Sunday, March 16, 2014

"A pistol would have enabled him to meet the assault and defend the honor and safety of his wife...."

The Pistol Law.

   Undoubtedly the present pistol law of Texas was framed to meet a great evil. The crime of murder has been all too frequent in this, as well as in other frontier states. Too many men have gone down before its dread explosion. Too much misery has resulted from the readiness with which men, under the influence of passion, have resorted to the pistol to secure the blood for which they have thirsted. We do not underestimate the evils of pistol carrying or pistol practice. It would indeed be far better for humanity, morality, and every other earthly interest if there were never a pistol on earth. But it is here, and like almost all the other adjuncts of civilization and christianity, it has come to stay. It can not be banished. In this it resembles whisky or alcohol, and though in less degree, it is in the blood of the people to the extent that it cannot be eradicated, suppressed or destroyed by legislation. What then? Simply find the means by which it can be guarded that the minimum evil will result from its presence among us. It is no small thing for a man, hauled up before the courts for prosecution for carrying a pistol, to plead that the constitution of the United States and the state of Texas guarantee forever his right to bear arms. Just how this claim can be gotten round we are frank to say we cannot see. In this state men are [fined] and imprisoned for doing what the constitution expressly permits him to do. The constitution is the foundation upon which the statutes of the state are built. How then comes it that what that higher law permits and sanctions becomes a felony when the statutes are turned loose at it? So much for the legal aspects of the case. Now let us look at it as a matter of expediency.

   The good only obey the law. The present pistol law only disarms good men and places them in the power of the robbers, the thieves and the bullies. This latter class does not disarm at the bidding of the law. See how it works.  merchant is detained at his place of business until late in the night. Perhaps he takes with him home a large sum of money which he does not want to leave at the store. He is met by a single man who dashes his pistol in his face and orders the merchant to disgorge. What help is there? What is he to do? Had he a pistol he would be on an equality with his assailant at least and perhaps he would be able to defend his honestly earned money. Otherwise he loses all, and crime is strengthened by another success and an additional sum of money. A lawyer in the defense of a client is compelled to impeach a witness or dispute a statement, in this he gives mortal offense to perhaps a desperate man. His foe arms himself and confronts him on the pavement, beats him, insults him and what recourse has he? What defense can he make? Here too is the virtuous man disarmed while the scoundrel is panoplied for war. Who is benefited? Who is injured? It does not require a lawyer to answer the question. Again, a preacher is driving his wife out for an airing and a couple of villains meet them in a lonely place, flash a pistol in the face of the husband and forcibly take the lady and outrage her in the presence of the defenseless husband. A pistol would have enabled him to meet the assault and defend the honor and safety of his wife. An editor may in the lawful and legitimate pursuit of his business unwittingly offend mortally a desperate and bloody-minded man--it is done every day--and is quietly going to the office in the morning never dreaming of harm. He is met and beaten to death with a club, or is shot to pieces. He is helpless and defenseless because in obeying the law he gives a ruffian the advantage and is himself without the means to make a defense. Indeed instances might be multiplied indefinitely to show that the present law bears only upon the law-abiding and the honest, while it gives the wicked and the dishonest the advantage which they always seek.

   We grant that it would be far better were there no pistols--did no man carry them. But this is altogether Utopian. There are pistols and bad men will carry them and commit murder with them too. What then can be done? We are dealing with a fact which exists not with a theory or with a possibility which is remote and unreasonable. Law is constructed to protect the person and property of the citizen, not to put both to hazard, and place both helpless and defenseless in the hands of every rogue who takes it into his head to assault them. Certain restrictions and repressives ought to be placed about the use of the weapon, but as to blotting it out with legal enactments, that can't be done, and it is no use in wasting time, money and human life in the effort.

[The Waco Daily Examiner, Waco, Texas, Thursday, October 13, 1887. Vol. XX. No. 282. Pg. 4]

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