglars tied to his re-election committee.
Few remember the tapes about handguns. History forever remembers the tape that gave Nixon's Watergate pursuers their "smoking gun."