Thursday, April 04, 2013

Two Writers Look At Gun Rights History

     Neither one of them an historian, really; on the one hand, some callow punk Johnathon Zimmerman at The Christian Science Monitor,* entirely unmatched to Henry Louis Mencken on the other.

     Jonathan attempts to claim, clinging to very thin reeds, that the very idea of an individual right to keep and bear arms is a recent thing, "a fabrication of modern times," and cites a Texan fuming about concealed arms in the far-off, ancient year of 1893, a century after the ink was dry on the Bill of Rights, and follows up with historical perspective from 1941, when men in periwigs and knee breeches

     Meanwhile, Mr. Mencken writes us from 1923, describing a proposed Federal limit on interstate traffic in revolvers as, " 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" and reminds us, "[t]he real victim of moral legislation is always the honest, law-abiding, well-meaning citizen." Oddly, he seems to believe -- and demonstrate -- Americans had at that time a wide right to keep and bear arms, and takes issue with even the (in retrospect minor) gun laws of his day.

     Who's right?  My money's on H.L.
* The name bugs me.  Are they monitoring science as practiced by Christians?  Are they monitoring some science of that faith, textual analysis or Biblical archaeology or the like?  Is it a low, shallow-draft warship with a single revolving turret operated in defense of the faith?  What's it doing with a newspaper?


Old NFO said...

Concur, Mr. Menken had his act together and HE saw the handwriting on the wall... sigh

Able said...

I believe they are scientifically monitoring christians (how much exposure to become infected, tolerance to idiotic statements, that sort of thing). Either that or they like big lizards and keep one as a mascot (a la the insurance company meerkat [sorry foreign reference],the MacDonald Clown, the SCOTUS Roberts).

Jim said...

I'm always grateful for a Mencken observation which I've either never read or forgotten.

Any maybe we might note that HLM was one of the great metrocons. :)

Joanna said...

It's the Monitor, as published by Christian Scientists (who, despite what they will tell you, are neither).

John A said...

Prof. Zimmerman probably has not yet moved the Bellesisles book from Reference to Fiction. Yes, "concealed" firearms were outlawed in some places - for a while. And yes, slaves were not allowed to own firearms (though some were allowed to use their owner`s weapons for hunting and pest-animal control) but free "blacks" were. Never an "individual" right? It was one of the rights of Englishmen that the Colonists said they were being deprived of!

Dwight Brown said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Ms. X.

I am a huge Mencken fan, and have been since I was in high school (a long time ago), but I had never encountered this particular essay.

I've noted elsewhere that I'm not surprised at Mencken's pro-civl rights stance, since his proposed re-write of the Maryland constitution included the right to keep and openly carry arms. But discovering something by Mencken I haven't read before is like a getting a free breakfast with bacon; the kind of thing that lights up my whole day.

Anonymous said...

"I'm a Christian Scientist, and I've been hit by a bus - Quick! Get me to a Reading Room!"

Sorry - I think of that when I think of them.


JC said...

'Ol Hank Mencken. Epitaph (from memory) "If you have desire to lay my soul, forgive some sinner, and wink at a homely girl".
One of the true greats. My poor heart weeps on remembering that he was deprived of his great love - the English language - by a stroke, and suffered his last years aphasic.

mikee said...

I often remark that I have heard no new arguments in the anti-gun repertoire since I started paying attention to them during the AWB debate. Good to know I haven't missed any by starting in 1994 rather than 1894.

Re footnote: Here in Texas we cannot open carry a handgun (long arms are OK). Concealed carry of handguns requires a concealed handgun license.

Wild West, my chapless khakis.

Divemedic said...

Jonathan Zimmerman takes a quote, and misuses it. Surprise. Yes, it is true that it was considered criminal to carry a concealed weapon, but that is because honest folks carried their weapons in the open. Does this mean that he is advocating for nationwide open carry?

Dave H said...

Why not? If Zimmerman can spin a quote to support his position, why don't we spin one of his to support ours?

Bubblehead Les. said...

Yeah, and History tells us that at one Time there was No Right for Women to Vote, that Slaves were only to be counted as 3/5s of Being Human for Tax Purposes, that Kings had a "Divine Right" to have anyone's Head chopped off if they didn't like them, etc.

But that ALL has Disappeared in the Modern Era. Nowadays, we have Heller vs DC. And just like Roe vs Wade, it's a Valid Supreme Court Ruling, so get over it, Zimmerman.

But if he thinks there was no Right to Armed Self-Defense in the past, I think there's about 300 Spartans that might prove him wrong.

Drang said...

@ armedlaughing: In the book Incident at Muk Wa, on which the somewhat obscure Burt Lancaster Viet Nam movie Go Tell The Spartans is based, there is a scene in which the Special Forces Team Sergeant discovers that his medic is a Christian Scientist, and roars "Oh, great! I'll be lying there bleeding to death and he'll run up and tell me 'Pray, M*****-F*****!'"



Anonymous said...

To put it into true historical perspective, you'd have to say the Second Amendment is a miserable failure. What did the Founders see as the primary purpose of the RKBA--so primary that they specified it, unlike any of the other articles in the Bill of Rights? A 'well regulated Militia'. And why was it so important to have a Militia? To obviate the need for what they saw as the great tool of oppressive rule: a standing army.

Well, we certainly have a standing army now. And it may not have become a tool of oppression yet, but how long before some politician decides using it would be a good thing?

Anonymous said...

OK, is this real? Or did somebody simply lightly rewrite a modern op-ed and slap Mencken's name on it?

I jest, but it's almost eerie to read an editorial from nearly a century ago that would be very fitting today. We might merely substitute "assault weapon" for "revolver" and "War on Drugs" for "Prohibition", and nobody would be the wiser.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Ed said...

Visit Boston, which is like Rome to Christian Scientists: