Thursday, March 06, 2014

Washington, D.C.: "For what says that old and musty document to which I referred before?"

The Carrying of Concealed Weapons.


To the Editor of The Star:

   Don't you really think yourself that this goody-goody sort of talk, like that of "Citizen" in last night's Star, about carrying weapons, is getting rather monotonous? I don't know who Citizen" is; but if I am allowed to judge of him by his opinions, as "a tree is known by its fruits," I should say that he is one of those "citizens" who believe in "doing evil that good may come," and who would persecute all who differ with them in opinion, as in the "good days of old." "Might a mere worm suggest" to Citizen, as it was more forcibly suggested the other day to the foolish mayor of Philadelphia, that citizens have some rights that even all-potent mayors are obliged to respect, and that these rights are guaranteed to them by an ancient document, little read by mayors and constables, yclept the Constitution of the United States of America. How would "Citizen's" plan of searching the persons of his fellow-citizens go with that little clause in the Constitution, which says "the right of the people to be secure in their persons and property from unlawful search and seizure shall not be infringed?" I don't if know that I quote the exact words, as I quote from memory, but I know I have the exact legal sense. What does "Citizen" or the stupid mayor of Philadelphia think the man would do who was approached as he peaceably proceeded down the street and ignominiously seized and searched by a policeman, who might choose to think he had a deadly weapon upon his person? Don't you think that policeman and the mayor who authorized him would find a very ugly suit for "unlawful search" upon their hands? I do.

   The fact is, the tendency of a great many persons' minds is toward despotism. So we have the ancient sumptuary and the modern prohibitory liquor laws, all of which are violative of justice, as they infringe the rights of the citizen. The law against carrying deadly weapons depends for its constitutionality upon the use of the word "concealed," which implies evil intent; but there is no law in this or in any other enlightened country to prevent me or any other citizen from buckling on a revolver and carrying it openly, or from carrying openly a gun, sword or knife. For what says that old and musty document to which I referred before? "The right of of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed," or words to that effect. In common with other law-abiding citizens, I strongly reprobate the pernicious habit of carrying concealed weapons; but I would not remedy that evil by unlawful measures. Congress or the state legislatures can surely enact a constitutional law which will very much diminish this crying evil; no law can ever entirely prevent crime.  B.

[The Evening Star, Washington, D.C., Friday, August 5, 1881. Vol. 58--No. 8,839. Pg. 4]

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