The Thin Man Tidbit #9 ~ The Sullivan Act

by Dashiell Hammett

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DeppInTheHeartOfTexas
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The Thin Man Tidbit #9 ~ The Sullivan Act

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue Feb 07, 2012 11:32 am

:Pg. 34 “Then what are yo doing with this?” He brought from behind him the gun I had taken from Dorothy Wynant. There was nothing I could say.

“You’ve heard about the Sullivan Act?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Then you know where you stand.”



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The Sullivan Act, also known as the Sullivan Law, is a controversial gun control law in New York State. Upon first passage, the Sullivan Act required licenses for New Yorkers to possess firearms small enough to be concealed. Possession of such firearms without a license was a misdemeanor, and carrying them was a felony. The possession or carrying of weapons such as brass knuckles, sandbags, blackjacks, bludgeons or bombs was a felony, as was possessing or carrying a dagger, "dangerous knife" or razor "with intent to use the same unlawfully". Named for its primary legislative sponsor, state senator Timothy Sullivan, a notoriously corrupt Tammany Hall politician, it dates to 1911, and is still in force, making it one of the older existing gun control laws in the United States.

Outside of New York City, the practices for the issuance of concealed carry licenses vary from county to county within New York State. In New York City, the licensing authority is the police department, which rarely issues carry licenses to anyone except retired police officers. Critics of the law have alleged that New Yorkers with political influence, wealth, or celebrity appear to be issued licenses more liberally.

Some question the constitutionality of the act, due to the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. While the Supreme Court has only recently ruled that the Second Amendment prevents localities from enacting outright handgun bans, the question of whether the Second Amendment provides grounds to invalidate local gun control laws like the Sullivan Act may be addressed given the recent decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Parker v. District of Columbia, which was affirmed by the Supreme Court in the case District of Columbia v. Heller. Other critics have argued the arbitrary nature of the law violates New York State constitution protections of due process and equal justice.

Many believe the act was to discriminate against immigrants in New York, particularly Italians, as the first person arrested under the law was mobster Giuseppe Costabile. Whether this was part of the law's intent, it was passed on a wave of anti-immigrant rhetoric as a measure to disarm an alleged criminal element. The police granted the licenses, and could easily discriminate against "undesirable" elements.

Statistics showed that gun murders in New York had risen 50 percent from 1910–1911; indeed, in 1910, mayor William Jay Gaynor was shot and seriously wounded (he later died from the wound; and there were public calls for regulation of handguns.

As one scholar concludes "It didn't take long for those hopes to be dashed: within twelve months of the passage of the Sullivan Law, New York City's murder rate increased 18 percent." In the year after enactment, New York City experienced "a crime wave unequaled in its history." in 1912 presidents of fourteen burglary insurance companies called for repeal of the Act, arguing that burglaries and robberies had increased by 40%. The following year, an insurance industry publication argued that in practice the law restricted only the "honest man" and that a criminal would "carry his pistol, law or no law, and is reasonably certain of evading arres."

According to an article in the New York Post by Michael Walsh,


“The father of New York gun control was Democratic city pol “Big Tim “Sullivan — a state senator and Tammany Hall crook, a criminal overseer of the gangs of New York.

In 1911 — in the wake of a notorious Gramercy Park blueblood murder-suicide — Sullivan sponsored the Sullivan Act, which mandated police-issued licenses for handguns and made it a felony to carry an unlicensed concealed weapon.

This was the heyday of the pre-Prohibition gangs, roving bands of violent toughs who terrorized ethnic neighborhoods and often fought pitched battles with police. In 1903, the Battle of Rivington Street pitted a Jewish gang, the Eastmans, against the Italian Five Pointers. When the cops showed up, the two underworld armies joined forces and blasted away, resulting in three deaths and scores of injuries. The public was clamoring for action against the gangs.

Problem was the gangs worked for Tammany. The Democratic machine used them as shtarkers (sluggers), enforcing discipline at the polls and intimidating the opposition. Gang leaders like Monk Eastman were even employed as informal “sheriffs,” keeping their turf under Tammany control.

The Tammany Tiger needed to rein in the gangs without completely crippling them. Enter Big Tim with the perfect solution: Ostensibly disarm the gangs — and ordinary citizens, too — while still keeping them on the streets.
In fact, he gave the game away during the debate on the bill, which flew through Albany: “I want to make it so the young thugs in my district will get three years for carrying dangerous weapons instead of getting a sentence in the electric chair a year from now.”

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.

Congressional hearings in the 1950s, followed by the feds’ prolonged assault on the Mafia succeeded in tamping down traditional gangland violence, but guns are still easily available to criminals.

Today, the spate of tourist arrests has some politicians scrambling to reassess the laws. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says he’ll hold committee hearings to examine enforcement of the law and recommend possible changes.”


Sources:
longislandfirearms.com
Wikipedia
newyorkpost.com
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Re: The Thin Man Tidbit #9 ~ The Sullivan Act

Unread postby Theresa » Tue Feb 07, 2012 10:19 pm

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.

This is just.... :yikes:

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Re: The Thin Man Tidbit #9 ~ The Sullivan Act

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Wed Feb 08, 2012 5:35 pm

I'd say things were more than just a little out of whact back then! :-O
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Re: The Thin Man Tidbit #9 ~ The Sullivan Act

Unread postby nebraska » Wed Feb 08, 2012 5:58 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:I'd say things were more than just a little out of whact back then! :-O

Not so sure it has changed much outside Texas. Reference the people who get sent to jail for shooting an intruder in their own home! :-/

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Re: The Thin Man Tidbit #9 ~ The Sullivan Act

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Wed Feb 08, 2012 10:33 pm

Trust me, there are more than our fair share of guns around these parts. :-/
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Re: The Thin Man Tidbit #9 ~ The Sullivan Act

Unread postby SnoopyDances » Thu Feb 09, 2012 12:03 am

As one scholar concludes "It didn't take long for those hopes to be dashed: within twelve months of the passage of the Sullivan Law, New York City's murder rate increased 18 percent." In the year after enactment, New York City experienced "a crime wave unequaled in its history." in 1912 presidents of fourteen burglary insurance companies called for repeal of the Act, arguing that burglaries and robberies had increased by 40%. The following year, an insurance industry publication argued that in practice the law restricted only the "honest man" and that a criminal would "carry his pistol, law or no law, and is reasonably certain of evading arrest."


That's what happened with prohibition, too. Once something is banned, everyone wants to do it.

But the last bit about "a criminal doesn't care about the law" is so true! Their intent is to break the law anyway, so what do they care if they break one, two or more laws?

It's usually the victim that suffers...so many laws today protect the rights of the accused.

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Re: The Thin Man Tidbit #9 ~ The Sullivan Act

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Thu Feb 09, 2012 12:25 pm

Sometimes you just have to scratch your head and wonder what they were thinking! :perplexed:
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Re: The Thin Man Tidbit #9 ~ The Sullivan Act

Unread postby ladylinn » Sat Feb 11, 2012 4:16 pm

There are still plenty of guns in "these here parts" too. Laws are made and the ones who suffer are the lawabiders and the criminals just keep going on as before. :perplexed:


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