Subscribe now to get the latest news on guns, gear, gun rights, and personal defense delivered straight to your inbox daily!

Required fields are bold...

Email Address:
First Name:
Zip Code:
 


Timeless: Century-Old Arguments Against Gun Control Laws are Just as Valid Today

H.L. Mencken

H.L. Mencken

 

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) was the most influential newspaperman of his era and a prolific author of iconoclastic books and essays. This is reprinted from The Evening Sun of Baltimore, November 30, 1925. Copyright 1925 by The Evening Sun. Republication without credit not permitted.

I

The eminent Nation announces with relish “the organization of a national committee of 100 to induce Congress to prohibit the inter-State traffic in revolvers,” and offers the pious judgement that it is “a step forward.” “Crime statistics,” it appears, “show that 90% of the murders that take place are committed by the use of the pistol, and every year there are hundreds of cases of accidental homicide because someone did not know that his revolver was loaded.”

The new law—or is it to be a constitutional amendment?—will do away with all that. “It will not be easy,” of course, “to draw a law that will permit exceptions for public officers and bank guards”—to say nothing of Prohibition agents and other such legalized murderers. “But soon even these officials may get on without revolvers.”

More than once, in this place, I have lavished high praise upon the Nation. All that praise has been deserved, and I am by no means disposed to go back on it. The Nation is one of the few honest and intelligent periodicals ever published in the United States. It stands clear of official buncombe; it prints every week a great mass of news that the newspapers seem to miss; it interprets that news with a freedom and a sagacity that few newspaper editors can even so much as imagine.

If it shut up shop then the country would plunge almost unchallenged into the lowest depths of Coolidgism, Rotarianism, Stantaquaism and other such bilge. It has been, for a decade past, the chief consolation of the small and forlorn minority of civilized Americans.

But the Nation, in its days, has been a Liberal organ, and its old follies die hard. Ever and anon, in the midst of its most eloquent and effective pleas for Liberty, its eye wanders weakly toward Law. At such moments the old lust to lift ‘em up overcomes it, and it makes a brilliant and melodramatic ass of itself. Such a moment was upon it when it printed the paragraph that I have quoted. Into that paragraph—of not over 200 words—it packed as much maudlin and nonsensical blather, as much idiotic reasoning and banal moralizing, as Dr. Coolidge gets into a speech of two hours’ length.

II

The new law that it advocated, indeed, is one of the most absurd specimens of jackass legislation ever heard of, even in this paradise of legislative donkeyism. Its single and sole effect would be to exaggerate enormously all of the evils it proposes to put down. It would not take pistols out of the hands of rogues and fools; it would simply take them out of the hands of honest men.

The gunman today has great advantages everywhere. He has artillery in his pocket, and he may assume that, in the large cities, at least two-thirds of his prospective victims are unarmed. But if the Nation’s proposed law (or amendment) were passed and enforced, he could assume safely that all of them were unarmed.

Here I do not indulge in theory. The hard facts are publicly on display in New York State, where a law of exactly the same tenor is already on the books—the so-called Sullivan Law. In order to get it there, of course, the Second Amendment had to be severely strained, but the uplifters advocated the straining unanimously, and to the tune of loud hosannas, and the courts, as usual, were willing to sign on the dotted line.

It is now a dreadful felony in New York to “have or possess” a pistol. Even if one keeps it locked in a bureau drawer at home, one may be sent to the hoosegow for ten years. More, men who have done no more are frequently bumped off.

The cops, suspecting a man, say, of political heresy, raid his house and look for copies of the Nation. They find none, and are thus baffled—but at the bottom of a trunk they do find a rusted and battered revolver. So he goes on trial for violating the Sullivan Law, and is presently being psychoanalyzed by the uplifters at Sing Sing.

With what result? With the general result that New York, even more than Chicago, is the heaven of footpads, hijackers, gunmen and all other such armed thugs. Their hands upon their pistols, they know that they are safe.

Not one citizen out of a hundred that they tackle is armed for getting a license to keep a revolver is a difficult business, and carrying one without it is more dangerous than submitting to robbery. So the gunmen flourish and give humble thanks to God. Like the bootleggers, they are hot and unanimous for Law Enforcement.

