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Gats are back

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Bugsy Siegel said of his fellow gangsters that “We only kill each other,” and he may have said it in Hot Springs. Wherever, he intended to assure law-abiding, church-going, tax-paying Americans that they weren't in danger from the Mob, or at least not in danger of being killed. (Siegel himself was very much in danger, and had scarcely uttered his self-fulfilling epigram before he was blown away by person or persons unknown.)

A lot of concealed weapons were carried in Hot Springs National Park in the '20s and '30s when Hot Springs was a favorite vacation spot for big-time gangsters from Chicago. And the record shows that the visitors largely refrained from scragging the locals. In Hot Springs, in fact, the Capones and Morans didn't even use their weapons on each other, though they were locked in mortal combat back home. Local officials who profited from Hot Springs vice extracted a promise from their high-spirited guests that everyone would be on good behavior while they were in town, and in exchange they wouldn't be badgered by local cops. Carrying a concealed weapon, though illegal, was an easy charge to overlook, and the Hot Springs police overlooked it. Eventually, Las Vegas started getting all the better gangsters, and the number of armed people on the streets of Hot Springs declined sharply.

Now gats are back at the spa. The Scalia family in Washington has fixed it so visitors to Hot Springs can legally carry their weapons in the park, fully loaded, as long as they have a concealed-weapon permit, widely available.

We're fearful that the new Hot Springs carriers will not be so amenable as the old. Bands of Tea Baggers and Palinistas have been spotted, and there's a native neo-Confederate movement in the area. These are headstrong people, ideologically fixated, and unlikely to be swayed by reasoned debate or even threat of retribution. The rest of us may long for the days when we had only Machine Gun Jack McGurns and Pretty Boy Floyds to deal with.

Speaking of the Scalias, here is Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, on the Supreme Court decision that corporations can spend as much as they want to influence elections:

“The court has invented out of whole cloth the idea that corporations have First Amendment rights to influence election outcomes. Corporations are state-created entities; not real people. They do not have expressive interests like humans; and, unlike humans, they are uniquely motivated by a singular focus on their economic bottom line.” They're impervious to gunshot wounds, too. The parks are still safe for corporations.

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