Friday, June 27, 2008

Supreme Court Passes the Johnny Friendly Relief Act

There's a scene in On the Waterfront, late in the movie, where waterfront gangsters lovingly pull out their revolvers, and mob boss Johnny Friendly takes them away. "Did you ever hear of the Sullivan Law?" he says.

That's what immediately came to mind when I heard of the Supreme Court's decision recognizing the right of the Johnny Friendlys of this world to own handguns. Now a host of gun control laws around the country are subject to challenge, including New York's tough Sullivan Act.

This law wasn't enacted in the sixties by gun-hating bleeding-heart liberals, but was put on the law books way back in 1911 by gun-weary New York pols. At the time, New York City was plagued by armed street gangs. At one point in 1903 there was a Wild West-style shooting under the El tracks on Allen Street between the "Bowery Boys" and "Eastmans."

While the pedigree of the law is not the greatest (Tim Sullivan was no choir boy, as you can see from the article hyperlinked), there was a genuine need for this law. Now it is in danger, thanks to the Supreme Court and its Johnny Friendly Relief Act.

By the way, there's a great line in the screenplay that didn't make it into the movie. The hoodlum "Truck" says, after his gun is taken away, "How are we gonna protect ourselves?" Sounds like he belonged to the NRA.

Here's another great line: "You take them heaters away from you and you're nothing, you know that?" Tell that to Scalia.

© 2008 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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