COMMENT and REVIEW – Auto Safety – Gun Violence (Oct, 1923)

So apparently the controversy over gun control has a long and oft repeated history.

Also, I love the idea of giving speeders an “insanity test”.

Longer than that.  When Chicago was founded as a town in 1830 apparently one of the first laws passed was a ban on firearms.  New York State passed the Sullivan Act in 1911.

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Pistols and Automobiles Kill 20,000.

THE count of the death toll from revolvers and automobiles for 1922 is completed and rolls up the astounding total of 10,000 from pistols and revolvers, and about the same number from automobiles. In both counts many hundred, if not several thousand, who died weeks or months after the accident, and in the case of revolvers, many more who were killed and the bodies concealed and not yet found, were not included.

Following the article in this magazine on revolvers, a few months ago, I received many letters, some couched in evidently sincere but bitter terms, protesting against the article and what it proposed. In some cases, such as explorers, woodsmen, frontiersmen, and some hunters, I frankly admit a law prohibiting the manufacture and use of such small arms would unquestionably work a great hardship. Some of the protests sounded rather foolish, such as the farmer in Connecticut who must have a revolver “to defend himself against snakes, skunks, and hawks.” In the case of the skunks, most of us will agree a long-range weapon would be more advisable, and when it comes to hitting snakes and hawks, most people will regard a shotgun as likely to score a larger number of hits.

The chief of police of Los Angeles seems to think guns should be freely and generally toted, but he is quite the exception among police officials, especially of large cities.

The ease of smuggling, or of making revolvers at home, was likened by many to the inefficiency of the enforcement of the 18th amendment. But this is not true. It is manifestly much easier to make “home brew,” which can be done with a teakettle, than to make a revolver of sufficient accuracy to be worth having. While one undoubtedly can be homemade with a few simple tools, the output from this source would be in the ratio of about 1 revolver to 10,000 gallons of “moonshine.”

Anyway, the murderous killing goes on, and is now estimated to be in the ratio of 1 murder to each 10,000 population, each year. In other words, the average risk of either being murdered or killed by auto, is 1 in each 5,000 population, yearly, or in terms of 10 years, at this same rate, your chance of being killed is 1 in 500.

If a single city of 20,000 were wiped out in an instant, the entire world would gasp; but this decimation is so regular and so diffused, few outside the immediate relatives and friends are much affected. It is almost impossible to safeguard machinery under the best conditions, and with most skillful operators, to the point of absolute safety. It seems impossible to insure that the more than 10 million drivers who operate the 10 million automobiles, shall each and all possess the mental balance, training, eyesight, judgment, and skill to preclude any loss of life. It is far, very far, from human possibility. The chief trouble rests not so much on the lack of these qualifications, necessary as they are, but rather in a selfish indifference of the great potential power they control, and the lack of thought that the least relaxation to carelessness may cause a death any minute. Even the most careful have their moments of unconscious disregard. Appeals for safety first undoubtedly are very helpful; the road signs marking grades, railroads, curves, etc., are good, and should be uniform in all states. But as men working in powder mills become careless, so men and women, boys and girls driving cars, come to think more of caution as it affects their own bodies, and less of others. The only thing which will check, for it can never wholly cure, the evil, will be greatly increased and rigidly enforced penalties for killing and maiming people, even unintentionally. The story of the chauffeur arraigned in court for running over a woman, illustrates the mental attitude of many. He pleaded he commenced sounding his horn when the woman was still some distance away. When the judge asked if he used his brake he replied, “I never thought of that, your honor.”

Indianapolis proposes to submit all persons arrested for auto speeding to an insanity test, and to keep them in padded cells pending the decision. Better far to decide that point before the license is issued. And it can be done. The Yellow Cab Co., of Chicago, submits every applicant for position of driver to a test which begins with good physical health, and includes eyesight, 92-per-cent good, heart and lungs perfect, no epilepsy in family, and no insanity as far back as grandparents. The inspection is nearly three times as severe as insurance companies demand. And the company has found 5,000 men competent to qualify. Aside from all moral obligations to the public it serves, the resulting freedom from accidents amply repays all the cost of examination and investigation.

This may be taking unusual precautions, but sooner or later some such condition, though less severe, will have to be imposed upon all drivers, of both public and private cars.

