Saturday, January 12, 2008

Guns and Alcohol

In Pistols, Crime and Public Safety in Early America, Clayton Cramer and Joseph Olson look at the meaning of the term “arms” in the Second Amendment. Although this sounds dry, the essay is in fact quite entertaining, since the authors spend most of the article exploring the history and use of pistols and handguns in colonial and early independent America. They establish that pistols were in common use, both as militia weapons and by civilians, who often carried multiple pistols, sometimes concealed. They were used in crimes, and accidents inevitably resulted, witness this grisly report from an 1845 issue of the National Enquirer Pennsylvania Gazette:
Monday Evening last a very melancholy Accident happen’d in this City, when a young Gentleman having been on board the Clinton Privateer, then going out, had a Pair of Pistols given to him; which on his coming on Shore he carried into a Publick House, among some of his Acquaintance, where one of them was found to be loaded [presumably referring to the pistols, although some of the Acquaintances may have been loaded as well]; upon which several Attempts were made to discharge it; but it missing Fire, he sat down in order to amend the Flint; in doing which, the Pistol unhappily went off, and shot Mr. Thomas Cox, Butcher, through the head, in such a Manner that some of his Brains came out, and he fell down dead without speaking a Word.

Apparently even in 1845, guns and alcohol did not mix.

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