III

To all this, of course, the uplifters have a ready answer. (At having ready answers, indeed, they always shine!) The New York thugs, they say, are armed to the teeth because New Jersey and Connecticut lack Sullivan Laws. When one of them wants a revolver all he has to do is to cross the river or take a short trolley trip. Or, to quote the Nation, he may “simply remit to one of the large firms which advertise the sale of their weapons by mail.”

The remedy is the usual dose: More law. Congress is besought to “prohibit the inter-State traffic in revolvers, especially to bar them from the mails.”

It is all very familiar, and very depressing. Find me a man so vast an imbecile that he seriously believes that this prohibition would work. What would become of the millions of revolvers already in the hands of the American people if not in New York, then at least everywhere else? (I own two and my brother owns at least a dozen, though neither of us has fired one since the close of the Liberty Loan drives.)

Would the cops at once confiscate this immense stock, or would it tend to concentrate in the hands of the criminal classes? If they attempted confiscation, how would they get my two revolvers—lawfully acquired and possessed—without breaking into my house? Would I wait for them docilely—or would I sell out, in anticipation, to the nearest pistol bootlegger?

The first effect of the enactment of such a law, obviously, would be to make the market price of all small arms rise sharply. A pistol which is now worth, second-hand, perhaps $2, would quickly reach a value of $10 or even $20. This is not theorizing; we have had plenty of experience with gin.

Well, imagining such prices to prevail, would the generality of men surrender their weapons to the Polizei, or would they sell them to the bootleggers? And if they sold them to the bootleggers, what would become of them in the end: would they fall into the hands of honest men or into the hands of rogues?

IV

But the gunmen, I take it, would not suffer from the high cost of artillery for long. The moment the price got really attractive, the cops themselves would begin to sell their pistols, and with them the whole corps of Prohibition blacklegs, private detectives, deputy sheriffs, and other such scoundrels. And smuggling, as in the case of alcoholic beverages, would become an organized industry, large in scale and lordly in profits.

Imagine the supplies that would pour over the long Canadian and Mexican borders! And into every port on every incoming ship!

Certainly, the history of the attempt to enforce Prohibition should give even uplifters pause. A case of whisky is a bulky object. It must be transported on a truck. It can not be disguised. Yet in every American city today a case of whisky may be bought almost as readily as a pair of shoes despite all the armed guards along the Canadian border, and all the guard ships off the ports, and all the raiding, snooping and murdering everywhere else. Thus the camel gets in and yet the proponents of the new anti-pistol law tell us that they will catch the gnat! Go whisper it to the Marines!

Such a law, indeed, would simply make gun-toting swagger and fashionable, as Prohibition has made guzzling swagger and fashionable. When I was a youngster there were no Prohibition agents; hence I never so much as drank a glass of beer until I was nearly 19. Today, Law Enforcement is the eighth sacrament and the Methodist Board of Temperance, Prohibition and Public Morals by itself authority for the sad news that the young of the land are full of gin.

I remember, in my youth, a time when the cops tried to prohibit the game of catty. At once every boy in Baltimore consecrated his whole time and energy to it. Finally, the cops gave up their crusade. Almost instantly catty disappeared.

V

The real victim of moral legislation is always the honest, law-abiding, well-meaning citizen—what the late William Graham Summer called the Forgotten Man. Prohibition makes it impossible for him to take a harmless drink, cheaply and in a decent manner.

In the same way the Harrison Act puts heavy burdens upon the physician who has need of prescribing narcotic drugs for a patient, honestly and for good ends. But the drunkard still gets all the alcohol that he can hold, and the drug addict is still full of morphine and cocaine.

By precisely the same route the Nation’s new law would deprive the reputable citizen of the arms he needs for protection, and hand them over to the rogues that he needs protection against.

Ten or fifteen years ago there was an epidemic of suicide by bichloride of mercury tablets. At once the uplifters proposed laws forbidding their sale, and such laws are now in force in many States, including New York. The consequences are classical. A New Yorker, desiring to lay in an antiseptic for household use, is deprived of the cheapest, most convenient and most effective. And the suicide rate in New York, as elsewhere, is still steadily rising.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

comments

  1. avatar GS650G says:

    I understand Joe has a plan for all this. Can’t wait to hear it.