Blue- Sky Stocks “NEVER in our history had anything to be sold received the urge and publicity which was put forth to dispose of Liberty bonds and war stamps. Every paper and magazine was full of display advertisements and columns of reading notices. Trainloads of printed circulars were sent broadcast, every billboard and available wall was plastered with posters, and both men and women orators spoke from theater platforms, pulpits, vehicles, and soap boxes. It was a most remarkable course in educating the masses to buy securities, in which were enlisted—chiefly voluntary—the best advertising talent in the country—which means in all the world.

Millions of people who never in their lives had bought a share of stock or a bond, became bondholders. The number of these is placed at 20 million. Like many other things, the second time was easier than the first, and almost before the war was over, and the appeal to buy government bonds ceased, there sprang up an army of unscrupulous schemers who took advantage of the psychological condition to market their worthless “securities.” The public, having in mind and sight the fortunes which the war conditions had brought to many, almost overnight, were easy marks for plunder. Most anything which could be made to read like a get-rich-quick enterprise found willing listeners, and a ready and welcome reception. Oil and mines were the most favored subjects, and to make it easy for everybody to get in—on the ground floor, of course—many of these shares were offered at a price as low as one dollar, or even a few cents each.

The “clean-up” by these fraudulent promoters is estimated at anywhere from two to three billion dollars since the war closed. The conservative estimate for 1922 is placed at five hundred million dollars, very little if any of which is now, or ever likely to be, worth the paper on which the shares are printed. It is a terrible drain, as a large percentage of it comes from people who cannot afford to lose.

Some of the states already have what are known as “Blue-Sky Laws,” which make it difficult to issue or sell fake securities. In other states there is so much latitude permitted incorporators, it is very easy to juggle a few hundred dollars worth of land into alleged assets represented by the hundreds of thousands or even millions. Bankers and other reputable financial institutions have tried constantly to caution the public against being robbed in this genteel manner, but too often the very ones they tried to warn, have been made to believe the warning came from some selfish or ulterior motive. And so this semilegalized or apparently legalized system is still going on. This magazine has repeatedly urged in the past, that before investing any funds in an enterprise of which your knowledge is limited to its own advertising matter, or its glib salesman, you submit the proposition to your banker. And even if you do not have a bank account, there are few bankers in the whole United States that will not cheerfully give a few minutes to even the poorest man, to tell him if the proposition is bad, or how to find out. Few of us would have the temerity to amputate our own leg or try our own case at law; we seek the counsel of men experienced in such matters. In consulting a banker the only difference is the service doesn’t cost us anything.

What Causes Stuttering?

RECORDS show that fully four per cent of all the boys and girls born in this country are left-handed from birth. An English scientist believes that the ratio is much higher, in his country and around 10 per cent. The doctors are able to explain the physical condition of nerves which makes it natural for a child to use its left hand in preference to the other, but as to the cause of this condition they can only say, Nature willed it so.

However, a most curious result has been discovered where attempts are made to force a left-handed child to use its right hand instead. Not in all cases, to be sure, but as far as the investigation has gone, a surprisingly large number of cases have been found, where parents or teachers used severe measures to force the use of the right hand, in which the child became a stutterer or had an impediment of speech. These varied in degree from a few years to life, and from acute stuttering to an impediment quite slight and hardly noticeable in ordinary conversation, but greatly aggravated under excitement.

It has been interesting to me, when coming in contact with people having impeded speech, to ask them if they were originally left-handed, and forced at home and in school to use the right hand. So far no one has been offended at such a personal question but all have shown great interest. In the instance of the most acute case of stuttering I have ever known, and whom I met daily for several months, the man could scarcely make himself understood and would appear at times almost to choke in the effort to articulate. Today he can shoot and throw a stone with unusual accuracy with his left arm, and very poorly with his right. He told me that during six or seven years, as a child, he was severely thrashed almost every day, both at home and in school, as his father was determined to “break him of the habit of using the wrong hand.” In this case I judge both father and son possessed the same unyielding spirit—the son certainly has it now, and thinks, acts, and works with the speed of a hair trigger—but the father evidently dominated with his parental authority and strength.

Thus far nearly four out of five cases of impeded speech I have investigated, turn out to have been left-handed in childhood. Several left-handed persons, on whom no special effort was made to change, show no evidence of retarded utterance.

