The Charlotte News

Tuesday, January 18, 1938


Site Ed. Note: While "A Qualified Right" would be the first instance of an editorial on gun control since the beginning of Cash's tenure at The News, it would not be the last. See, for example, "Wild Guns", May 1, 1940, and "Open Season", March 8, 1941.

In light of what occurred last April at Virginia Tech with a registered gun, we need say little more: the Second Amendment, we again protest, does not guarantee anyone the right to bear arms without the qualification that it is for the maintenance of a well-regulated militia; thus, as archaic as that concept is, minimally, one should be able to prove, before being able to own a gun at all, that one is a member of a well-regulated militia, well-regulated meaning in part that the guns are strictly maintained in a central location, such as at an armory or police station, under lock and key, to be checked out only on punching a time clock, inaccessible to minors.

Hunters, you say? No one hunts today because they have to do so to eat. And, thus, the question is further refined to whether the preservation of the "sport" of hunting, which itself produces plentiful accidental woundings and fatalities from stray bullets--including one from the current Vice-President's gun--, is worth more to society than the substantial risk of more dead students at your local college, high school, junior high, or elementary school, or elsewhere randomly. And in the bargain, such security manifested at our schools that it becomes hardly a fit atmosphere in which to learn about concepts of freedom and dignity and illumination of the mind through scholarship, as armed guards peer over one's shoulder to insure that the student didn't bring a gun to school.

Protection from a potentially tyrannical government, you now say? But, that is outrageously stupid of course. No amount of firepower today, short of a nuclear weapon, would stand a chance against the government should it become tyrannical.

More people die from traffic accidents than guns, you now quibble? While, strictly speaking, accurate, that is equally stupid and not an argument at all, but a false analogy. For the gun owner hasn't any innocent utility for a gun; it is a killing instrument, nothing more, nothing less. Moreover, the rate of vehicle usage and ownership per capita is far higher than that for gun usage and ownership, and thus any disparity in raw statistics would have to be brought to parity accordingly. It takes little acquaintance with the occurrence of events over time to understand that the chance of an accidental or deliberate serious injury or death is far higher in the case of possession of a firearm than in the case of possession and operation of a motor vehicle. To be more precise, deaths by firearms in the country in 2004 numbered 29,569, or about 81 per day, less than half, however, 40% or 11,624, being from deliberate, intentional acts resulting in homicides, 32 per day, with 16,750, or 56%, being suicides, 46 per day, and 649, of which 311 were from legal intervention, being from accidental causes. By comparison, in 2003, over a third more, 43,000 people, died in motor vehicle accidents. But: there were eight million gun registrations under the Brady Bill in 2003; by contrast, in 2000, there were 221 million motor vehicles registered in the United States, of which 133 million were automobiles, and of which 18 million were new vehicles, half of which were cars. Thus, making the broad assumption that all gun registrations were for new guns not previously in circulation, (not true of course), and discounting unregistered guns, there are about 2.25 times as many new vehicles on the road as new guns. Thus, assuming this ratio to be an annual constant over time, one would expect to find, if the gun, statistically speaking, is no more dangerous than the average motor vehicle, 2.25 times as many deaths from motor vehicles as from guns, or about 67,000 such deaths on the road annually. Instead, the ratio of deaths by motor vehicle to guns is just over 4:3, not the 2.25:1 expected. Hence, on this analysis, it is the case that the legal, registered gun is at least 50% more dangerous to own and possess than a motor vehicle, for all the dangers associated with the latter every time one takes to the road, whether as driver or passenger. Compound that statistical ratio by the realization that a gun, when discharged deliberately or accidentally, is more likely to injure or kill than a car similarly misguided, even deliberately and at high speed, and the lack of parallel becomes obvious. One can floor the accelerator and suddenly, desirous of suicide not alone, turn into the path of onrushing traffic at 75 on an undivided Malibu Highway, headed for the whites of the eyes of the approaching driver two car lengths away from sure death, (us 20 years ago in this particular example), but who might still quickly enough respond to avoid a collision, (as we did with no one, fortunately, to our immediate right). Had this individual, either suicidal-homicidal, defying the laws of physics (and possibly gravity), or just having an afternoon drive on the Sun, instead fired a gun at us at similar point blank range through the windshield, well, we likely would not be here to relate this statistical analysis.