    1. avatar Rusty - Molon Labe - Chains says:

      Joe hasn’t the stones, but his handlers do, they will demand and he will do as he is told. If he doesn’t they will find him senile and incompetent and kick him to the curb in favor of Harris who is enthusiastic about destroying any part of the Constitution that gets in her way.

    2. avatar MADDMAXX says:

      Let Obozo O’Rourke do it…

  2. avatar Roger J says:

    What’s old is not new.

  3. avatar Shire-man says:

    It’s depressing to see how long this nonsense has been going on and doubly so to see it be recycled over and over by each subsequent generation thinking their adopting a new idea.

    Spinng tires and beating dead horses.

    If any ever-LARPing zoomer want to latch onto a new identity may be try liberty. Something that’d actually be different and fresh.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Shire-man,

      I am not convinced that new generations who recycle old ideas actually think that they are doing something new. Rather, I think a lot of new generations believe that they will be able to do it “right” this time and succeed where their predecessors failed.

      1. avatar Ing says:

        You’re probably right.

        Looking over the notes I wrote in the margins of the Communist Manifesto 25 years ago (when I had to read it for a class in literary criticism), I’m nauseated by my younger self. I thought I was discovering secrets of the past — and keys to the future — that all the older and more conservative people in my life had simply failed to comprehend.

        Fortunately the good principles those uncool conservatives had imparted remained (if somewhat buried), and as the Bible says, “by their fruits shall ye know them,” so I came to my senses eventually. I kept the Communist Manifesto around all these years as part of my political philosophy collection, but after the recent revisit, it’s time to give it a symbolic retirement.

        I shot all the literary criticism and cultural theory textbooks that I couldn’t sell several years ago in a fun, cathartic range trip. No idea why Marx didn’t get blasted into confetti along with them, but I intend to remedy the situation the next time I go out shooting. That poisonous bilge doesn’t deserve to live on the same bookshelves as Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides, Hobbes, Machiavelli, Locke, etc.

        1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

          “Looking over the notes I wrote in the margins of the Communist Manifesto 25 years ago (when I had to read it for a class in literary criticism), I’m nauseated by my younger self.”

          They designed it that way on purpose. At first blush, it appears to be innocuous, if not a simply _reasonable_ proposal. Very pretty, inciting lies.

          This is going to bite today’s society hard. Couple those beautiful lies with BLM and ‘woke’ demands that that any questioning of that propaganda will not be tolerated.

          After all, you’re not a ‘racist’, are you?

          This is a totalitarian coup in process, right here and right now. If we can’t figure a way of countering it, the last box will be reached sooner than we realize…

        2. avatar Ing says:

          Absolutely right.

        3. avatar Ralph says:

          “Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your brains.”

          — Groucho Marx and Marty Engels

    2. avatar MADDMAXX says:

      It encouraging how relatively little damage they’ve accomplished to date, but now it looks like they are going for it all….

      1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

        “It encouraging how relatively little damage they’ve accomplished to date…”

        The damage is already there, we just can’t see all of it. This is a classic example of ‘Nudge’. Don’t go for the gusto in one shot, make very tiny ‘chips’ in the foundation until it collapses.

        Look at how so many gullible ones are buying the lie that America is an illegitimate nation, founded by stealing native American land. That’s a rational argument for their side that there is no repairing the system, that it must be torn down to the bedrock. They are making a false moral argument, but to them, it’s a ‘fair’ and reasonable thing to do.

        The only way this plays out is either a peaceful separation, or…

        I fear for this nation…

  4. avatar Stateisevil says:

    Heroic author. We the sheeple are deprived of real journalism like his today.

  5. avatar Ing says:

    The more things change, the more they stay the same. Our modern progressives are so forward-thinking that they’re marching back in time by a century or more.

    One of my favorite H.L. Mencken quotes: “The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it. Power is what all messiahs really seek: not the chance to serve.”