Scientists declare that it is much better not to try to force a left-handed child to become right-handed; that, if he does not readily and easily accept the change, to let nature have its way, and that in reversing nature, a mental-nervous clash arises which apparently in the majority of cases shows its disapproval of such outside interference by a greater or less disturbance of the speaking function. In these days we are becoming more enlightened and considerate in such matters as compared with 30 or more years ago, but it is pitiful to reflect on the thousands of cases, probably hundreds of thousands, where thoughtless, though well-meaning parents stifled and killed the natural inclination and individuality of promising, budding ambition, God-implanted.

It will be a greatly appreciated favor if any of our readers, knowing instances of people naturally left-handed, would report whether the effort to make them right-handed had any effect upon their speech or not.

How Not to Sell

AN editor is known by his readers to be absolutely misinformed on subjects in which they disagree with him; and the average reader is doubtless entitled to his doubts many times, but it remains apparently for the city salesman to really demonstrate, in almost brutal fashion, the completeness of the editorial mental density.

Having had occasion the past three months to purchase a great variety of office-building supplies, this hitherto unsuspected condition has been effectually demonstrated in my own case.

The first disillusion came with the salesman who represented letter-filing cases. Having stated our requirements, in terms of approximate number of letters daily, the young man looked wise, considered a minute, and decided what we needed was their C. S. 1.

“What is C.S.1 I inquired.

“Why,” came in a somewhat grieved and condescending tone, “that’s our letter file you want.”

“Is it made of paper, metal, or wood?” I ventured.

“Oh, in case you are considering metal you want our F. D. X. and probably two N. C. O. for each F. D. X.”

“Some of our manuscripts are pretty long,” I confessed.

“In that event you will need F. D. X. with two N. C. O. for transfer for ordinary correspondence; and P. L. 1, with R. I. P. transfer for manuscripts.”

By this time I recovered a little of my lost nerve and remarked, “Young man, what you say strikes me as R. O. T. What I am trying to buy is office furniture, not alphabets. If you will only talk Greek, Turkish, Armenian, or western Chinese, our translator could probably get a little intelligence out of it, as to the material, size, operation, capacity, color, and price of your goods.”

“But,” quoth he, “those are our catalog numbers.”

“Sorry,” I replied, “that I have not subscribed to your catalog all these years and hence am a bit shy on its terms; but do you want your pay P. D. Q., or W. W.

R., and should it be, O. V. P., N., B. C., or S.?”

It was his turn to register ignorance, but he managed to say, “I don’t get you.”

“Well, these are our trade terms; P. D. Q. means immediately; W. W. R., when we’re ready; and O. V. P. is our verbal promise; N. means notes; B. C. is bank check, and S. stands for ‘simoleons’. I’m a bit surprised a lively young salesman like you is not familiar with our private marks for these things.”

After a questioning which would have done credit to a lawyer on cross-examination, I managed to worm out of him the size, capacity, material, color, and cost of his various file cases, but it was like pulling back teeth with tweezers, and he seemed to realize he had grossly betrayed secrets belonging exclusively to his firm. If he had been the last and only one, these lines would never have been written. But, unfortunately, he merely opened the ball. They came in droves; fine, clean, bright-faced, earnest young fellows; every one good to look at; and all talking the same catalog lingo which, of course, was unintelligible to me. Even when I got down to scrubbing brushes one tried to sell me F. H. B., which turned out to be “fiber and hog’s bristles,” and when the stuff came, C18 turned out to be some kind of a mop.

With scarcely an exception they all reeled off yards of (to me) utterly meaningless trade letters and numbers with a confident air of profundity which at first was amusing but quickly became exasperating. My conclusion was that if these young salesmen were selling my goods I would get some friend to send for one of them, and I would sit concealed where I could hear their puzzle talk and then I would go home, call the boys all in, and give a few first easy lessons in salesmanship, or buy a course in some correspondence school for each of them, or both.


  1. Zeppflyer says: July 27, 20128:01 am

    I’m certain that I could pass an INsanity test.

  2. experiment 626 says: July 27, 20129:08 am

    @Zeppflyer You bet your ass I could too!

  3. DocScience says: August 5, 201210:45 am

    Guns and booze in the hands of the responsible are never an issue.

    Prohibition of alcohol was no less violent than today’s prohibition of drugs.

    America seems unable to learn.

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