Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Carry on Whitelocke, Openly

Way back in the 1950s, long before vacuum cleaners and Dr Phil ruined the work ethic of domestic help throughout Australia, Sydney was a very different place. A largely lawless and agrarian city (much like modern day Adelaide), a good portion of the city was covered by a mixture of ambitious pastoral lands and dense virgin bushland, teeming with abundant wildlife. Whilst scurrying from chambers to Court it was by no means unusual to encounter wild, lawless men or even game such as the nail-tailed wallaby or the ever-aggressive Green and Golden Bell Frog on one’s way to Court.

it was by no means unusual to encounter wild, lawless men…

For the obvious reasons it was essential to be heavily armed at all times.

In time, our habit of bearing arms for personal protection developed into the genteel practice of barristers carrying ornate pistols on their hips* at all times. In these stylish and practical days the seniority of a barrister could instantly be ascertained by the make and calibre of the pistols he carried and easy laughs could be had at the expense of the many, many barristers with ‘double barrelled’ surnames! King’s Counsel would wear Colt .45s with carved ivory grips and were always accompanied by a small team of specially trained juniors to carry and operate light artillery on their behalf.

Having become so accustomed to being “packing heat” whilst striding about Philip Street, I was shocked to learn that this practice had fallen into disuse in many overseas jurisdictions**. Imagine my astonishment when, in the mid 70’s I attempted to bring a semi-automatic rifle and a decorative stock whip to a party hosted by Nelson Rockefeller and Henry Kissinger (for then president Gerald Ford) only to be subject to the outrageous indignity of being asked to leave these essential parts of my carefully considered outfit in the cloakroom. Luckily enough, the furious and wide ranging tirade I unleashed at the doorman, which traversed the Constitution, Boilermakers (I persuasively argued that Geoff the Doorman was improperly acting as a Chapter III court), Magna Carta, the FIFA Laws of the Game, the Destruction of Wild Dogs Act and the Gentoo Code, was overheard by the vast majority of America’s right wing intellectual establishment who, moved by the jurisprudential perspicuity of my arguments, focussed the furious power of their legal learning into the matter. It soon became accepted that the Second Amendment of the American Constitution ensured a right for all citizenry to not only bear arms, but to be able to do so openly and without fear of molestation from the long arm of the law. Over time, my principled stand on that steamy day in October became known as the genesis of the “Open Carry” movement.

Before long, the Open Carry movement swept America, returning the country to the golden days of the 1820s where every citizen openly bore arms and all interpersonal disputes were settled quickly and decisively. I consider the opening scene in “the Last Boy Scout”+ to be the high watermark of this movement, a cinematic moment inspired by the short period I coached Little League Grid Iron in Oakland, and regularly encouraged my players to Open Carry during playoff games.

Thanks to me, Americans, unlike Australians, can buy coffee in safety.

An Open Carry fishing trip on Lake Michigan

Sadly the liberties protected by the Open Carry movement have not found widespread acceptance in Australia. These days, it is regularly said that the right to bear arms is as ridiculous as the right to arm bears. This statement continues to be patently wrong and was made many years before my successful program of conscripting and training koala bears to patrol mosman, protecting it against the tide of Catholic boat people that would otherwise overwhelm it. Unfortunately neither major party included Open Carry as a major policy item at the last election, and in the many drafts of the proposed Bills of Rights for Australia I have criticised, I am yet to see Open Carry receive even the most cursory of recognition. No wonder our country is in such a state.

Of course, being the wag I am, although I am no longer permitted to Open Carry firearms in Court, I continue to follow the principles of the movement in my own way. The most obvious manifestation of this is my habit of ‘Open Carrying’ prerogative writs. Rarely will you see me in public without an openly displayed blank writ of mandamus sticking out of my belt. The threat is essential. Prevention is better than cure.

* Ironically, in 1992 my impulsive decision to fire one of these pistols at Young J proved the inspiration behind the introduction of the metal detectors in the New South Wales Supreme Court. A further erosion of the right of Open Carry in Australia.
** Not, however, in Indonesia where the colourful gun toting barrister Paris Hotman Hutapae remains the paradigm of a modern warrior/scholar man of the law.
+ when a troubled footballer who knows his rights opens fire on his rivals as they try to tackle him.

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