BOB INGERSOLL: THE LAW IS A ASS #337: THE TEEN TITANS ARE GUN SHY
Once upon a time there was a very bad man who attempted to commit an armed robbery but chose his victims poorly: Bunker and Beast Boy of the Teen Titans. Although Bunker and Beast Boy subdued the mugger, he got off scot free because neither hero bothered waiting for the police. They just left the would-be mugger lying in the park and walked away. So the police had no evidence with which to charge the very bad man and no witnesses with which to try him for his very bad crimes.
That’s how we left things in Teen Titans v 5, # 3, when last I wrote about the book. I wrote about how wrong it was for Bunker and Beast Boy to walk away and left the matter there. Then promptly went to Florida. Let’s face it, Disney World, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and Key West are more fun than reading many of DC’s New 52 comics.
I knew I had left something out of the discussion. I did so intentionally. It would have taken the column into an area which was tangential to the point I wanted to make and would have required another 1,000 words to cover. I decided not to follow said tangent or add another 1,000 words to the column. I figured you’d put up with me long enough for one week.
Since that column two things have happened. First, some readers of this column – yes I do have some readers, two is some – asked me about the point I had left out of the first column. Second, today I started a new column with a new 1,000 words I have to fill up with something. So why shouldn’t that something be the question that those readers asked me, “What about the gun?”
The gun. That little revolver – one so little that Bunker actually mocked it – that the mugger possessed. It may not have been a big gun, but could it cause a big problem for our mugger? See, this mugging happened in New York City. And, unless the lyrics of New York, New York are lying, New York City is part of New York state, the home of the infamous Sullivan Act.
The Sullivan Act is a New York state gun control act. It took effect in 1911, making it one of the oldest gun control statutes in the country. It required anyone who carried a firearm small enough to be concealed to acquire a license for it. Possession of an unlicensed firearm was a misdemeanor. Carrying an unlicensed firearm was a felony.
The act was named for state senator Timothy Sullivan, who was described with the redundant phrase, a corrupt Tammany Hall politician. Sullivan’s supporters claimed he sponsored the law from his desire to bring firearms under control. His detractors said he wanted to make sure his personal bodyguards could be armed and have a way to get rid of political rivals, with accounts of Sullivan having the police put unlicensed guns in his enemies’ pockets and carting them off to jail. Back in the corrupt days of Tammany Hall, the police did more planting than a botanical gardener.
So, the mugger was subject to the Sullivan Act, which prompts the question; Was the mugger’s firearm licensed? Probably not.
In New York City, licenses go to retired police officers, celebrities, and other people with connections; but regular people need not apply. Well, they can apply, but the odds of them getting a license are worse that the odds of 62-year-old, overweight me quarterbacking the Cleveland Browns next week. So, it’s unlikely that a scuzzy looking mugger got a license to carry a firearm.
Actually, a new version of the criminal possession of a firearm law went into effect in New York in March of 2013 and it might make it illegal for people to carry any firearm. It depends on how the statute with its multiple clauses is interpreted. But let’s not even go there.
For the sake of keeping this column simple, we’ll assume the mugger’s gun wasn’t licensed. So, wouldn’t the police have been able to convict him of this crime, even if they couldn’t get him for mugging? Probably not. For a couple of reasons.
First, there is the question of whether the original Sullivan Act or this new firearm possession law is constitutional. In the 2010 case McDonald v. Chicago, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Second Amendment applied to the states through incorporation of the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause and struck down an Illinois statute criminalizing the possession of firearms. So the Sullivan Act and its progeny may not last much longer. If it goes, so would our mugger’s conviction for possession of a firearm after an appeal. But his case isn’t likely to get as far as the appeal.
Our poor beaten-up mugger probably won’t get to appeal his conviction for possession of a firearm for the simpler reason that he probably won’t get charged with possession of an unlicensed firearm in the first place.
After Bunker hit the mugger, the firearm went flying out of the mugger’s hand. It landed on the ground somewhere in the area, but it was not in the mugger’s possession. So, when the police found the mugger lying all alone, he didn’t possess the firearm.
The police would have no way of proving the mugger had ever possessed the firearm. Sure they got a phone call from someone who said a person had tried to rob him in the park. But when the police arrived, they found a guy lying in the park and didn’t find the purported victims. The police had no way of proving that the man they found lying on the ground was the man some anonymous telephone call said was a robber. He could have been some poor homeless drunk sleeping one off in the park or another victim of the mugger or a renegade Scientologist communicating with Xenu. They couldn’t arrest the man because, while they may have had speculation, they had no probable cause.
And stop saying fingerprints. The police couldn’t test the gun for fingerprints and compare any found to the man’s fingerprints. Remember, the police had no probable cause to arrest him. If the police couldn’t arrest the man, they also couldn’t obtain the man’s fingerprints and compare them to any that were found on the gun.
So let that be a lesson to all you comic book writers out there. If you write a big old fight scene, or even a little one-page fight scene, after it’s over make sure the hero or someone is around who would be able to testify that the bad guy was the guy who actually did something bad. Otherwise, all you’ll have written is a scene full of sound and fury that signifies nothing.
And after reading many of the New 52 books, I’ve already got plenty of nothing.