May 2, 2016
After the American Revolutionary War, New York legislators didn’t include gun rights in their state constitution. They considered firearms freedom too obvious to include. And any legal protection redundant, thanks to the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment. And so it was — until 1911. That’s when the Empire State legislature passed the infamous Sullivan Act to protect organized crime from armed citizens . . .
“Big Tim” Sullivan created and pushed the law through the legislature. Sullivan, a crime syndicate leader, was a member of the corrupt Democratic political organization known as Tammany Hall. Sullivan’s toughs had complained about immigrants 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. [ED: le plus ça change . . .] With the Sullivan Act, Big Tim ensured that his forces could legally disarm any opposition. Here’s 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 of whom he approved. From History of the Police:
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.
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.”
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. 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.
Upon being hired, policemen were also expected to contribute a portion of their salary to support the dominant political party. Political bosses had control over nearly every position within police agencies during this era.
New York has long been a center of immigration. Political bosses “taught” people who came to America without any tradition of freedom that they don’t have a right to keep and bear arms — the antithesis of American constitutional government.