Publication information
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Source: Independent
Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: “The Pistol Habit: Stop It”
Author(s): anonymous
Date of publication: 18 August 1910
Volume number: 69
Issue number: 3220
Pagination: 371-72

“The Pistol Habit: Stop It.” Independent 18 Aug. 1910 v69n3220: pp. 371-72.
full text
gun control.
Named persons
John Wilkes Booth; Leon Czolgosz; James J. Gallagher; James A. Garfield; William Jay Gaynor; Charles J. Guiteau; George C. Holt; Abraham Lincoln; William McKinley; William H. Seward.


The Pistol Habit: Stop It

     THE dastardly attempt upon the life of Mayor Gaynor has given startling emphasis to the sober words uttered by Judge George C. Holt in his address before the State Bar Association at Wisconsin, and published in our issue of last week. “The repeating pistol,” said Judge Holt, “is the greatest nuisance in modern life. Every criminal, every madman, every crank, every bad boy carries one. Nineteen-twentieths of all the crimes of violence that are committed are effected by its use.” In this country practically all of the murderous assaults upon public men have been made with the pistol. It is improbable that Booth, or Guiteau, or Czolgosz could have accomplished his purpose with any other weapon. The attempt to kill Seward with a knife resulted only in serious wounding. No assassin, however crazy, would have attempted to shoot Lincoln in a theater box with a gun, or Garfield in a railway station, or McKinley in a public hall. Gallagher would not have gotten near his victim on a steamer deck with such a weapon, and an attempt with a knife would probably have failed.
     These facts should raise the most serious reflections, and they should provoke prompt and thorough-going measures to put an end to the most indefensible and monstrous habit of this people, a habit which falls little short of an epidemic insanity.
     Judge Holt is absolutely right. For purposes of defense the rifle is superior to the pistol. The pistol and the bomb exist practically only for mischief and murder.
     The Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms. But bearing arms does not mean carrying pistols.
     The Second Amendment says:
     “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
     The amendment explains itself. It is the militia system which it protects, and the militia are not carrying pistols. It is not easy to see how this right to bear arms could stand if the Government should forbid the private manufacture and sale of arms in general as it forbids the private coining of money or the carrying of mails; but in order to suppress the pistol habit it is not necessary for the Government to monopolize the manufacture and sale of arms, or to destroy any right now guaranteed. State laws and municipal ordinances generally forbid the carrying of concealed weapons, and this restriction is not held by the courts to invade any constitutional right. The Constitution does not say that the citizen may keep his arms hidden in a pocket. Neither does it guarantee to him a right to keep and bear a weapon of any specific description beyond muskets at a “training.” It is difficult to see how the Supreme Court could construe a law forbidding the manufacture, sale or carrying of pistols without a license as unconstitutional. Judge Holt’s opinion that it would be justifiable for the Gov- [371][372] ernment to prohibit the manufacture or sale of pistols, except in national armories for the use of the military and police, but that such a law is probably impracticable, may be accepted as summing up the constitutional presumption and the popular thinking on this subject. But we believe that his further judgment that it should be possible to enact laws subjecting the manufacturing, selling, purchasing and using of revolvers to restriction by license granted by a responsible board, is entirely sound and that steps should immediately be taken by an organization or committee of sober-minded men to press such measures upon the attention of all our State legislatures.
     As matters stand today, the citizens who might rightly make use of arms in the defense of their homes, their villages, or their country, seldom, as a matter of fact, “bear” them, even when they “keep” them. The men and boys that habitually “bear” arms are, with few exceptions, men and boys who should be “doing time” in public institutions. Certain sections of the South, unfortunately, are exceptions, and with what tragic consequences to themselves the world knows only too well.
     Must we wait until again some exceptionally able, devoted and useful public servant falls before the assassin’s shot, to bestir ourselves to end a national folly which has become a national disgrace?



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