Sunday, May 04, 2008

The "Right To Bear Arms.", N.Y. Times article of Dec. 5, 1903:

The drastic municipal ordinance recommended by Mayor Harrison of Chicago for the suppression of crimes against the person by discouraging and penalizing the ownership and carrying of deadly weapons of offense or defense does not seem to have evoked a chorus of enthusiastic popular approval. It is proposed to license both the seller and the buyer of firearms. Dealers who sell such implements are to be required to give a bond in $500 for a selling license, and every sale must be reported to the police. No person is allowed to own a gun or pistol without a license, and such license to own is not to confer the right to carry. This will be permitted only in the case of persons of attested good character upon a written application giving all the particulars needed for immediate and absolute police identification and upon the showing of a sufficient reason for asking such permission. The pattern and number of every registered weapon is to be recorded, also date of purchase, name of person making the sale, and the name of the buyer. All firearms licenses are to be revocable at the pleasure of the Mayor. There is more in the proposed ordinance to the same general effect, much of which is in apparent contravention of the Federal Constitution, but that is not the aspect in which it assumes popular interest and excites unfavorable discussion.

The objection to local legislation of this character is that it is futile. Persons who want weapons and cannot buy them in Chicago will buy them anywhere in the United States outside the municipal limits. They can keep them indefinitely without making themselves amenable to the penalties prescribed prescribed, since the fact of having them cannot be ascertained by the police without a house-to-house vistitation with search warrants. The most serious aspect of the matter, however, is found in the fact that persons desiring firearms for improper purposes will pay no attention to the ordinance, and law-abiding citizens who voluntarily comply with it will find themselves at a disadvantage in defending their lives and their property against thugs and burglars. That such irresponsible young desperadoes as the car-barn bandits would be deterred from procuring or using firearms by such an ordinance as Mayor Harrison approves and desires to have enacted no one can seriously believe. It is much more probable, indeed, that they would be emboldened by the assurance that those most likely to be selected as victims in their career of mercenary murder would be in all probability defenseless. The reorganization of the Chicago police force would seem to promise much more important results than can be expected to follow action along the lines of Mayor Harrison's suggestion.

Copyright The New York Times

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