How New York Became a Nexus of Second Amendment Infringement

New York state, but particularly New York City, has long been a nexus of infringement of Second Amendment rights.  New York had more than its share of Tories during the revolutionary war, and New York is one of only six states that has no protection for the right to keep and bear arms in its state constitution.  Still, the right was routinely respected until 1911.  That was when the infamous Sullivan law was passed to protect organized crime from armed citizens.

The bill was created and pushed through the legislature by “Big Tim” Sullivan, a crime syndicate leader and politician who was part of Tammany Hall.  His toughs had complained about immigrants who were resisting their extortion efforts.  Big Tim had a simple solution.  Make it illegal for his opposition to legally have or carry weapons.  From the New York Post:

Sullivan knew the gangs would flout the law, but appearances were more important than results. Young toughs took to sewing the pockets of their coats shut, so that cops couldn’t plant firearms on them, and many gangsters stashed their weapons inside their girlfriends’ “bird cages” — wire-mesh fashion contraptions around which women would wind their hair.

Ordinary citizens, on the other hand, were disarmed, which solved another problem: Gangsters had been bitterly complaining to Tammany that their victims sometimes shot back at them.

So gang violence didn’t drop under the Sullivan Act — and really took off after the passage of Prohibition in 1920. Spectacular gangland rubouts — like the 1932 machine-gunning of “Mad Dog” Coll in a drugstore phone booth on 23rd Street — became the norm.

The police in large cities were corrupt enforcers for their political bosses.  With the Sullivan law, Big Tim ensured that his forces could legally disarm any opposition.  Here is a description of the policing of the era, and why Big Tim could be reliably assured the police would hand out gun permits only to those he approved of.  From  History of the Police(pdf):

Politicians were able to maintain their control over police agencies, as they had a direct hand in choosing the police chiefs that would run the agencies. The appointment to the position of police chief came with a price. By accepting the position, police chiefs had little control over decision making that would impact their employees and agencies.52 Many police chiefs did not accept the strong political presence in their agencies, and as a result, the turnover rate for chiefs of police at this time was very high. For example, “Cincinnati went through seven chiefs between 1878 and 1886; Buffalo (NY) tried eight between 1879 and 1894; Chicago saw nine come and go between 1879 and 1897; and Los Angeles changed heads thirteen times between 1879 and 1889.”53 Politics also heavily influenced the hiring and promotion of patrol officers. In order to secure a position as a patrol officer in New York City, the going rate was $300, while officers in San Francisco were required to pay $400.54; In regard to promoted positions, the going rate in New York City for a sergeant’s position was $1,600, and it was $12,000 to $15,000 for a position as captain.55 Upon being hired, policemen were also expected to contribute a portion of their salary to support the dominant political party.56 Political bosses had control over nearly every position within police agencies during this era.

What is surprising, is that today people are celebrating the political corruption of large cites as being necessary for city administration.  Walter Russel Mead at makes the dubious claim that political corruption was necessary for large cities to function.  From

All right thinking Americans united in the 19th century to deplore the malign influence of corrupt big city political machines, but it is hard to think how else the tens of millions of immigrants streaming into those cities from all over the world could have learned to govern themselves and begin the process of integration into American life.

That is putting lipstick on a pig.  London had intense immigration during the same period.  Its police were a model of legitimacy.

Teaching new immigrants that the American political system depended on “who you knew” and “how much you paid” was the antithesis of American constitutional government.  The legacy of that corruption lives on.  Mead wrote the above in aglowing endorsement of the corrupt political machine that the Clintons have put together.  Mead makes a case for what he calls “honest graft”.  It is not surprising that corrupt politicians want the population disarmed.

New York has long been a center of immigration.  People who come to America without any tradition of freedom are not taught they have a right to keep and bear arms.  The City and its corrupt politicians teach that only the rich and powerful have enough political influence to obtain permission from the state to be armed. This reinforces the understanding immigrants had in their country of origin.  With a hundred years of this policy in place, and millions of immigrants and their offspring experiencing a city without the Second Amendment, it is not surprising that New York is a nexus of antagonism against the right to keep and bear arms.

22% of New York State residents were foreign born in 2010.  In New York City, the percentage was 37%.

Police in large cities are mostly creatures of the political entity they work for.  In spite of reforms, requirements for training, police unions, and state wide police standards, police chiefs usually serve at the pleasure of the City Council or Mayor.

This is why most urban police chiefs differ from street policemen on gun control policies.  They are not independent actors, but are acting on the desires of their bosses. An exception that proves the rule is Chief James Craig of Detroit.  He is one of the few big city police chiefs to speak in favor of armed citizens, and their ability to reduce crime.  He was not put in place by the Detroit political machine.  Because Detroit went into bankruptcy, he was appointed by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to the position.

Two of the three chief engineers of the recent “SAFE” act have been found guilty of corruption. The history of New York City has been a history of corruption and a disregard of the Constitution for a hundred years.

©2016by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.
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