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[Cite as Page v. State, 50 Tenn. (3 Heisk.) 198 (1871). This opinion appears as a note in the last four pages of Andrews. It has been separated to this file.]
Note. Knoxville, Nov. 4, 1871.
Carrying Arms. Act of 1870 construed. It is not every removal of a pistol or other weapon from place to place, that constitutes a "carrying" within the meaning of the act of 1870, c, 13, which prohibits carrying arms. To constitute the offense, the weapons must be carried as "arms."
Criminal Court, May Term, 1871. M. L. Hall J., presiding.
Prosser, for the plaintiff in error, insisted, that under the Constitution the citizen was protected in an unlimited right to carry all kinds of arms without reference to size or quality, and had the right to keep and to bear arms at all times; the Legislature having the right to say how he shall wear them, but not to prohibit. The act of 1870 takes from the citizen the right to familiarize himself with the use of arms of the smaller class, and so infringes the Constitution.
Attorney General, Heiskell, for the State, insisted that carrying weapons[,] carrying arms, means going armed. To carry, has many senses; to carry a scar; to carry a tune; to carry a loan. The word is not happily selected; but the objection is not, that it does not bear the exact meaning the Legislature intended to convey, but that it has other meanings, tending to confuse. A man may carry a wheelbarrow load of pistols to a shop; may carry them for repair, as merchandize; may carry in bundles, or boxes, or baskets; may (p.199)carry pistols hunting, or to a gallery or tree to practice. In none of these cases would he be carrying them in the sense of the law. The law so construed, does not infringe the right to keep arms, or practice with them, or bear them for the common defense. Where a law admits of a construction consistent with the Constitution, it must be so construed: Bristoe v. Evans, 2 Tenn. 341, 345; Bank of State v. Cooper, 2 Yer., 596, 623; Townsend v. Shipp, Cooke, 294, 301; L. & N. Railroad Co. v. Davidson Co., 1 Sneed, 637, 671; Fisher v. Dabbs, 6 Yer., 119, 135.
"Common defense," in the Constitution, has one of two senses. It can not have both. It either means defense as a community, or the individual defense of each man commonly, or on ordinary occasions. Now we know that it was intended to embrace the idea of general defense; it can not, therefore, mean the other, unless it be used in a double sense, in two opposite and distinct senses. The bearing of arms, then, is only protected on the occasions and when used in a manner appropriate to the public defense, as a citizen soldier. To keep for that purpose, necessarily includes the right to keep at all times and under all circumstances; but to bear for that use, means to bear on such occasions, at such times, and in such manner, as may be appropriate to that end. Not to wear weapons. It must mean after the fashion of a soldier, not after the manner of a cut-throat.
Nicholson, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court.
Page was indicted for carrying a belt pistol, a pocket and revolver. Upon his trial, on the plea of not guilty, he was convicted, fined and sentenced to imprisonment. He has appealed to this Court. It appears from the evidence in the bill of exceptions, that Page was seen coming from his (p.200)home along the big road, about a mile distant from his house, carrying in his hand, swinging by his side, a pistol called a revolver, about eight inches long, but that it was not such weapon as is used as a weapon of war. He was not on a journey, nor was he a public officer. No other instance of his carrying a pistol is proven. He approached prosecutor, presented the pistol and threatened to shoot him. Was this such a carrying of a weapon as is prohibited by the act of 1870, c.13? Shankland, 95. The evidence fully establishes the fact, that the pistol carried by Page was not an arm for war purposes; and therefore, under the ruling of this Court in the case of Andrews v. The State, [50 Tenn. (3 Heisk.) 165 (1871)] decided at Jackson, it was a weapon, the carrying of which the Legislature could constitutionally prohibit. But the question here is, what is the meaning intended by the Legislature to be conveyed by the word "carry"? It will be observed, that the prohibitory clause of the Constitution uses the words, "keep and bear arms," &c. The Legislature has avoided using this language, but has used a word, which, as connected with weapons, conveys the idea of "wearing weapons," or "going armed." When we use the expression, "he carries arms," we mean "he goes armed," or "he wears arms." This is manifestly the sense in which the word was used by the Legislature, and we know of no other single word which could more clearly convey the meaning intended to be conveyed, than the word "carry." In this sense, Page was not only literally carrying a forbidden weapon, but he was "carrying" it, that is, "he was going armed," contrary to the true meaning of the statute.
It will be observed, that the interpretation which we give to the word "carry," meets and carries out the manifest purposes of the Legislature, which was, not only to make criminal the habitual carrying or wearing of dirks, sword-canes, Spanish stilettos, belt or pocket pistols, or revolvers, (p.201)but also, to make criminal a single act of wearing or carrying one of these weapons, when it is so worn, or carried, with the intent of thus going armed.
But we are far from understanding the Legislature as intending to make every act of carrying one of these weapons criminal. Under the constitution, every man has a right to own and keep these weapons, nor is this right interfered with by the prohibition against "carrying" them, in the sense in which the legislature uses the word. To constitute the carrying criminal, the intent with which it is carried must be that of going armed, or being armed, or wearing it for the purpose of being armed. In the case before us, the intent with which Page was carrying his pistol was fully developed. He was carrying it that he might be armed, as was shown by his threatened assault upon the prosecutor. It would probably be difficult to enumerate all the instances in which one of these weapons could be carried innocently, and without criminality. It is sufficient here to say, that, without the intent or purpose of being or going armed, the offense described in this statute can not be committed.
We think the facts proven, in the case before us, bring the plaintiff in error within the offense defined in the statute, and that his conviction was fully warranted by the evidence.
The judgment is affirmed.