index | by subject | by year | biographies | books | SF Activities | shop museum | contact

Indiscriminate Sale of Firearms Should Be Prohibited
By Dr. T. B. W. LELAND
Coroner, City and County of San Francisco

The promiscuous sale of firearms should be prohibited. We have had ample opportunity to realize the dangers that arise from the use of the death-dealing instruments. When are we going to awaken? We must treat the men who carry guns as potential murderers. Be done with the sentimentalistic foolery. We have got to realize that a man who wields a gun does not do so with any sympathetic object. He is out of his game just the same as a hunter on the steppes.

It is unfortunate that a police officer, or for that matter, any other man should die the victim of a bullet which civilization, common decency and the inherent law to protect, should not allow. We may awaken sometime but it looks as if we are extremely indifferent, diffident and negligent.

We cannot pardon ourselves as murderers. We are assassins, cold in fact as this may appear to be, because we not only allow such a situation to prevail but we do nothing to prevent it.

Some day we are going to elect judges who are going to impose the penalty which should be inflicted upon those who carry guns. We have had enough molly-coddling of the criminal. We demand not only that the criminal be punished but that judges will see the advisability of meting out the penalty that common sense dictates.

We are reminded of the lines in that famous Gilbert & Sullivan operetta:

"My object all sublime I will
achieve in time
To make the punishment fit the crime
The punishment fit the crime."
Before the venerable Justice Grantham a few years ago in England, a men was convicted of carrying concealed weapons. He had a gun but there was no evidence that he had used it. The judge sentenced him to ten years penal servitude.

Before "Bloody Jeffries" eighty-seven men were convicted not so many years ago, of crimes less heinous than that of carrying a gun. Sheep-stealing and a few of the crimes rampant in that day came under judicial decision. Eighty-seven men died on the gallows and their crimes would be considered petty misdemeanors in this day and age. We respect dollars, we respect gangsters when conducting under the helm of those who control the dollars.

We have reached a sad stage in American "progressivism" (God save the mark) when we allow the wielders of the gun to escape the penalties which a just law should prescribe. In the last few years there have been many cases where a man's life was been cut short through the use of the gun. One of the most recent instances was that of Michael McDonald who died on August 26, 1933.

A jury sitting in the court of Coroner Dr. T. B. W. Leland, found that McDonald was murdered by Harold S. Meek who was afterwards shot by Officers Borbeck and McConville.

The jury added this rider, which is significant in the light of present conditions:

"On account of the ease with which firearms are procured and on account of the wave of crime existing in the United States at the present in which not only ordinary firearms but machine guns are being used, we, the jury, recommend the passage of a national bill to restrict the sale and use of firearms; also that the governor, state legislature, the public press and also state and civic bodies lend their active support toward the passage of proper legislation controlling the sale, possession and use of firearms."
It is not to much hope that the day of firearms will be doomed. When we are provided the proper restrictions, as we should as a people, gangsterism will fade. The trouble with us now is that we have too much respect for the gun and no respect for the law. The day when a man with a gun is absolute, we bespeak, is passing.
San Francisco Municipal Reports - 1934

Return to top of page