February 12, 2008

National Review assistant Editor Robert VerBruggen has taken the Justice Department to task in The American Spectator, for firing off a brief in the matter of guns being banned in DC . He thinks it displays less verve than say, the Vice President shooting quail. Having defended Mr. Cheney’s shooting manners in the pages of the London Review Of Books , it falls upon me to second the Administration’s efforts to keep us from going the way of (formerly) Great Britain, by correcting VerBruggen’s intelligence on the Second Amendment case about to be adjudicated in the Supreme Court.

The Supremes have given a clean bill of 2nd Amendment health to anything the Founders may have laid hands on with mayhem in mind , but he writes in TAS that the Administration’s brief errs in dragging automatic weapons :


“With the ruling in mind, this Bush administration gem has to be one of the dumbest statements ever to make it into an official government statement:

        “The court’s decision could be read to hold that the Second Amendment categorically precludes any ban on a category of ‘Arms’ that can be traced back to the Founding era. If adopted by this Court, such an analysis could cast doubt on the constitutionality of existing federal legislation prohibiting the possession of certain firearms, including machine guns.”

   FIRST OFF,  machine guns cannot be “traced back to the Founding era.” Such a situation would have given early patriots a leg up when it came to mowing down Redcoats (Say ‘ello to my little friend!), but it just wasn’t so.

   The Justice Department argues that M-16s could be seen as “lineal descendants” of colonial arms, but automatic weapons… 1861’s hand-crank-powered Gatling gun, followed by the self-reloading Maxim machine gun two decades later, clearly created a whole new method for spraying lead”


Where can VerBruggen have been on 15 May 1718, the great day James Puckle Esq., author of The Club, a moral Dialogue between a Father and Son received letters patent from King George the First for a ’ Portable gun or machine called a Defence.’ ?  In March 1722 , the London Daily Courant  featured , besides a mezzotint of a deshabile’ cocklemonger on page three,  an announcement of Puckle’s tripod-mounted nine-chambered automatic flintlock revolver being for sale in ‘Several sizes in Brass and Iron”.  Had they spent a penny for The London Journal ,  Boris Johnson’s predecessors Addison & Steele might have strolled over to the Tower to spectate as ‘one Man difcharged it 63 times in seven Minutes, though all the while Raining; and that it throws off either one large or sixteen Musquet Balls at every difcharge with very great Force’

One might expect TAS to celebrate Mr. Puckle’s gift to mankind,for its most famous feature seems bound to endear it those who reckon World War IV has begun. The Puckle Gun was Muslim Unfriendly by design.

Though the Geneva Convention compliant version fired round musket balls, the other,  the serious Puckle Gun, marketed exclusively to armies with Turks in their sights, fired square bullets intended to cause wounds too terrible for Christian armies to inflict on one another.  When the gun’s sales failed to reflect the imagined desire to blow square holes in Ottomans, a financial broadsheet fired off a cruelly accurate warning about Puckle’s IPO:
” those are only wounded who hold shares therein.”

Just as the slighting of the automatic weapons owning classes around the world complicates America’s diplomatic relations, it may imperil neoconservative journalistic careers. How can they hope to prosper   in newsrooms and editorial offices that have long traditions of using the Second Amendment to enforce the First, like , well The New York Times .

Some time before it invited Bill Kristol to fire off a hundred words a day ,the then-New-York Times had a bit of a run in with the ancestors of today’s Village Voice readers. Egged on by that NeoWhig rapscalion Horace Greeley, who edited a competing paper, The New Yorker , the denizens of the Five Corners district marched up Broadway in 1864 to the not-yet-Grey Lady’s offices on Park Row

There they met a man of mettle. The Editor of The New-York Times, Henry Jarvis Raymond, besides having served as Chairman of the Republican National Committee- which is why the mob wanted to lynch him, Lincoln having called for the draft, had seen battle with General McClellan in Virginia, and had a stern Editorial reaction waiting.

Raymond had ordered the deployment of not one, but two Gatling Guns, one in the newsroom window and the other glaring out from the beneath the ‘New-York Times’ sign at the paper’s   entrance, “commanding Park Row to the north.”  

Times have changed at the Times since it appeared “in full mourning” when Raymond died of apoplexy in 1867.  In the boardroom where he once invoked the Second Amendment in defense of the First,  the burning issue of the day is all too often how much it’s going to cost to plead the Fifth. But the editors can breathe easy.  No hot lead type ever headlined The Weekly Standard.

Russell Seitz blogs at Adamant


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