Sunday, October 21, 2012

My Trip To Philly

Downtown Philadelphia has some marvelous architecture -- at least, compared to Boise.  Here's a view out the 24th floor window of the hotel that NRA put me up at for the Firearms Law & The Second Amendment Symposium:

There is some really quite astonishingly ornate building from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries:

Philadelphia City Hall is a late nineteenth century structure that appears to be of similar style to the Old Executive Office Building, next to the White House.  I understand that Philadelphia City Hall, unsurprisingly, involved an enormous amount of corruption in its construction:

However overdone the gargoyles are on Gothic cathedrals, they do not exceed this!

So kitschy, I almost like it!

There is a statute of William McKinley, and as is typical of the period, a bit overwrought in its description of him as a "martyr":

Here is one of those art deco buildings whose style everyone recognizes after Ghostbusters!

The Seminar itself was in a fairly non-descript Hilton conference room -- I could have been anywhere in the world, and not known any better.  There was a protest demonstration (you can read about it at Shall Not Be Questioned), but they did not stick around long enough for me to engage them.  This is a shame, because I often find grass-roots gun control advocates fascinating to talk to -- long on emotion, often short on facts.  Yet the more that we engage them in conversation, and point out the complexity of the problems that they are trying to solve with very simple solutions that have previously failed, the more uncertain they become.

I was part of the last panel of the day, with Professor Nick Johnson, who teaches at Fordham Law:

Nick and I have collaborated before on a law review article, the one with too long a title that was cited in McDonald v. Chicago (2010)

John Frazier, NRA-ILA's research director introduced us, and Nick and I both talked about new research areas we have been pursuing.  Nick talked about his examination of the history of how the black civil rights establishment went from support for the right of self-defense to support for gun control -- and traces the reason for the change to the manner in which black radicals with their talk of violent revolution discredited the idea of personal self-defense, in spite of a long and proud history of shooting back at the Klan.  I was touched to find that Nick's interest in this subject can be traced back to my 1995 Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy paper, "The Racist Roots of Gun Control."  I talked about my recent discoveries digging through old California newspapers, and the importance of using non-legal sources when preparing challenges to gun control laws.

Thanks to Sebastian at Shall Not Be Questioned for these last four pictures!


  1. Just to fill in a few details. In one of your pictures of City Hall, you can see Billy Penn at the top. The law in Philly stated that no building could be taller than Billy's outstretched hand. It gave a really beautiful sight to the city, as though Billy Penn was watching over it. Unfortunately, the law was changed and several buildings now dwarf our founder.

  2. Regarding monuments to William McKinley: Have you ever visited the battlefield of Antietam?

    There is a monument there (the size of a Volkswagen) on the site where Commissary Sergeant McKinley heroically served coffee and sandwiches to the men of his regiment under fire.

    As to over-the-top architectural ornament, and excessive monumentality, the Albert Memorial in London is champion.

    I'm presently reading Landscape With Dead Dons, a comic British mystery from 1955 set at "Warlock College" in Oxford University.

    The author describes Warlock's ghastly architectural melange, and then sums it up: Having seen it, "Sir George Gilbert Scott chucked in the towel, and went away to build the Albert Memorial."

    So you can imagine what the Memorial is like.