Elvis Presley’s Father Responded to Claims That the King Was ‘Gun Crazy’: He ‘Had a Permit’

Elvis Presley is known as the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, but the star had a lot of other interests. One of those interests involved firearms, and many have accused him of being “gun crazy.” However, his father, Vernon Presley, denied those accusations shortly after his son’s death, sharing his feelings on the situation. 

Elvis Presley’s love of guns concerned some

Elvis was a fan of firearms and typically carried at least three pistols on him at all times. The members of his entourage (“The Memphis Mafia”), as well as his wife, Priscilla Priscilla, also carried weapons. The singer even carried his guns onstage with him, due to his fear that someone would attack him. 

In a 1978 letter to Good Housekeeping, Vernon shared his grief at his son’s death, some stories about Elvis’ rise to fame, and his thoughts on the rockstar’s gun use. 

“Elvis had a permit to carry a gun,” he stated. “I’ve seen him pretend he was going to draw it at times to scare somebody, but he wasn’t gun-crazy by any means. The subject of Elvis wearing a gun brings up the danger he was often in.”

The time Vernon Presley was ‘the most frightened’ for Elvis’ safety

Vernon detailed this danger, saying:

“The most frightened I ever was for his safety was early in his career in Jacksonville, Florida. He’d been performing on a flatbed truck and, when he tried to get to his dressing-room trailer, the crowd simply swept over him. Fans rocked his trailer so hard that he tried to get back to the stage.

But, again, the crowd swept over him, tearing at him until he was left with nothing on except his pants. He had bleeding scratches under his arms where his shirt had been pulled off. I’d never seen anything like that before. I thought Elvis was going to be killed right then.”

While the Florida show might have been Vernon’s biggest scare, he shared that Elvis was most frightened before a Las Vegas concert:

“We got a call [at the Las Vegas Hilton] from Los Angeles saying that a man was on his way to shoot him on stage. The caller said that for $50,000 he’d tell us who the man was and how to intercept him.

The FBI took the threat pretty seriously, and so did I, so seriously that I told the agents to tell the caller we’d pay. But somehow the contact broke down, and on the night of Elvis’ opening, we thought a killer might actually be in the audience.”

“The hotel asked Elvis not to go on, and so did I,” he said. “There’s no denying he was afraid, but he insisted on doing that show, and the rest of the engagement. And, as you know, nothing happened.”

Did Elvis Presley really shoot his TV?

While Vernon dispelled much of the talk about Elvis being “gun-crazy,” he did admit one story was true: the time the King shot his own television set. 

Elvis Presley holds the toy pistol he reputedly wielded during a dispute with an 18-year-old Marine in 1957
In 1957, Elvis Presley holds the toy pistol he allegedly wielded in a dispute with a Marine | Bettmann/Contributor

“The story that Elvis shot at the TV set is true,” Vernon revealed. “But he was in his own home and shot out his own TV set and when he’d done it he could afford to buy a new one.”

“I’ll bet there’s not one person reading this story who hasn’t sometimes felt so frustrated looking at some TV show that he wouldn’t have liked to have thrown his shoe at the set or shot at it or something,” his father concluded. 

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