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Thread: Gun control in the Westerns

  1. #1
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    Question Gun control in the Westerns

    In the many, many westerns that I have watched part of the plot appears to revolve around the Sheriff having a by-law that states no guns in town and must be handed in at the Sheriff's Office.

    Plus other sources

    Gun Control in the Old West? Facts and Fiction

    By Anne Carole On Jul 7 2012, 3:44 am in American History, Anne Carrole, Bat Masterson, Dodge City, Fort Worth, Gun Control, OK Corral, old west, Tombstone, Wild West, Wyatt Earp
    Guns were an equalizer in the West and required when there was little order and little visible presence of the law given the size of the territories that had to be covered and the lack of officers to handle it. Throw in the fact that in many counties and municipalities lawmen were in the pockets of the rich and powerful who owned land—and lots of it—and you’ve got some very good reasons why men walked around “well heeled.” The Johnson County War (Wyoming) and the Lincoln County War (New Mexico) are just two examples of violence spurred by lawmen that were the arm of a faction that wanted to retain power at any price.
    So it is somewhat surprising to realize that many counties and towns in the West during the late 1800’s had stiffer gun control laws then they do in the modern era. But as western towns attracted more families, business men, and industries, the townspeople could no longer tolerate the “wild cowboys” that were part of area ranch and cattle drives. These were generally young men in their twenties, liquored up, testosterone driven, and with the judgment of a cow on loco weed.


    Take some of the roughest towns in the old West:

    Fort Worth, Texas, had its share of vice in the form of gambling, drinking, and loose women in an area known as Hell’s Half-Acre. Prostitution and gambling attracted such notable characters as Wyatt, James and Virgil Earp, Billy Thompson, Timothy Courtright (who served as sheriff in between bouts of criminality), Luke Short (gambling proprietor), Charlie Wright and other high profile gamblers and gunslingers. By 1887, after three notorious killings, including that of Timothy Courtright by Luke Short, the citizens of Fort Worth voted in reformers as mayor and sheriff, and thus began the “cleaning up” of Fort Worth. Gambling was now to take place in private rooms, saloons were to close on Sundays, and there would be a ban on carrying guns in the city. Even the police officers were to replace their pistols with clubs or nightsticks. Needless to say, the reformers got their share of flack from the “business” interests of the town, but, by the turn of the century, all these reforms were being enforced.


    Dodge City, Kansas was a “wide-open” town in the 1870s and 1880s and earned its reputation as a Sodom of the plains. Some of the most famous gunfighters in America’s history were officers of the law in Dodge including Wyatt Earp, Morgan Earp, Bat Masterson, and Edward Masterson. The “peace officers” of Dodge often had gambling and saloon interests and mingled with or counted as friends the likes of Ben Thompson, Bill Tilghman, and, our Fort Worth friend, Luke Short, among other infamous characters. 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.”


    And then there was the famous shoot out at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona due to efforts at gun control. After silver was discovered in the mountains surrounding Tombstone in 1879, the town grew from a population of 100 to an astounding 7000 people by 1882. The mining wealth attracted businessmen and their families and with them came a more Victorian era sensibility which clashed with the usual residents of boomtowns: gamblers, brothel owners, miners, and area ranch hands. The Earps arrived in the early days of December 1879, Virgil Earp having recently been named a Deputy U.S. Marshall.
    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 April 19, 1881).
    Section 1: “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.
    Section 2: 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.
    Section 3: All fire-arms of every description, and bowie knives and dirks, are included within the prohibition of this ordinance.”

    The gunfight between the Earp brothers and those known as “The Cowboys,” a loose band of outlaws in Chochise and Pima Counties, was predicated on the Clanton and McLaury brothers, supposed members of this band, refusing to turnover their firearms. It is this ordinance that had the judge, in the resulting inquiry, uphold the Earps’ right to kill three of these cowboys. I understand Tombstone had this ordinance on the books until sometime in the 1980’s.
    In the West, popular sentiment of day was split between those who felt law enforcement was often in the pocket of special interests (powerful ranchers or town business interests) and therefore they needed their firearms to protect their own interests because the law wasn’t going to, and those townspeople who wanted to go about their business without fear of being in the path of a stray bullet.
    So what happened?
    The beach beckons.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Gun control in the Westerns

    Quote Originally Posted by Rum_Pirate View Post
    In the many, many westerns that I have watched part of the plot appears to revolve around the Sheriff having a by-law that states no guns in town and must be handed in at the Sheriff's Office.

