Channeling Bonnie Parker

RECEIVED Mon., Sept. 10, 2018

Dear Editor,
    Hey man, not that I want to draw any more attention to Laura Pressley, but that statement you cite makes no sense in light of the facts. ["Laura Pressley Rocks On," News, Sept. 7] I couldn't find the site with the quote you cited – "In the 1940s … no one questioned the right to bear arms or to have paper ballots."
    Yes, she does seem to be channeling Bonnie Parker, who with her partner in small-time robbery and murder of innocent, usually low-income citizens, loved guns and could never get their hands on enough high-power military-style firearms. (People who rode with them often complained of having to sit on piles of Thompson machine guns and Browning automatics.) But Bonnie went on her infamous spree of killing and penny ante holdups and shoot-outs with the police between 1930 and 1934, the latter being the year she and Clyde were killed in a police ambush. The red car is some 1930s model as well, not from the 1940s. Most important, she's wrong about gun control legislation. Owners of so-called "gangster guns" such as the Thompson 45 automatic, aka "Tommy gun," were required to pay a hefty registration fee of $200 (well over $3,000 in U.S. dollars in 2018). Sawed-off shotguns were also illegal, a ban that proved handy in the 1960s when law enforcement patrols stopped members of Austin's Overton Gang and were able to cite them with a federal firearms offense. Weapons charges were an effective means of keeping unrepentant lawbreakers on the radar of police agencies and that was a plus because so many active criminals were very difficult to apprehend when they were committing crimes such as safecracking, murder for hire, and narcotics smuggling.
    Some of the above facts appear in a 2016 National Geographic article, "That Time Mob Violence Inspired Gun Control Laws in America." The article looks back at the Depression era as a time when everyday Americans were so alarmed by the increase in gun-related homicides, drive-by shootings, and gangland executions, an increase caused by the increased firepower and automatic weapon fire of easy-to-obtain machine guns, that the American public and federal government actually found the willpower to do something about it.
Jesse Sublett
   Michael King responds: I defer entirely to Jesse Sublett on gun history and gun control history. It also occurred to me afterward that by the 1940s, certainly by the 1950s, many if not most jurisdictions had in fact abandoned "paper ballots" for lever-machine voting and automatic counting. But nostalgia for a simpler time is always with us.
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