    Whether it’s alcohol, narcotic pills, tobacco, marijuana, guns, or really warm weather, the “progressive” remedy is always the same. More power for those who already have too much of it.

    1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

      “Our modern progressives are so forward-thinking that they’re marching back in time by a century or more.”

      Who wrote :

      “Those that fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it…” ?

      1. avatar John in AK says:

        George Santayana.

        A wise fellow, that.

      2. avatar Ralph says:

        “George Santayana.

        “A wise fellow, that.”

        And a fine guitar player to boot.

  6. avatar Mark N. says:

    A friend of mine sent this to me yesterday. What writing! What style! “Ever and anon, in the midst of its most eloquent and effective pleas for Liberty, its eye wanders weakly toward Law. At such moments the old lust to lift ‘em up overcomes it, and it makes a brilliant and melodramatic ass of itself. Such a moment was upon it when it printed the paragraph that I have quoted. Into that paragraph—of not over 200 words—it packed as much maudlin and nonsensical blather, as much idiotic reasoning and banal moralizing, as Dr. Coolidge gets into a speech of two hours’ length.” And what a put down!

  7. avatar Dennis Sumner says:

    ONLY difference over the years is a different gang of emperor wanna-be’s in power! They keep thinking “we’ll get it right this time”!

    1. avatar MADDMAXX says:

      we’ll get it right this time”!

      You really mean “we’ve dumbed them down enough to FOOL them this time”, Right…

  8. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    I don’t care how many LGBTQxyz people work at the Nation. I don’t care how many different skin colors they have. The Nation is an anti-civil rights publication. They are communists who refuse to admit who they are in public.

    A hundred years ago when blacks where being lynched and black neighborhoods where being burned by racist white mobs, The nation was still against black gun ownership. Socialist are very racist people.

    1. avatar Montana Actual says:

      Today’s modern socialists are so racist, they even hate themselves.

      Lol.

      1. avatar Big E says:

        About the only thing they get right!

  9. avatar Alan says:

    If the dead could be brought back to life, Mencken would rightly head the list for “rebirth”.

    1. avatar MADDMAXX says:

      He probably voted for Biden in Nevada or Michigan… Maybe both….

  10. avatar Nanashi says:

    “If [The Nation] shut up shop then the country would plunge almost unchallenged into the lowest depths of Coolidgism,”

    The Nation is still in publication. How do I get it shut down and plunge the country once more into Coolidge’s wonderful economic policy?

    1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

      “The Nation is still in publication. How do I get it shut down and plunge the country once more into Coolidge’s wonderful economic policy?”

      There is a way to do it. It will require a *serious* financial investment by both the conservative voters and the billionares like the Koch brothers. (?).

      Set up an offshore company with a lot of cash, and buy those publications. Once owned, our management can force conservative voices on them…

  11. avatar Jimmy Beam says:

    “The Nation” is now calling for black people’s votes to count twice.

    https://www.thenation.com/article/society/black-votes-reparations-gerrymandering/

    1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

      I’m 1/2000th Black.

      I want to cast double votes myself. How dare anyone question my ethnicity, or to even be forced to produce the proof of my lineage.

      That’s racist, and I will not tolerate it… 🙂

    2. avatar PMinFl says:

      As this article points out, the votes of black voters count twice in cities auch as Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago etc. That is how Joe bidet won!!!!!!

  12. avatar MADDMAXX says:

    like the Koch brothers. (?).

    That’s Koch BROTHER… David died but Charlie is still kickin it… Too much RINO to care though… Unless he can staff it with undocumented immigrants…

  13. avatar possum says:

    ehh, that Manchin guy looks like a WOP eyetalian too me. He’s working for the mob, yup.

  14. avatar America’s #1killer, the auto! Ban them first! But lives are saved by them too? says:

    Anything can be a weapon! But not everyone is a criminal! Quit trying to make the average (law abiding) citizens criminals with the stroke of a pen! Make the criminals pay the price for their crimes first! An armed society is a polite one! And a low crime one!

  15. avatar RedFlaggedandBagged says:

    Vote from the basements! Just wear your mask!

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

button to share on facebook
button to tweet
button to share via email