    Plus other sources



    So what happened?
    Well, the account you've given leaves out practically all the relevant facts.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunfigh...he_O.K._Corral
    The Earps were in conflict with Frank and Tom McLaury and Billy and Ike Clanton, Johnny Ringo, Curly Bill Brocius, and others. Ike was prone to drinking heavily and threatened the Earps numerous times. They were part of a group of loosely organized smugglers and horse-thieves or "Cowboys", outlaws who had been implicated in various crimes. Tombstone resident George Parson wrote in his diary, "A Cowboy is a rustler at times, and a rustler is a synonym for desperadobandit, outlaw, and horse thief." The San Francisco Examiner wrote in an editorial, "Cowboys [are] the most reckless class of outlaws in that wild country...infinitely worse than the ordinary robber."[10] At that time during the 1880s in Cochise County it was an insult to call a legitimate cattleman a "Cowboy." Legal cowmen were generally called herders or ranchers.[12] The Cowboys were a loosely organized band of friends and acquaintances who teamed up for various crimes and came to each other's aid. Virgil Earp thought that some of the Cowboys had met at Charleston, Arizona and taken "an oath over blood drawn from the arm of Johnny Ringo, the leader, that they would kill us.'[7] The Cowboys were Southerners, especially from Texas, Confederate sympathizers, and largely Democrats.
    Horse rustlers and bandits from the countryside came to town and shootings were frequent. In the 1880s, illegal smuggling and theft of cattle, alcohol, and tobacco across the Mexico – United States border about 30 miles (48 km) from Tombstone were common. The Mexican government taxed these items heavily and smugglers earned a handsome profit by stealing these products in Mexico and smuggling them across the border.[12][23]
    Relevant law in Tombstone

    To reduce crime in Tombstone, on April 19, 1881, the Tombstone's city council passed an ordinance prohibiting anyone from carrying a deadly weapon.[24] Anyone entering town was required to deposit their weapons at a livery or saloon soon after entering town. The ordinance led directly to the confrontation that resulted in the shoot out.[25]
    Smuggling and stock thefts

    For more details on the ambush and murder of outlaw Cowboys, see Guadalupe Canyon Massacre.
    In that border area there was only one passable route between Arizona and Mexico, a passage known as Guadalupe Canyon.[23] In August 1881, 15 Mexicans carrying gold, coins and bullion to make their purchases were ambushed and killed in Skeleton Canyon. The next month Mexican Commandant Felipe Neri dispatched troops to the border[26]:110 and they in turn killed five Cowboys including "Old Man" Clanton in Guadalupe Canyon.[27][28] The Earps knew that the McLaurys and Clantons were reputed to be mixed up in the robbery and murder in Skeleton Canyon. Wyatt Earp said in his testimony after the shootout, "I naturally kept my eyes open and did not intend that any of the gang should get the drop on me if I could help it."[29]
    I have to question whether the ordinance actually led to the shootout. There had been plenty of shootings prior to this, and the cowboys had been threatening to kill the Earps. Likely somebody was going to end up dead, one way or another. And the assassinations of Morgan and Virgil Earp don't seem like the result of gun control.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Gun control in the Westerns

    No one whining about the 2nd Amendment back then.
    Gerard>
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    Default Re: Gun control in the Westerns

    Other symbols and actions reflected power so guns had less validity.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Gun control in the Westerns

    Given their level of literacy, they might not have known about the 2nd amendment

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    Default Re: Gun control in the Westerns

    Quote Originally Posted by David W Pratt View Post
    Given their level of literacy, they might not have known about the 2nd amendment
    Or, they may have thought that it applied more to the organized military concept of a 'militia,' rather than just a couple of guys walking around with guns who weren't part of any organized or disciplined group.

    It seems to me, that when a bunch of known outlaws show up in your town with guns, it doesn't make a lot of sense to assume that they're part of the well-regulated militia when you know full well that they aren't.

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    Default Re: Gun control in the Westerns

    There weren't as many laywers then. No media to speak of. No real immediate redress for anybody who felt his rights (or anything else) were being violated. In today's terms a sherriff essentially had martial powers over a fiefdom most called, "town."

    kevin
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    Default Re: Gun control in the Westerns

    I like how RP is using the forum as kind of a proxy for grey matter.

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    Default Re: Gun control in the Westerns

    Quote Originally Posted by LeeG View Post
    I like how RP is using the forum as kind of a proxy for grey matter.
    DELETED. I shall not resort to attacking individuals personally, unlike others.
    The beach beckons.

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