But, if we should tamper with one right under the Bill of Rights, then eventually we risk losing them all, you now protest? The cold fact, however, is that the most critical of those rights, freedom of speech and the press and the freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, not to mention the right to a trial by jury, have undergone more changes by far through court interpretation, carving of exceptions plainly not intended by the words of the Constitution, than anyone has even thought to have interpreted into the Second Amendment's expressed limitation. (And try to challenge some of that as a lawyer or citizen, those exceptions they have carved, that is, and the fascists of the legal profession, taking their marching orders from the fascists of the political realm, all of whom are now plentiful since the age of Reagan in the 1980's, will swoop down and seek to destroy your life by various machinations, the most lethal of which is rumor-mongering based on pure phantasm, the Big Lie, utilizing the Big Liar to do it, through bribes or withholding prosecution for sins committed.)

Nevertheless, it appears we have it precisely backwards: we want to limit our most precious freedoms beyond any expression in the Constitution, something requiring Constitutional amendment, not open to legislatures or courts who proclaim themselves narrow "strict constructionist", "common sense", "law and order" jurists, while committing wholesale the very sin of which they came to the bench proclaiming they would not do--legislating from the bench, interpreting the least interpretable and most absolute of freedoms--; for show us where it says in the First Amendment that Congress (or the states and local governments, pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment) shall make no law abridging the right of speech, except when a school student displays a sign saying "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" or the like, and the school principal, who dislikes the student anyway, subjectively decides it is a slogan promoting drugs, one disruptive of school order, even though susceptible to other interpretation, even though off school grounds when school is not even in session, but deemed to precipitate disorder because displayed when the Olympic torch parade is passing through town--, show us that exception or any such exception more generally at all within the First Amendment suggesting implicitly or otherwise that any public functionary may do anything to limit freedom of speech qua speech, as long as the citizen's speech is respectful of the rights of others to speak their turn likewise, or for that matter that it warrants the institution of any "time, place, manner" limitation which allows itself to be subjectively applied to enable the King to limit the subject's speech on a given topic or in a given idiom of expression, regardless of its likelihood to create imminent violence--show us that part for we missed it; and yet the conservative wing of the present Supreme Court managed to read it into the First Amendment last spring, "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" now being equated with "Let's storm the Bastille with guns forthwith, men, or be killed trying!"; all the while those same courts expanding by omission, so far, to interpret our least necessary freedom contained in the Bill of Rights, in a modern age divorced from the open frontier, and the only one which in fact does have a precise and expressed limit within its plain language, the Second Amendment.

We think, therefore, if one truly believes in law and order, that we should follow the wisdom of the Founders, not the other way about, and strictly construe the language of the Second Amendment, while accepting the plainly liberal, revolutionary, broad construction of the First and Fourth Amendments. We ought, in a liberal democracy, defer to rights and freedom rather than narrow and limit them, unless deferring to rights and freedom tends to deprive others of the basic rights inherent in the fabric of the Constitution, prime and uppermost among them, the sine qua non for the rest, being life and liberty, curtailable by none except pursuant to Due Process of law, not the law of Mr. Cho. And allowing unfettered and unheedful understanding of a naively and incorrectly supposed absolute right under the Second Amendment to persist is to do just that, to allow Mr. Cho and his confused kind to dictate to us the basic law of the land, the limits of freedom of movement, of travel, of speech, of association.

If necessary, we might amend the Constitution to repeal the Second Amendment. The wording of that one would be simple: The maintenance of a well-regulated militia by the citizens being observed over time to be no longer a necessary assurance of freedom of the people, and, instead, experience having demonstrated that the presence of guns possessed by and among the people freely causes crime, chaos, and tyranny, the Second Amendment is hereby abrogated in full.

Thus, would be left to each state and locality the question of whether guns should be allowed in the hands of children.

