Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Independence Day: Nothing New Under the Sun

Happy Independence Day, or Fourth of July to those of you who don't know why we light off fireworks and barbecue. It's time to look back into history and read a patriotic editorial that shows us, as far as gun control goes, there is nothing new under the sun. This could be written today. The date will be at the end. Remember and be grateful for the 6,800 men died in battle and many tens of thousands more to disease and climate so that we could celebrate this two-hundred and forty-first year of American independence.

“EDITOR OF THE ARGUS—I do not say, for I do not believe, that the , legislators who passed these laws were all, or any of them, were personally in favor of disarming the people, as a step towards restoration of caste, I do not think this hidden toryism sufficiently wide spread at present to stock the legislatures of a majority of our 'states, with its conscious devotees, but I do say that the sentiment among the people the hidden power behind public opinion which led to the enactment of this law, was secretly inspired by the ' influence of tory minds and flunkey hearts as a means to an end, and that end was the ultimate disarming of the American people, of course I shall be told that there is nothing in this law against bearing arms that the prohibition is only of the concealment thereof. Of course, no one would be idiotic enough to suppose Jesuitism whether religious or political, would spoil its plans by exposing them before the time for full fruition. But sometime there will be bills introduced into our legislatures, prohibiting the carrying of pistols openly or in secret, and the quiescence of the people under those laws will be cited as a precedent in favor of the new ones The same arguments advanced in favor of these laws, will be equally valid in advancing those, indeed as we shall see further on, the clause against concealment in the present statutes, is only inserted to evade that section of our Magna Charta which declares that the right of every man to bear arms, shall not be infringed. These new laws will not be directed against bearing arms as such, but against pistols and small arms only. It will be urged that the right to bear muskets will and shall be intact, but the constitution says nothing in favor of Colts revolver and it will be perfectly lawful to legislate against them. Such a law will be passed at no very distant day, if the present furor in favor of the most rigid enforcement of the present laws to-day continued. And then those men who own the elegant little nickle plated denizens of the hip pocket will be compelled to dispose of them altogether, or to keep them hid behind the clock case or down cellar, where no careless eye may chance to see them. For the right of owning an article implies the right of carrying the same, and when the one is abrogated the other is rendered void.-- Then men will become more and more unaccustomed to the use of firearms, for guns are clumsy and costly, and many people can not afford to procure them, and still fewer would be able to spend the time necessary to become familiar with their use. Then again, laws will be passed debarring the people from forming societies and bearing arms en masse. Later still a license law will be passed prohibiting all persons from bearing or possessing arms, who are not able and willing to pay a license for so doing— license at first ridiculously small and insignificant. And lastly the license will be increased until only persons of a certain opulence will be able to afford the luxury, and this by throwing all the firearms into the hands of the wealthy classes will render the completion of the Toryistic scheme as easy as rolling off a log, and the grand programme of aristocratic restoration will be complete.
“This is the inevitable tendency or all laws against carrying concealed weapons, and the fact seems so self-evident, the person must be stupidly blind who does not perceive it. Nevertheless there are many who profess themselves quite unable to believe there can be any harm in such a law who can read nothing between the lines. They pooh pooh the idea that anyone would try or would wish to try to curtail the privileges of freeborn American citizens. They seem to imagine that laws are incapable of possessing hidden meanings, though in ambiguous terms. Though the uncertainty of legal processes is every day made more glaringly evident. They seem forgetful of the fact that the evident spirit of the Constitution is violated in these laws, though they may be literally constitutional, and that where the spirit of a creed is outraged, the outrages are scarcely liable to conscientious scruples about the strict observance of the letters or the same, perhaps these persons would not be so very deserving of repute had the laws against concealed weapons been the only steps taken thus for in this direction. But, though it is only a very few years since these laws were first passed, the quiescence of the people under them has already led to of more advanced legislation. Already the rights of the people to near arms en mass in civil societies, has been contested in the courts, and eminent legal talent has arrayed itself against the people. The arrest and imprisonment of the Socialistic company leaders of Chicago, not many months ago, though provoking but little comment throughout the land, was a very significant straw, showing which way the current of opinion was tending. And it may not wholly have escaped the reader's memory, that during the "Great Strike" of 1877, the opinion was widely advanced by the partisans of monopoly, that the rights of people to bear arms was a standing menace to the Government, and that some license law should be enacted to limit the possession of arms to those whose interests were supposed to be identical with "Strong Government, in other words, despotism. If such things do not prove that these laws are but pointers, but stepping-stones to something beyond, I cannot imagine what sort of evidence would be considered convincing.
“I do not know whether the constitutionality of the laws against concealed weapons has or has not been subjected to the test of supreme court examination, nor do I care, since no decision of any court, whether favorable or adverse can have any bearing on the argument. The constitution of the United States is perhaps the best example in existence of terse expression and rigid simplicity of style. It needs for its comprehension no extensive culture, nor legal education nor exhaustive researches in black letter literature. It demands only moderate acquaintance with Webster's spelling book, and a small modicum of common sense. It is so simple straightforward and honest that the wayfaring man though a fool can read and understand. It is true that hired shysters and hair-splitting gibblers may profess to find hidden meanings under the most obvious texts, but the common sense of the American people if not an infallible guide, nearly so at least has long since declared that the value of a magna carta lies in its being easily understood by every person affected by its decrees, and that, hence, the literal interpretation of the text is the most natural and true one. To assert otherwise, is to not only depreciated the wisdom of the framers, but to impeach their patriotism as well. The fathers or our government may not have been the paragons of perfection, our Fourth of July orators would have us believe, but they were certainly as well versed in the English language, as any of our modern constitutional lawyers, and were actuated by motives of patriotism where purity has never been denied, and when they drew up the national constitution, they sought only to preserve and perpetuate by legal enactments the liberties so dearly bought with the sword. It is ridiculous to suppose, and slander to assert that such men would have concocted a charta for the people which not one man in ten thousand of those people would, be able to understand, which would be so obscure its meaning and uncertain in its renderings as to resemble the revelation of St. John the Divine, which ten thousand learned commentations have not yet made clear. They would rather used plain language to express their meaning: they would not have crowded different meanings into one expression, and the meaning they would intend to convey by any one sentence, would be the one apparent on its face. They had no object in using ambiguous language, which could be "made to support contradictory and unthought of hypotheses. When (figuratively, of course), they spoke of a spade, they meant and intended to be so under stood the garden utensil of that name; and when they declared that the right American citizens to bear arms should not be infringed, they meant just what they said, and would have been surprised to learn that their language justified such interference with that right, as is perpetuated in the laws against concealed weapons." —Guy Rivers

“Plea For the Hip Pocket.” The Rock Island Argus.” Nov. 1, 1881. (original)

No comments:

Post a Comment