December 20, 2020

THIS H.L. MENCKEN ESSAY ON GUN CONTROL FROM 1925 is still gold.

The new law that it advocated, indeed, is one of the most absurd specimens of jackass legislation ever heard of, even in this paradise of legislative donkeyism. Its single and sole effect would be to exaggerate enormously all of the evils it proposes to put down. It would not take pistols out of the hands of rogues and fools; it would simply take them out of the hands of honest men. The gunman today has great advantages everywhere. He has artillery in his pocket, and he may assume that, in the large cities, at least two-thirds of his prospective victims are unarmed. But if the Nation’s proposed law (or amendment) were passed and enforced, he could assume safely that all of them were unarmed.

Here I do not indulge in theory. The hard facts are publicly on display in New York State, where a law of exactly the same tenor is already on the books—the so-called Sullivan Law. In order to get it there, of course, the Second Amendment had to be severely strained, but the uplifters advocated the straining unanimously, and to the tune of loud hosannas, and the courts, as usual, were willing to sign on the dotted line. It is now a dreadful felony in New York to “have or possess” a pistol. Even if one keeps it locked in a bureau drawer at home, one may be sent to the hoosegow for ten years. More, men who have done no more are frequently bumped off. The cops, suspecting a man, say, of political heresy, raid his house and look for copies of the Nation. They find none, and are thus baffled—but at the bottom of a trunk they do find a rusted and battered revolver. So he goes on trial for violating the Sullivan Law, and is presently being psychoanalyzed by the uplifters at Sing Sing.

With what result? With the general result that New York, even more than Chicago, is the heaven of footpads, hijackers, gunmen and all other such armed thugs. Their hands upon their pistols, they know that they are safe. Not one citizen out of a hundred that they tackle is armed for getting a license to keep a revolver is a difficult business, and carrying one without it is more dangerous than submitting to robbery. So the gunmen flourish and give humble thanks to God. Like the bootleggers, they are hot and unanimous for Law Enforcement.

Read the whole thing.

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