Just why so many otherwise intelligent people want to blame anyone and everything except the culprit is beyond me. But they do.
And if they can’t blame “society,” or poverty, or racism, they fall back upon the gun which he illegally obtained, possessed and carried—which “caused” him to shoot it out with police.
That unwillingness to blame the person for his own acts, and to instead blame the thing which he committed those acts, has ancient roots.
In England during the middle ages, if a rock fell from a wall and killed someone, that rock would be formally charged with the crime of murder; formally tried, formally convicted and formally executed—by being pulverized by other rocks.
The “punished” inanimate object that caused the death was called the “deodand”,” a Latin word meaning “given to God.”
We would consider such a trial and execution of a thing as a demonstration of medieval ignorance. Yet the deodand law was not removed from England’s lawbooks until the last century.
Medieval England was not the first place where the object was blamed for crimes. Anthropologist Joseph Campbell cites similar customs from Africa to New Guinea, to biblical times. Old habits die hard, and the deodand rule exists to this day.
The deodand theory of law still lives. It’s called “gun control”.
December 22, 1987
Deodand Law from The Gun Rights War, pages 112 and 113.
[Some people are saying Joan Peterson is lying. This quote from Neal is my lead-in to a post I hope to write this weekend. I will attempt to defend Peterson from the charge of lying. I don’t believe that charge is true.
On a side note—I finished The Gun Rights War last night. I highly recommend the book for gun rights activists. I didn’t like the last section, Part 7 An Uncertain Trumpet, about corruption within the NRA. It made me very uncomfortable. But it wouldn’t have been have been appropriate to leave it out either. Thank you Chris and Jay for all the work you put into the book.—Joe]
I don’t see the connection.
The deodand law only applied when there was no human actor – “if a rock fell from a wall and caused injury” NOT “if a rock was thrown by a man and caused injury”.
The gun control argument of diminished responsibility is different – the gun is at fault even when there IS a human actor.
Sendarius, I think you may be putting too fine a point on it. The English deodand system is probably less crazy than some older systems, as well as modern systems, since, as you correctly point out, the English rule applied where there was no human actor. But in many jurisdictions a weapon that has been used in a crime, even where it was not a factor, is considered “tainted” or “evil” and is “punished” along with human actors. Many cities justify the action claiming it’s “just one more gun off the street.”
The real inspiration behind this piece was a Bill Mauldin cartoon (he of WWII “Willie and Joe” fame) that features a bunch of anti-gun demonstrators hanging a pistol while a crook comments to a fellow shady character, “They let me go and lynched my pistol.” Mr. Mauldin, who was a reader of Rifle, sent Dad an original version of that cartoon which hung on the wall of his office for years.
Joe, thanks once again for the nice reviews and calling attention to the book. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’m sorry for your discomfort with the final chapter, but what we need to hear is not always what makes us comfortable.
Frankly, I consider that final chapter on the NRA to be the most important in the book. As I wrote in the introductory piece to that section, gun owners want their own equivalent of an NAACP or an ACLU to defend the Second Amendment before Congress and the courts. In the early 1970s that was a radical idea. By the early 1980s Neal Knox proved that gun owners not only want a legislative arm, they are willing to fund it.
Now that the NRA is willing to get into politics — as it should — the question of how the NRA is governed comes into play. I won’t hijack your blog to talk about how the NRA has been run, or to catalog the mistakes that the leadership has made, but I’ll leave you with this:
The politicians elected under the NRA charter and bylaws need to be monitored and controlled in the same way as the politicians elected under the U.S. Constitution, and for the same reasons.