Saturday, March 15, 2014

"No one can take from a citizen his constitutional right to carry arms...."


George Gordon Battle Explains the Citizen's Right to Bear Arms.

 To the Editor of The Tribune.

   Sir: it has been stated in the press that Police Commissioner Cropsey suggested or recommended to the grand jury that private watchmen should wear pistols, unconcealed, in a holster or strapped to belt. It has even been said that he advised citizens to carry arms publicly.

   In justice to him it should be made clear that he has never offered any such grotesque suggestion. He made indeed no suggestion, nor did he offer any advise on the subject. The question was asked of him whether private watchmen could not carry pistols or other arms without a police permit, provided the arms were not concealed. To this legal question he replied in the affirmative; and his answer was, as every lawyer knows, correct. No one can take from a citizen his constitutional right to carry arms.

   A private watchman can wear a uniform and badge, carry a club, and, if it is deemed necessary, an unconcealed pistol, without any police or other permit. The only effect of the recent police orders is to deprive the private watchman of the character of a public officer, of the right to wear a badge showing that he is a member of the police force and the right to carry concealed weapons.

   It is the theory of Commissioner Cropsey that no one should be a member of the police force who is paid by a private employer, and who is not subject to the authority and discipline of the Police Department. He does not think that a private mercenary employe should have the official powers of a policeman without the official obligations and discipline of a policeman. There may be a diversity of opinion on this point, but no one can doubt that the Commissioner has strong reasons and logical arguments on his side.

   The recent orders do not prevent the employment of private watchmen They only prevent the assumption by them of the official trappings and powers of policemen without the corresponding duties and discipline. The watchmen can still do all the duties of watchmen, and, in fact, the practical difference will be very slight.

   It has also been published in the press that witnesses testified before the grand jury that there were many crimes on West street, along the waterfront, from Christopher street to 23rd street. The inference is drawn that this is a new condition, and that it is due to failure of police duty.

   As a matter of fact the change of many of the great steamship lines from the docks below Christopher street to the new steel piers above that street has vastly increased the number of sailormen and of steamship passengers in that quarter of the city. These sailors and the foreign passengers, ignorant of our language and customs, are to-day the prey of land sharks, as they have been ever since men went down to the sea in ships.

   And with the greater number of the victims, the spoilers, too, have become more numerous. There are, consequently, more such crimes in that neighborhood than before the new piers were occupied.

   In every great city, such as New York, there is much crime. If specific crimes are emphasized and conspicuously noted, it is to make it appear that there is a wave of crime. As matter of fact, such testimony means very little. The true inquiry is whether our police administration is weak or faulty. If there is an undue increase of crime throughout our city the inference will be that there is something at fault with our police department.

   But proof of separate offences does not of itself show increase of crime. That can only be determined  by a patient, and impartial inquiry, such as the District Attorney and the grand jury purpose to make. In the meantime it would seem to be fair to suspend judgment and await the final result.    GEORGE GORDON BATTLE*.

   New York, April 2, 1911.
[New-York Tribune, New-York, Monday, April 3, 1911. Vol. LXX.....No. 23,514. Pg. 7]
* - George Gordon Battle, Oct. 26, 1868–Apr. 29 1949, was a leading Democrat and one of New York City's outstanding lawyers. He received his M.A. from the University of Virginia. While in Virginia he began studying law, and after graduation he continued in the office of his oldest brother, Judge Jacob Battle, in Rocky Mount. However, a short while later he decided to enter law school at Columbia University in New York City. Considered a brilliant student at Columbia, with an aptitude for the framing of indictments that won him a post with District Attorney De Lancey Nicoll. He served in the district attorney's office for five years, from 1892 to 1897, resigning to enter private practice. Twice in later years he served as special assistant district attorney to investigate crime and corruption in New York, in 1911 and again in 1919.

Among the better-known lawsuits by him as counsel was one brought by George H. Carle, who was later the governor of Pennsylvania. In another important suit, he was counsel for the minority stockholders of the Houston Central Railway, who after litigation lasting thirty-five years. Were finally able to win a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court upholding a $6,600,000 verdict. He also represented such concerns as the Diamond Match Company and was attorney in many prominent will suits.

Battle raised money for such diverse beneficiaries as the Salvation Army, Sweet Briar College, the Passion Players from Oberammergau, the Royal Arch Masons, and the Sesquicentennial Celebration of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. He was executive chairman of the Community Council of National Defense for the City of New York, secretary of the Committee on Educational Publicity in Interests of World Peace, and chairman of the Committee on Psychiatric Work for the Girls Service League of America. On several occasions he arbitrated major labor disputes, and he was chairman of the National Committee on Prison Labor Reform.

As president of New York City's Parks and Playgrounds Association, he was an ardent fighter against encroachments upon park property, especially Central Park, which he felt should be kept as rural as possible. Himself childless, he continually sought more city playgrounds.

While campaigning for Al Smith in 1928, he began fighting anti-Semitism; later he served on several Jewish committees. An editorial in the American Hebrew hailed him as one of the most effective espousers of the cause of Jewry among New York gentiles, and he was awarded the American Hebrew medal for keeping "the flame of religious hatred from searing American Democracy."

He was married in Richmond, Va., 12 Apr. 1898, to Martha Burrell Dabney Bagby, the daughter of George William Bagby, for many years state librarian of Virginia, and Lucy Parke Chamberlayne. Both the Battles were devoted members of the Episcopal church.

Battle suffered a fatal heart attack while on his way to his country home in Orange County, Va., and was buried in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Va. [Battle, George Gordon by Dorothy B. Wilkinson, 1979. NCPedia.]

No comments: