Tag Archives: gun

‘Bang, bang, bang!’: the shock of a boy playing with a gun on a suburban street

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Two young boys in helmets, playing soldiers with toy guns (1908-1928).
State Library of South Australia (B 28519/136), Author provided

Emily Gallagher, Australian National University

I was driving down a main street in Canberra’s north a few weeks ago when a young boy fired a few shots at me from the back of his father’s bike. I didn’t see the gun at first. It was black and camouflaged in the shadow of an overhanging oak tree. But as I approached from behind, the bike rolled into the sunlight.

I blinked in surprise; people don’t have guns in Canberra. Why did this child have a gun?

The boy, no older than four, had seen me now. He turned the barrel towards me, twisting awkwardly in his seat. I saw his lips move before I heard him. “Bang, bang, bang” he yelled as he pulled the trigger, invisible bullets flying towards my windshield.

As I drove out of view a few minutes later, I was confronted by my disapproval at this boy’s behaviour. Children have long played at war, but when did it become a public nuisance that I could reasonably expect to avoid?

It seems to me that my response reflected something important about the entitlement that adults have assumed over public space in this country.

Over the last 100 or so years, children’s play has increasingly been moved off the streets and into fenced backyards, schoolyards, nurseries and playgrounds. Instead of sharing the privileges of the streets, children have suffered restrictions of movement and been prohibited from certain play activities in the urban space.

Children playing skipping rope on the footpath in inner Melbourne by Alan K. Jordan (1970).
With permissions of the Jordan family and the State Library of Victoria (H2010.105/570e), Author provided

Losing the battle for the streets

Playing on the streets has always been an activity of negotiated boundaries.

Simon Sleight’s research shows that, before the outbreak of the first world war, children not only played a central role in the construction of the urban space, but also contested existing adult street cultures and found avenues to assert their agency.

Nevertheless, in the late 19th century and early 20th century the efforts of social critics to reimagine Australian young people as victims of urbanisation and social degradation increasingly forced children out of view – in some places more than others.

Concerns over the dangers of the streets intensified in the post-WWI period as the rise of car-related accidents fuelled debates over children’s safety. As a Nowra council member observed in 1924, boys playing on the streets was “really dangerous”.

The situation became so dire in Sydney in 1933 that the New South Wales lands minister, Ernst Buttenshaw, supported Leichhardt Council’s proposal to turn Balmain’s old burial ground into a recreational area for children, despite the state government’s previous lack of enthusiasm for the plan. It was essential, he said, that children should be kept from playing on the streets.

Young people continued to assert their shared ownership of the streets throughout the mid-20th century, but their resistance increasingly came at a cost: innocent games of marbles, football and billycarts ended with fatal collisions with cars, trams and trucks.

In 1951, Senior Constable Smith reported that of the 28 children under the age of six who died in traffic accidents in NSW the previous year, most had been playing on the streets.

Figures like these presented a powerful argument for increased restrictions of children’s mobility. City children felt the transformation of the streetscape far more keenly than many of their rural counterparts. Even today, street cricket and barefoot scootering are common in some small towns and suburbs.

Children riding billycarts down a street in Sydney, ca. 1920s.
Fairfax Corporation and the National Library of Australia (PIC/15611/14407), Author provided

Anxieties over war toys and militarised play

During the mid-20th century, anxieties over the traffic-related risks of street play also opened up space for education do-gooders and social theorists to voice their opinions about the civil and social benefits of play. Certain types of play, they argued, were especially dangerous for children.

Militarised play, of course, was at the top of their list. War toys “are making our children used to war”, declared Ruby Rich of the NSW section of the International Peace Council in 1937. Urging a boycott of war toys at a public meeting in Newcastle Town Hall, Rich said that these were teaching children “to love the things that may have killed their fathers in the last war”.

There have been times, however, when militarised play has been tolerated, even commended, in the public space.

In 1915, Melbourne boys between the ages of four and ten, armed with bamboo guns and wooden spears, were reported playing at soldiers in “local beauty spots”. The activity finally reached its “limit” when a group of boys dug up the lawns of Queen’s Park in Essendon to build a trench in anticipation of the German advance. One local newspaper acclaimed that it was unfortunate that they damaged the lawns because their bravery was “worthy of Australians”.

Debates over militarised play and war toys still have currency in Australia. In 2015, an image of a child holding a replica AK-47 rifle, his finger on the trigger, near Sydney’s Martin Place sparked calls for a complete ban on toy guns. The fact that a terrorist attack had recently taken place at the nearby Lindt Cafe only heightened public outrage over the incident.

When the ABC surveyed children about their views, there was widespread agreement that although toy guns shouldn’t be banned, they should only be played with at home. “I think toy guns should be allowed but not in public,” Pierce said. Jacob agreed, concluding that “our friend’s house is the best place to use them”.

Boys playing soldiers by James Fox Barnard, ca. 1900.
State Library of Victoria (H2002.125/30), Author provided

Such responses reflect the way many children have internalised adult-centric street cultures.

For young boys to dig a trench and enact a foreign invasion in a Melbourne park, or to march around the streets of Hobart dressed as soldiers armed for war as they did in 1900, would today likely be considered a dangerous public nuisance.

The rise of the adult streetscape

Over the past century, urban streets have increasingly become thoroughfares, transient places of movement where all kinds of rules and codes of behaviours have made them less friendly to children and their imaginations.

The intense disapproval that I felt at being the target of an imaginary drive-by shooting in Canberra last month captures something of the shifting traditions of street play and ownership in Australia. The prerogative that my adult self has assumed over the streets, as well as the cultural sensibilities that have arisen surrounding particular types of play, led me to condemn the boy’s behaviour.

The ConversationIt was not that his behaviour was dangerous, though it might well have been, it was that it threatened the comfort I had come to expect of Canberra’s streets.

Emily Gallagher, PhD Candidate, School of History, Australian National University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Five types of gun laws the Founding Fathers loved

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Were muskets in 1777 better regulated than assault rifles in 2017?
Jana Shea/Shutterstock.com

Saul Cornell, Fordham University

The Second Amendment is one of the most frequently cited provisions in the American Constitution, but also one of the most poorly understood.

The 27 words that constitute the Second Amendment seem to baffle modern Americans on both the left and right.

Ironically, those on both ends of our contemporary political spectrum cast the Second Amendment as a barrier to robust gun regulation. Gun rights supporters – mostly, but not exclusively, on the right – seem to believe that the Second Amendment prohibits many forms of gun regulation. On the left, frustration with the lack of progress on modern gun control leads to periodic calls for the amendment’s repeal.

Both of these beliefs ignore an irrefutable historical truth. The framers and adopters of the Second Amendment were generally ardent supporters of the idea of well-regulated liberty. Without strong governments and effective laws, they believed, liberty inevitably degenerated into licentiousness and eventually anarchy. Diligent students of history, particularly Roman history, the Federalists who wrote the Constitution realized that tyranny more often resulted from anarchy, not strong government.

I have been researching and writing about the history of gun regulation and the Second Amendment for the past two decades. When I began this research, most people assumed that regulation was a relatively recent phenomenon, something associated with the rise of big government in the modern era. Actually, while the founding generation certainly esteemed the idea of an armed population, they were also ardent supporters of gun regulations.

Consider these five categories of gun laws that the Founders endorsed.

#1: Registration

Today American gun rights advocates typically oppose any form of registration – even though such schemes are common in every other industrial democracy – and typically argue that registration violates the Second Amendment. This claim is also hard to square with the history of the nation’s founding. All of the colonies – apart from Quaker-dominated Pennsylvania, the one colony in which religious pacifists blocked the creation of a militia – enrolled local citizens, white men between the ages of 16-60 in state-regulated militias. The colonies and then the newly independent states kept track of these privately owned weapons required for militia service. Men could be fined if they reported to a muster without a well-maintained weapon in working condition.

#2: Public carry

The modern gun rights movement has aggressively pursued the goal of expanding the right to carry firearms in public.

The American colonies inherited a variety of restrictions that evolved under English Common Law. In 18th-century England, armed travel was limited to a few well-defined occasions such as assisting justices of the peace and constables. Members of the upper classes also had a limited exception to travel with arms. Concealable weapons such as handguns were subject to even more stringent restrictions. The city of London banned public carry of these weapons entirely.

The American Revolution did not sweep away English common law. In fact, most colonies adopted common law as it had been interpreted in the colonies prior to independence, including the ban on traveling armed in populated areas. Thus, there was no general right of armed travel when the Second Amendment was adopted, and certainly no right to travel with concealed weapons. Such a right first emerged in the United States in the slave South decades after the Second Amendment was adopted. The market revolution of the early 19th century made cheap and reliable hand guns readily available. Southern murder rates soared as a result.

In other parts of the nation, the traditional English restrictions on traveling armed persisted with one important change. American law recognized an exception to this prohibition for individuals who had a good cause to fear an imminent threat. Nonetheless, by the end of the century, prohibiting public carry was the legal norm, not the exception.

#3: Stand-your-ground laws

Under traditional English common law, one had a duty to retreat, not stand your ground. Deadly force was justified only if no other alternative was possible. One had to retreat, until retreat was no longer possible, before killing an aggressor.

The use of deadly force was justified only in the home, where retreat was not required under the so-called castle doctrine, or the idea that “a man’s home is his castle.” The emergence of a more aggressive view of the right of self-defense in public, standing your ground, emerged slowly in the decades after the Civil War.

#4: Safe storage laws

Although some gun rights advocates attempt to demonize government power, it is important to recognize that one of the most important rights citizens enjoy is the freedom to elect representatives who can enact laws to promote health and public safety. This is the foundation for the idea of ordered liberty. The regulation of gun powder and firearms arises from an exercise of this basic liberty.

In 1786, Boston acted on this legal principle, prohibiting the storage of a loaded firearm in any domestic dwelling in the city. Guns had to be kept unloaded, a practice that made sense since the black powder used in firearms in this period was corrosive. Loaded guns also posed a particular hazard in cases of fire because they might discharge and injure innocent bystanders and those fighting fires.

#5: Loyalty oaths

One of the most common claims one hears in the modern Second Amendment debate is the assertion that the Founders included this provision in the Constitution to make possible a right of revolution. But this claim, too, rests on a serious misunderstanding of the role the right to bear arms played in American constitutional theory.

In fact, the Founders engaged in large-scale disarmament of the civilian population during the American Revolution. The right to bear arms was conditional on swearing a loyalty oath to the government. Individuals who refused to swear such an oath were disarmed.

The notion that the Second Amendment was understood to protect a right to take up arms against the government is absurd. Indeed, the Constitution itself defines such an act as treason.

The ConversationGun regulation and gun ownership have always existed side by side in American history. The Second Amendment poses no obstacle to enacting sensible gun laws. The failure to do so is not the Constitution’s fault; it is ours.

Saul Cornell, Paul and Diane Guenther Chair in American History, Fordham University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Article: 12-Shot Repeating Flintlock Rifle

The link below is to a short article (with photos) on the 12-shot Repeating Flintlock Rifle.

For more visit:

Video: 7-Shot Repeating Flintlock Pistol

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