Sunday, May 18, 2008
"...As the Constitutions, generally, say..."
Shooting In Sport
[Excerpt from an article titled "Shooting In Sport", in the Archives of the New York Times]
"...As the Constitutions, generally, say that the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed, it seems to be established that laws cannot be passed to forbid men from carrying fire-arms. But most of the States, probably, have laws declaring that these weapons shall not be carried concealed; whoever wears a pistol must wear it openly, so that his neighbors can see that he goes armed and may take care accordingly. Alabama has a stringent law of this kind. One man lately attempted to evade it by carrying in his pocket a pistol which could be taken apart and put together; the cylinder would unscrew from the barrel. He carried the pieces seperate, but they were all in readiness, and could be screwed together and put in order for use at short notice. He said the pieces of the pistol were not a weapon. But the court decided against him. An unloaded pistol cannot be fired, but would any one say that carrying an unloaded pistol in the pocket was not carrying a concealed weapn? Unless some essential part of the pistol is wholly wanting, so that it cannot be made useful, it is a weapon.
The courts continue to take the utmost pains to discourage the pernicious practice of brandishing pistols or pointing guns, whether loaded or unloaded. In Mississippi two men "loafing" in a country store were drawn into a petty quarrel arising from the rudeness of one, who was eating nuts, in scattering the shells about so that they hit the other. When the quarrel grew somewhat serious, the other ran forth from the store into the street. The shell-thrower followed, and, in the race, discharged a pistol. It was quite plain from all circumstances that he did not intend to hurt the runaway, or even to hit him; but meant only to alarm him, or demonstrate his own prowess, Therefore his lawyers argued that there was no criminal assault, for, they said, an intent to hurt is part of the very idea of an assault. The Judges said that this is a difficult question: Shall shooting in sport be judges by the intention of the "shootist" or by the apprehension of the "shootee"? The true rule is that no assault is commmitted when the person at whom the gun or pistol is aimed knows that is empty, and that the assailant does not intend to injure him, but is acting only in fun. But when he does not know these facts--when the circumstances are such as may reasonably lead him to believe that he is in danger--his rights are just as truly violated as if the intent were serious and the danger actual. Also the effect of such conduct to disturb the public peace is equally objectionable. Therefore they pronounced the make-believe shooter guilty.
The New York Times
Published: May 22, 1881
Copyright The New York Times