And, anyone so uninformed as to try to label Cash other than a progressive liberal on race relations, and in the most modern of terms, not just apologetically, by 1930's and 1940's standards, ought first read "Unhappy Thought", carefully. He would have been no friend to Strom Thurmond, for instance, by the time he found out who Mr. Thurmond was and what he represented; nor Wallace, Faubus, Barnett, Jesse, Lester, or the rest of the strumming band of states' rightists. But he did not have the opportunity to editorialize as to what demagogic scum these men were to arouse such known violent tendencies in their constituencies, nationally percipient as they were, which they did; for he was dead by the time they got to be famous in Milwaukee and throughout the home of the Brave, when the Big Business boys down South in golden tobacco and high, high cotton decided that the "little man" should vote for these race-baiting idiots to enable reaction, to enable law and order, a return to the good old days of the 1880's.

For it is, after all, more important to have guns than it is freedom of speech, religion, thought, press, and the right to be secure in your homes. For, if you have a nice big gun, one loaded with nice big bullets, cocked and ready to fire on a hair trigger, at the sight of the first intruder to your personal world view, why, then no one is going to deprive you of any of the rest it, and you then have the right to dictate to the person without the gun what to say and do and think, with whom to associate or not--why, indeed, to be commandant of the whole concentration camp, maybe.

More of those "family values" at work, "values" culled from the Corleone family, we glean, whose saga with which there appear, tragically, more people in this country familiar than that, far more personally and generally illuminating, of their own.

No Recognize, No Pay

The Japanese government has announced that it will now withdraw recognition from the Chinese government of Chiang Kai-Shek, which for ten years has been unifying China, and recognize instead its own stooge government at Peiping. This is adding insult to injury, of course, but it serves to confirm what the rest of the world has long suspected about the Japs' intentions toward China--that "pacification," which is what they have been pleased to call their war, is only a forerunner of practical annexation.

But at least the severance of diplomatic relations with Chiang's government will put a more realistic face on the matter. Japan will no longer have to receive Chiang's minister at Tokyo, treating him with smiling politeness while their countrymen are wiping up the face of China's earth with his countrymen. And as for China, we take it that the withdrawal of recognition should permit the discontinuance at once of the payments on the debts to Japan which have been kept up punctiliously throughout the hostilities so far. After all, if the government of Chiang is no longer existent in Japanese eyes, it can't be expected to forward regular remittances.

A Qualified Right

That seems a pretty sensible idea J. Weston Allen, special assistant to the Attorney General of the United States, put forward at Columbia the other day--that a law ought be enacted to require registration of the ownership of all guns and to provide a prison penalty for the possession of an unregistered one.

As Mr. Allen points out, the indiscriminate sale of guns is closely bound up with most major crimes in this country, including not only homicide, but robberies, kidnappings, hold-ups, and burglaries.

Nevertheless, it is impossible under the Constitution to forbid the sale of firearms to the public generally. For that instrument expressly provides that the people shall not be deprived of "the right to bear arms." The clause was originally written in with a view to keeping a possibly tyrannical government from disarming the populace and so depriving it of the remedy of revolt. In our time, when the regular military forces are armed with weapons against which any number of rifles, shotguns, and pistols would be ineffective, it has ceased to have much real value. Still, it perhaps has some, and, in any case, the American people would probably never consent to be deprived of their guns.

Mr. Allen's proposal, however, has the merit of getting around this difficulty and still promising a considerable measure of control.

Site Ed. Note: For more on the case of the Algic, see "Mutiny and the Bounty", November 10, 1937, "Sailors Take Care", December 17, 1937, re the Federal court decision, "Stand Up, Sailor!", April 7, 1938, reporting the Circuit Court of Appeal decision, and "Past's Echo", February 12, 1940, on Captain Gainard's subsequent problem with Nazis and Russia, while at the helm of the City of Flint.

Facts and the Algic

The United States Circuit Court, now sitting here, will of course be concerned only with law and not with the facts when, come Wednesday, it takes up the appeal of the semen of the ship, Algic, convicted of mutiny as a result of a sit-down strike in Montevideo last Summer. But for all that, it is interesting in connection with that hearing to consider the testimony of the nameless ship's captain who has been appearing before the Senate Commerce Committee.

This captain pretty plainly doesn't like unions under any circumstances, and old Doc Copeland, though word his testimony is made public, is a good deal less than an unbiased wetness, words. Nevertheless, the captain's testimony that sailors on American ships are habitually insubordinate and insolent, that they go drunk to such crucial posts as those of lookout and wheelman, that passengers are treated to disrespect, open insult, and even assault--this testimony is merely another link in a long chain of testimony which includes the Kennedy report. On the face of the case, discipline on American ships seems in such a bad way that it is no longer safe to embark upon the sea, which takes no account of labor's "rights," in those ships.

