Guns in the wild west: regulated, with no fears about ripping the Constitution

Summary:  An oddity of the New America is how we stumble when dealing with problems solved not just by our peers in other developed nations, but in our past.  Gun control is but one example. Other nations, our peers in the developed world, have accomplished what we’re told is impossible for Americans: reducing gun ownership.  In our past we were able to regulate guns without cries that we shredded the Constitution (the subject of today’s post).   In brief, we see ignorance and amnesia — what conservative leaders consider ideal qualities for citizens.

Sign on main street of Dodge City, 1878:
“The Carrying of Firearms Strictly Forbidden”

Dodge City, 1879As shown in Myth-busting about gun use in the Wild West, the untamed late 19th century West was relatively peaceful — except for institutional violence (eg, against Indians, small farmers and ranchers, unions). Laws regulating gun possession helped make it so. The people who opened the frontier were not dumb, and didn’t want their streets running with blood. Nor were the citizens of Americans during the following century, in which many areas had strict gun controls.

This history has been erased from the minds of millions through the power of propaganda on a willing audience.  It’s become lost history, joining so much of our 19th century in the amnesic clouds of the American mass mind.

But the truth is out there, as in these two excerpts, if only we have the will to grasp it.

(1) Did the Wild West Have More Gun Control Than We Do Today?“, Adam Winkler (Prof Law, UCLA; author of Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America), Huffington Post, 9 September 2011 — Excerpt:

While people were allowed to have guns at home for self-protection, frontier towns usually barred anyone but law enforcement from carrying guns in public.

Fear these people. That’s why many Western towns banned guns.

When Dodge City residents organized their municipal government, do you know what the very first law they passed was? A gun control law. They declared that “any person or persons found carrying concealed weapons in the city of Dodge or violating the laws of the State shall be dealt with according to law.” Many frontier towns, including Tombstone, Arizona — the site of the infamous “Shootout at the OK Corral” — also barred the carrying of guns openly.

Today in Tombstone, you don’t even need a permit to carry around a firearm. Gun rights advocates are pushing lawmakers in state after state to do away with nearly all limits on the ability of people to have guns in public.

Like any law regulating things that are small and easy to conceal, the gun control of the Wild West wasn’t always perfectly enforced. But statistics show that, next to drunk and disorderly conduct, the most common cause of arrest was illegally carrying a firearm. Sheriffs and marshals took gun control seriously

(2) Gun Control in the Old West? Facts and Fiction“, Anne Carole, Hearts Through History, 7 July 2012 — Excerpt:

Dodge City, Kansas

As early as 1876, Dodge City had a ban on carrying guns on the north side of town (the south side remained wide open), a ban that was rarely enforced.  However, by 1883 the death toll from gun play had risen sufficiently for the town fathers to enact a stricter ban.

Ordinance No. 67 enacted August 14th 1882 specified that no one could “carry concealed or otherwise about his or her person, any pistol, bowie knife, slung shot or other dangerous or deadly weapons, except County, City, or United Sates Officers” and raised the fine from twenty-five dollars to one hundred dollars, no small amount in 1882. The Dodge City Times declared:

“There is a disposition to do away with the carrying of firearms, and we hope the feeling will become general. The carrying of firearms is a barbarous custom, and it’s time the practice was broken up.”

Tombstone, Arizona

In 1881 the town council passed an ordinance prohibiting the carrying of weapons in the town limits:  Ordinance No. 9 – “To Provide against Carrying of Deadly Weapons”, effective 19 April 1881. Excerpt:

  • It is hereby declared to be unlawful for any person to carry deadly weapons, concealed or otherwise [except the same be carried openly in sight, and in the hand] within the limits of the City of Tombstone.
  • This prohibition does not extend to persons immediately leaving or entering the city, who, with good faith, and within reasonable time are proceeding to deposit, or take from the place of deposit such deadly weapon.
  • All fire-arms of every description, and bowie knives and dirks, are included within the prohibition of this ordinance.

(3)  For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about gun violence and regulation, and especially these about gun regulation…

  1. The Founders talk to us about guns for a well-regulated militia.
  2. “The right to shoot tyrants, not deer”.
  3. Let’s look at the Second Amendment, cutting through the myths and spin.
  4. Second amendment scholarship (using money to reshape America).
  5. Guns in the wild west: regulated, with no fears about ripping the Constitution.

(5)  On display at the Red Dog Saloon in Junea

On display at the Red Dog Saloon in Juneau; from Wikimedia Commons
On display at the Red Dog Saloon in Juneau; from Wikimedia Commons. Click to enlarge.
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