The Argus at KellyGang 7/1/1879
The action taken by the police in apprehending all persons suspected of aiding and abetting the Kelly gang is a great step towards the capture or destruction of the outlaws. That it may prove successful the community devoutly hopes, but should it fail, the suggestion made by a correspondent whose letter we published yesterday ought to be seriously considered, with a view to putting it immediately in practice. Our correspondent's proposal is directed against the further extension of bushranging, but the weapon is one which might be used with great effect in bringing to justice the miscreants who have so long defied the law. Arms, ammunition, and horses are the bushranger's stock in trade, and as to the latter it is almost as necessary for him to be well mounted as to be provided with rifle and revolver. As our correspondent points out, "Of all the bushrangers who have given trouble here or in New South Wales, there was not one who was not remarkable is a good horseman, nor would any of them have taken to the bush or eluded capture for any length of time if on foot." Then comes the practical suggestion that power should be taken to proclaim localities infested with the bushanging taint, and to apply to these districts special laws of a repressive character, providing amongst other things that all persons within the limits proclaimed should have to obtain a licence to keep to use horses or firearms, and giving authority to the constabulary to enter without warrant any building, hut, or paddock, and search for horses or firearms, and to an arrest and detain suspected confederates. It would, of course, be necessary, in addition to confiscation, to impose a severe penalty for the unauthorised possession of horses or aims. The nascent bushranger would thus have his teeth drawn, while the well disposed population would be able to furnish themselves with the means of protection, for persons of respectable character would have no difficulty in obtaining the required licence entitling them to the possession of firearms.
These suggestions are worthy of attentive consideration by the authorities. From what the public his leaned respecting the country comprised in what is known as the Kelly district, it is evident that without some measures of the sort it will be impossible to stamp out crime, and give security to life and property. The ranges are inhabited by such a nest of robbers, who may at any moment be found following in the footsteps of Kelly and his murderous crew, that treatment of the most radical kind is called for. The firearms must be expropriated at all hazards, and we trust, therefore, that one of the first measures passed next session will be an act embodying the suggestions which our correspondent has brought forward. That the adoption of a special and stringent law would be cheerfully acquiesced in by the reputable population of the districts concerned we have little doubt. Whatever inconvenience or humiliation was experienced would be as nothing compared with the ultimate gain, when the property holder could at last feel that his possessions were his own, and that he no longer carried his life in his hand. With such a law as we have described in operation, the authorities should be able to count on the active assistance of every well disposed person in the district, and if the police did then best, the community itself would be responsible for any delay in the process of purification. The inhabitants of the proclaimed districts would have duties as well as the police, and the colonists generally would expect to see those obligations performed. Supposing, therefore, that the authorities did their part, the settles would have themselves to blame if the criminals were not speedily hunted from amongst them.
An effectual remedy has, we think, been suggested for the state of things existing in the north eastern district, which should be applied as soon as the sanction of the Legislature can be obtained. If a good account of the Kelly gang is given with in a reasonable period, the matter may be allowed to wait until Parliament, reassembles at the expiration of the usual interval. But if, unhappily, the miscreants should continue to elude the grasp of justice, and should add fresh crimes to those for which they have already forfeited their lives, we submit that an extra session should be convened, and the necessary measure passed into law without delay. An objection might be raised to the adoption of this course on the ground that the Chief Secretary is not in the colony, but Mr Berry's absence may be regarded rather as an advantage than otherwise, for it would furnish a reason for limiting the business strictly to the object for which the Houses were called together, and would thus remove a possible obstacle to taking the step we should advise.
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