And so--we are not trying to prejudge the merits of the Algic case at all. But as facts go, it looks as though stern measures were absolutely necessary. Else we shall be forced to some such drastic solution as that proposed by the nameless captain to the Senate Committee--the placing of the Merchant Marine under the Coast Guard flag. Which is to say, under military discipline.

Lese Majeste Americanized

In tapping telephone wires, there appears to be no way of listening in on the conversation of the men under suspicion without hearing what is said at the other end. Hence, when Mr. Ickes' super-sleuth Glavis tapped telephones in the Interior Department, and calls were made on those phones to the White House or by the White House to those phones, why, Sleuth Glavis was in fact eavesdropping on the Executive. That is what the French would call lese majeste. In this country, we have no name for it, but it's considered pretty high-handed, we can tell you.

Of course, all this happened some time ago. Glavis hasn't been with the Interior Department for a year. And of course it all was done in a good cause, to make sure no dirty work was going on in the Interior Department and that no graft was being practiced in the expenditure of hundreds of millions of PWA funds. And of course the listening in on White House conversations was purely incidental and accidental. Not even Glavis, we take it, would have had the nerve.

But when men use contemptible methods, even with the purest motives and the best of intentions, they have to take responsibility for anything contemptible that they may get into. Ickes, in setting his snooper on the Interior Department personnel, cannot escape the charges of snooping on the White House. And while we doubt exceedingly that anything will come of it, the whole contemptible affair is typical of Ickes, the most typical bureaucrat of them all.

Unhappy Thought

Governor A. B. (Happy) Chandler of Kentucky is reported as planning to run against Senator Barkley, majority leader, on the sole issue of the latter's support of the Wagner anti-lynching bill.

Well, the anti-lynching bill seems to us to be, if not unwise, at least debatable--as more likely to defeat its ends than to achieve them. But it is not an Administration measure, and so Senator Barkley can hardly be accused of being a mere yes-man in supporting it. On the contrary, in view of the fact that Senator Barkley undoubtedly knows that Kentucky is strictly Southern in its sentiment about the matter, it seems pretty likely that he is here standing up courageously for what seems to him to be right.

In any case whatever, the anti-lynching bill is essentially a minor matter. The whole question in issue is simply one of the best means of going about the achievement of what every decent man agrees to be a desirable objective. And to attempt to make it a major matter--to attempt to unhorse a Senator over it--is inevitably to raise the racial issue. And to attempt to raise the racial issue in the South is to attempt to engage in the most dangerous and contemptible sort of demagoguery. Whoever makes that attempt ought to be retired from Southern public life pronto and for good and all.

Santa Claus in Colorado

Out in Colorado this week the State government is handing out a million smackers to 38,804 old age pensioners. The average for each will be $67.36. But some individuals will get as high as $72.77, and some married couples as high as $140.

And so what? After all, these payments are small enough for annual pensions, aren't they? Ah, but there's the rub, messieures and mesdames: These are no annual pensions but a special bonus voted by the Colorado Legislature. That State is already paying by far the heaviest annual pension paid in the United States, or in the world for that matter. Under a law jammed through in 1936 by the once nationally notorious Townsendites, $16,360,000 is being paid to old age pensioners--totaling 3.6% of the population--each year, and of this the State pays $10,800,000, with the Federal Santa Claus taking the rest. Colorado's share is nearly twice as much as she appropriated for all general fund proposals purposes for the same period.

Meantime--. There are about 50, 000 persons under direct relief in Colorado, and for them appropriations come to only 25% of those for old age pensions. Moreover, the old age pensions are taking money out of the Treasury at the rate of $3,000,000 a year more than the revenues assigned to them provide, with the result not only that the budget is going in the red but also that hundreds of persons are having to be laid off the general relief rolls. More taxes? That State, with barely more than a million people, has already resorted to every known device, including the sales tax. And the clamor against taxes is already so great that the politicians don't dare lay new levies, even if they could find a new victim on whom to lay them.

Site Ed. Note: The rest of the page resteth, in generous peace, here.

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